Dawn Bohulano Mabalon: A Filipinx Hero

On the long list of powerful womxn in the world is activist and educator, Dawn Mabalon. Dr. Mabalon was an influential figure in the Filipinx community of Northern California. She is known as the co-founder of the Little Manila foundation in Stockton. Little Manila is a place for the Filipinx community to gather in support, to get in touch with their roots and hxstory, and to find a taste of home in a big state. It’s places like Little Manila that make it easy for us to find support and familiarity far from our home countries ─ especially for recent immigrants. It symbolizes hope in trying times and is well-known among the Filipinx people for being a place of culture and family. Social justice is the core of Little Manila’s purpose. It became a historic site in the 90s as a way to ensure its preservation. Today, the youth can find cultural dance classes and educational workshops facilitated for them there. Little Manila will continue to be a safe space for the Filipinx community.

Image: Little Manila in Stockton, Caifornia (Source: Little Manila Rising)

Much of what Little Manila stands for is embedded in Dr. Mabalon’s values and beliefs. She was a professor at San Francisco State University in the department of hxstory. Her research focused on Filipinx/American hxstory, Filipinx food hxstory, the immigrant experience, race and ethnicity in America, Asian-American studies, and womxn and gender studies. Dr. Mabalon is often described to have been a caring professor, presenting passionate lectures on important topics of hxstory and ethnicity. She showed her love for baking by bringing homemade biko and ube cupcakes that filled stomachs of her students and brought happy smiles to their faces.

Image Source: Bayani Art

She was a poet and a writer that spoke straight from the heart and put all of her love, pain, and joy into her words. She strongly believed in telling the story of our ancestors and making their experiences and struggles known to the world. Much of her poetry explores the different Filipinx experiences in past and present. She wanted to make sure that young Filipinx people knew their hxstory as well as the important figures, such as Larry Itliong, who shaped the background and hxstory of the communities we love today.

“We are all the seeds they planted in America, now almost 100 of us, flourishing because of their sacrifices.” – Dawn Mabalon

Her book Little Manila is in the Heart: The Making of the Filipina/o American Community in Stockton, California is based off of the dissertation she wrote as a Ph.D. student at Stanford University. She is known to be the first Filipina to graduate from Stanford with a Ph.D. in American Hxstory. Little Manila is in the Heart dives into the beautiful Filipinx community of Stockton, explaining how the community struggled through class divisions, cultural identity, immigration, and race relations.

Dawn Bohulano Mabalon, a loving woman, an educator and activist, a woman that made hxstory for her community, passed away on August 10th of 2018. Rest in power, Dr. Mabalon: her work and her spirit will live on with us forever, especially in the hearts of her Filipinx brothers and sisters.

Author’s note: The “X” is used to be inclusive of all genders. It acknowledges the diverse set of identities that exist in our society.