Journey for Justice: An Interview with Gayle Romasanta


His heart felt heavy as he explained that he had a new dream. He was staying in America. This really was about creating a history series. I am a mom to four kids. My kids always get sent home with papers or documents that say, OK, here’s a list of all the famous people that you can do report on. Pick one. And there’s really no one that looks like them or anyone that they can identify with or who looks like their parents. There is nothing for our children to read, for our community to read about Filipino American history, and Filipino Americans have been here the longest out of all the Asian American ethnicities, yet we are not in textbooks. So our contributions, and especially our contributions to the farm labor movement, which is one of the most important social movements in California, when you talk about economics, when you talk about agriculture, when you talk about farming. We’re not in that story. It’s been 40-plus years since Larry Itliong died. We have a video that we show everybody that we have to let people know his story, because people don’t— people do not know this history, but if you ask any of them, any of the communities that we’ve gone to, ask them if they know Cesar Chavez, and they know who he is. They have no idea that Larry Itliong even existed. This is a travesty that the children in Stockton don’t know who their Martin Luther is. They don’t know Larry Itliong, and they don’t know what their Selma is. He wanted to be a labor organizer, someone who inspired his fellow workers to join together into a union that fights for their rights. When we talk about ethnic studies, and I think just looking at this ethnic studies lens, not just a Filipino American history or story, is that research has shown us that when students can identify with somebody in their textbook, someone who looks like them and who’s from their same ethnic background, their grades go up. Truancy levels go down. They become much more successful. I’m here to really create, and to move across the country, a learning community that recognizes, that celebrates, that talks about Larry Itliong, who led the Delano Grape Strike with the Filipinos, and who also co-founded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez. There’s a point where he talks to Cesar Chavez, and we don’t necessarily have the whole conversation, but from my understanding of the situation is, he had told Cesar, when you guys go on strike, we’re gonna break your strike, and when we go on strike, you’re gonna break our strike. It’s a vicious circle. We have to come together. And Cesar’s not sure. He said he’s not sure if they have the capacity, so he actually goes to the Mexican organization, to the Mexican farm workers, and they go and they do a vote, like the Filipinos did a vote. And they voted to go on strike with the Filipinos. So it’s really taught me and really ingrained that the fact that ideas grow and, over the course of time, can absolutely change the path, change a community’s path, can change American history. Larry wasn’t sure if he would ever become a lawyer, but he could still help people get justice. He was going to stay. That’s my favorite part, because he stays, despite it all.

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