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Little Manila Rising
Little Manila Rising
Little Manila Rising
The Little Manila Foundation (lead applicant), more recently known as Little Manila Rising (LMR), was established in 2000 when two newly graduated Filipino-American college students returned to Stockton to advocate for the historic preservation of what little was left of the Little Manila Historic Site. Throughout the journey of Little Manila Rising, our late co-founder Dr. Dawn Bohulano Mabalon wrote what became a seminal book of Filipino-Americans titled, “Little Manila Is In the Heart,” to capture the history of our marginalized community. The legacy left to us by our co-founder continues to give our youth a unique inspiration and depth of understanding about our history and the marginalized communities we call home. Both Dawn and Dillon grew up in South Stockton, and like most other Filipino kids of their age they had to go away to learn about the significant history their hometown held for the community they came from. They sought to change that for future generations, and along the way they would find young leaders within our community, fuel their passions, and most importantly ask them to come back after college and lead the transformative work that lay before the organization. Perhaps the most unique factor in how Little Manila Rising empowers our youth is seen in the fact that our very first employees were originally participants in our youth programs. We believe in placing power in the hands of people of our community, and that means investing time, education, and resources into them, recognizing their passions and the issues they would like to improve for South Stockton, and then using the organization as a platform from which they can launch their passions to change the injustices their communities have experienced in their lives. We do not simply hire the best, we contribute to opportunities for our people to become the best, and then hire them. We invest in young local leaders, and then we ask them to lead us. We consider it a core value that is incorporated into all of our programs. We refer to it as the school to social justice pipeline.
About the Organization:
$1 MILLION - $2 MILLION
Dr. Dawn Mabalon and Dillion Delvo founded Little Manila Rising in 1999 as a platform to save their community and their heritage when the City of Stockton and Caltrans were demolishing the remaining vestiges of the Little Manila community to build a McDonalds and gas station adjacent to highway 4. The headlines read “History Falls to Progress”. Through advocacy, Little Manila was able to save the last three remaining buildings of this historic neighborhood, but by then the damage had been done. The larger Filipino community had been cast into the diaspora of South Stockton. From the 1920’s-1960’s, Stockton was home to the largest Filipino population outside the Philippines, and without a place the history and importance of the contribution of Filipinos to the city, county, or region faded more. The problem has many facets. How do we provide equity to a generationally marginalized communities? Rates of chronic diseases like asthma are overrepresented in South Stockton. The census tract the Little Manila Center sits in holds the third worst air quality in California, and our residents are 56% more likely to experience asthma. How do we reinforce knowledge of our history and a sense of pride in who we are so that our youth are connected to our community in positive ways? Our community suffers from “braindrain”; our youth feeling that the only way to succeed in Stockton is to leave. An estimated two-thirds of our Millenial youth now live in other metro areas. How do we ensure that this trend does not continue into future generations? The issue is two-fold. How do we instill the historic knowledge of our experience in our youth to give them pride and a sense of belonging, but also how do we invest in the health and well being of our community to justify that pride and their decision to stay?
In 2017 the youth taking part in the Little Manila Rising After School Program (LMASP) did something incredible. Understanding that ethnic studies was an essential yet missing piece of curriculum in Stockton Unified School District, the youth struck out on their own to advocate to the school board for its inclusion in school curriculum - and they won. LMASP youth later went on to advocate for ethnic studies at a state level in 2018, which soon became a part of state curriculum. Little Manila Rising was born out of the need to educate both our community and those neighboring communities also marginalized by historic and systemic racism about our significance and contribution to our society. We needed to make sure that Filipinx youth can be proud of how their ancestors fought to preserve their culture and each other. Little Manila built programming around ethnic studies and the history of systemic racism and oppression that shaped the community. We began by offering afterschool programs focused on ethnic studies, which became advocacy for that history to become mainstream. We began hosting cultural programming like dance collectives and music programs to instill cultural engagement and pride. The passing of our friend and co-founder Dr Dawn Mabalon to an asthma related incident lit a fire under us. What does knowing our history mean if we do not survive to celebrate it? This was a turning point for Little Manila, as we began programming in environmental justice and health equity to address disparities in asthma rates and other health factors. To save Dawn, someone would have needed to do what we do now when she was seven. Our programming today is for the future Dawns. These focus areas have blossomed into several programs focused on a range of issues including asthma mitigation, air quality monitoring and improvement, mental wellness, and urban greening. At the core of these programs, our youth programming works by integrating young leaders through the work in the interest of providing them the training and experience necessary to continue this work for future generations and ensure that their voice will lead this work.