Little Manila Center, a site which the Filipino American community in Stockton, California hold in great reverence for its cultural and historical significance, was recently vandalized by unknown individuals. The despicable act of hate came just as the community is celebrating its Heritage Month this October.
According to a post from Little Manila Foundation’s Facebook page, assailants vandalized the windows of the establishment situated at 521 E Main St in Downtown Stockton.
Things like this make me so mad. Destroyed our donated pictures and messed up our windows, and called us “bigots” this is a hate crime pic.twitter.com/Lb6tDllL1Q
— celin (@celiiry) October 10, 2017
Six window decals which featured the images of Filipino male and female elders were reportedly damaged. One of the windows was sprayed with a message saying, “white property, you’re a brainwashed bigot.” According to social media posts of those who have seen the vandalism on the site, the interior of the center did was not damaged.
The attack is believed to have happened between Sunday evening and Monday as it was first noticed by the members of Little Manila Dance Collective as they were about to enter the center for a dance rehearsal.
This should never have hit our diverse city. Really pisses me off nothing but cowards to go and do that
— ClosDelgado (@RaiderLos209) October 10, 2017
— FANHS_HTX (@FANHSHTX) October 10, 2017
Members of the community have reached out to the Stockton Police Department to conduct an investigation of an apparent hate crime targeting the Filipino-American community in Stockton.
A tweet by a student who lamented how the local authorities have failed to appear, two hours after the incident was reported, caught the attention of Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs.
— celin (@celiiry) October 10, 2017
He then replied with a promise of getting in touch with the local chief of police himself.
Unacceptable. Talking to police chief. Someone will be out https://t.co/zW9OXkO4Zy
— Michael Tubbs (@MichaelDTubbs) October 10, 2017
An investigation is currently underway.
Named as one of the nation’s most endangered historic places of 2003 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the entire Little Manila District is now being revitalized by Filipino-American leaders Dr. Dawn Bohulano Mabalon and Dillon Delvo who co-founded Little Manila Foundation in 2000. The Little Manila board of directors has since put out a public statement on their website:
A message from the Little Manila Board of Directors:
If you’ve ever been to our Little Manila Center in Downtown Stockton, you’d know that we have beautiful recreations of our historic banners surrounding the Little Manila Historic Site on our windows.
It is with a heavy heart to tell you that on Monday, someone defaced our windows and ripped our historic photographs that bore the words: Community, Culture, Empowerment, Arts, History, and Heritage. The first people to find our center in the condition it was in were our youth dance students who stood heartbroken in front of our center.
As we celebrate Filipino American History Month this October, we know that discrimination against Filipino Americans is nothing new. The street our Little Manila Center is on is Main St. in downtown Stockton which was the dividing line for people of color in this city in the 1920s and 1930s. People of color were not welcomed north of Main St. and signs saying “Positively no Filipinos allowed” were displayed openly. It was illegal for Filipino men to marry White women in California. Later on, state and local officials would decide to destroy the Little Manila and Chinatown neighborhood by the building of the Crosstown Freeway.
This event has reminded us about the importance of the work we do. Through the Little Manila After School Program and Us History program we teach ethnic studies to high schoolers. Our advocacy helped Stockton Unified School District to adopt Ethnic Studies at our high schools just this year. Our Little Manila Dance Collective and Kulintang Academy teaches the art and culture of the Philippines to new generations of young people seeking identity and a sense of belonging to our roots.
Little Manila was destroyed in the 1960s and 1970s by misguided policies. Our advocacy for the preservation of the Little Manila Historic Site is a result of the worst case scenarios of racist federal, state, and local public policies that prioritized freeway construction, urban redevelopment, and suburbanization over our communities.
Little Manila Foundation and our Little Manila Center will continue to be a space for understanding and love, bringing together diverse communities. This incident only strengthens our resolve and reaffirms the work that we are already doing.
Note: The vinyl artwork in our storefront that was destroyed was designed by Joseph Racca and manufactured and installed by Eddie Avelar of Bahala Na Martial Arts in Houston and Frank Mendoza of Bahala Na Martial Arts in Stockton. It was through their generosity that allowed us to make Downtown Stockton a little more beautiful. We promise to get the art reinstalled some time soon.
The non-profit organization is currently working to reclaim and restore the last remaining buildings of the area in Stockton which was inhabited by predominantly Filipino American agricultural workers since the 1930s.