Remembering the Manongs

Cross-posted from AFL-CIO Blog

KAYA-Washington DC Chapter Member Gregory Cendana, interim deputy director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) describes why Sept. 16 is an important day in Asian Pacific American history.

As someone who comes from an immigrant and union family, it is not only appropriate but also necessary for me to share some history and give credit to my manongs who helped paved the way for me to be here today.

This weekend, community members will join Manang Dolores Velasco (wife of Manong Pete Velasco), Johnny Itliong and Larry Itliong III (son and grandson of Manong Larry Itliong, respectively), to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Delano Grape Strike. (Manong is an Ilocano—a Filipino dialect—term that is given to the first-born male of a nuclear family. Sometimes it also is used for an older male relative or as a term of respect for an elder.)

Here is a message from Mark Pulido, one of the coordinators for the Agbayani Village Pilgrimage Organizing Committee, who provides some history on the importance of the commemoration:

The Delano Grape Strike, which was started on September 8, 1965 at the Filipino American Community Hall in Delano, California, by the mostly Filipino American Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), AFL-CIO led by labor leaders Manong Larry Itliong, Manong Philip Vera Cruz and Manong Pete Velasco. Over 1,500 Filipino American farm workers made history that day.

Eight days later, on Sept. 16, 1965, the mostly Mexican National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), led by César Chávez and Dolores Huerta, voted to join the strike at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Delano, Calif.

In unifying, these two groups built a powerful movement for change. This strike led to the two groups merging in 1966 to establish the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC), AFL-CIO, which eventually became the United Farm Workers of America (UFW).

APALA, one of seven AFL-CIO constituency groups, continues to be grounded in the work of our predecessors and are continuing to find ways to build stronger community and labor partnerships.

If you are able, I would strongly recommend attending and showing your support. For more information about the commemoration or to get more involved, e-mail Mark Pulido at markpulido@yahoo.com.

I am honored and proud to know I stand on the shoulders of some of the hardest working brothers and sisters in the movement.

Kaya natin. Sí, se puede. Yes, we can!

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