I’m crestfallen, recovering from the news that my friend Dawn Mabalon, a tenured professor and scholar in U.S. History at San Francisco State University, specializing in Filipinos in the American Labor movement, has died.
Dawn was a bright, energetic ball of fire who took American Filipinos and U.S. history and fused it with an activist’s passion that empowered the ignored and enlightened the ignorant.
If you didn’t know the story, you finally got it.
If you were heretofore invisible, you were finally seen.
She didn’t bother with the veritable first draft of history, a/k/a “the news.” Dawn, who originally set out to be a journalist, looked to make a lasting impact. She got her Ph.D at Stanford and scaled the high bar of the academy. She produced legit scholarship about us in the United States, as if we really mattered.
Dawn Mabalon’s 2013 book, “Little Manila is in the Heart: The Making of the Filipino/a American Community in Stockton, California,” presented the forgotten Filipinos of America in an historical context that could not be shoved under any old rock.
It was there for all to see: A brilliant, personal, yet accessible scholarly work.
As I pondered what Dawn meant to Filipino Americans and the telling of the broader Asian American story, someone found a Facebook post of me and Dawn from her 2013 book launch. It was ten years after I first met her when I worked the diversity beat in Stockton. Along with Dillon Delvo, her Little Manila Foundation co-founder, Dawn was a key source as I wrote stories about their successful effort to preserve the blighted blocks of Stockton’s “Little Manila” into an historical district.
Reading it now five years later just made me cry.
If all the dogeared pages of my copy are any proof, I’ve used that book she handed me like a bible. I compared my father’s story of coming to the U.S. as a colonized American Filipino with the facts from Dawn’s scholarly work. While writing my one man show, “The Amok Monologues,” I often consulted Dawn’s book to make sure I wasn’t just true to heart, but true to history as well.
It’s the reason my Friday performance at San Francisco’s Manilatown on Aug. 17th at 7:30 pm will be dedicated to her memory.
See the rest of my post at http://www.aaldef.org/blog