Delano students of all ages joined the Bakersfield College Delano Campus in celebrating Larry Itliong Day and Filipino American history Friday with a series of events with the hopes to emphasize the importance of teaching ethnic studies.
Students and staff watched the documentary, “Delano Manongs,” engaged in a session focused on teaching as a career, and heard from guest speaker and author Patty Enrado, who spoke on the importance of teaching Filipino American history.
“We’re a diverse community and the farm labor movement illustrated [that], and the book highlighted that when we work together, we’re stronger, we’re more formidable against any challenges,” Enrado said while speaking about her book, “A Village in the Field,” a literary account of the last Delano Manongs of the Agbayani Village, a historic retirement home that was initially built for Filipino farm workers in the 1970s at Forty Acres in Delano.
Enrado spoke about her experience growing up in an ethic household and the importance of learning your family history.
“My village in the fields is honoring my mother and father and my community and my hometown of Terra Bella,” she said. “It also fits in with the theme of nurturing our village in the fields because you know locally here in Delano we want to nurture ourselves and also our intellect and our academics.”
It wasn’t until she took an ethnic studies class at the University of California, Davis that inspired her to uncover her family’s history.
“My father had an incredible life before I was born and I didn’t know any of that until I took a Filipino experience class when I was at Davis,” she said. “I didn’t understand that generation that was lost that they talked about in the documentary… we had a huge generational gap. We had a huge education gap. We had a huge socioeconomic gap and we had a huge cultural gap.”
She continued: “Once I started learning about their lives through context in history, it made a huge difference, and it certainly made a huge difference in my life.”
Because of the setbacks in the push to include ethnic studies in school curriculum, Enrado encouraged everyone to remain vigilant of the potential challenges when achieving legislative changes.
Some students attending the event learned things they had never learned in school.
“What I found interesting about this video was that as a student here living in Delano, I didn’t really know much about the farmer’s movement,” said Bakersfield College student Vanessa Garcia after watching the documentary that tells the story of farm labor organizer Larry Itliong and other Filipino farm workers who instigated the Delano Grape Strike of 1965. “I only knew about Cesar Chavez, but not about Larry, and I feel like it’s really important for us as students and faculty to know about the movement.”
Bakersfield College student Estaban Soto also shared he learned much about the movement.
“One thing that I did learn was that Larry Itliong kind of started it all,” said Soto. “It wasn’t actually Cesar Chavez, but he gave Cesar Chavez the idea that they should come together and unite for the strike.”
Enrado left the students with a set of challenges: find a mentor or become one; find teachers who motivate and inspire you; think critically; honor your family’s history by documenting it; and advocate for your community by giving back.
She said, “Just because you achieve something, you always have to protect it because it’s not going to be there sometimes.”
Featured photo: Patty Enrado speaks to a group of students about the importance of ethnic studies.
Kern Sol News is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org.