A Tribute to Dawn Bohulano Mabalon by Lian Ladia
The Filipino community is still in mourning from the passing of pioneering community historian Dawn Bohulano Mabalon, who died unexpectedly from an asthma attack on August 10, 2018.
At 46 years of age, Dawn Mabalon documented the rich Filipino-American history in California through her work as a professor and the many articles and books she published, especially Little Manila Is in the Heart: The Making of the Filipina/o American Community in Stockton, California (Duke University Press, 2013), Filipinos in Stockton (Arcadia Publishing, 2008), and Filipinos in San Francisco (Arcadia Publishing, 2011). Dr. Mabalon’s work is rooted in a decolonial perspective of the relationship between the U.S. empire and the Philippines as colonial subject, and in Filipino-American and Asian-American history, with a special interest in diasporic foodways. Her writing and works have strongly shaped and influenced Asian-American studies and activism in the United States. Her many awards include the President’s Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation (with the Little Manila Foundation), California Preservation Foundation, San Francisco State University Presidential Professional Development Award, and the Ford Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowship for Excellence in College and University Teaching, among others.
Mabalon maintained a strong relationship with her close friend and comrade, San Francisco State University Ethnic Studies professor Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, supporting her work at Pin@y Educational Partnerships. She also worked closely with her life partner and husband Jesse Gonzales, a long-time contributor to the Filipino-American music scene, noted for being one of the founders of the Pinoisepop music festival at Bindlestiff Studio -- a legacy that continues to influence the strong Filipino American music scene that lives on until today. Dr. Mabalon was also a powerful mentor to a number of students, historians, and scholars in universities and academic circles across California.
The legacy of Dr. Dawn Mabalon lives on in the heart of all Filipino-Americans. Her last projects were a historical narrative of the Gran Oriente for the SOMA Pilipinas Filipino Cultural Heritage District, as well as a children’s book co-authored with Gayle Romasanta, titled Journey for Justice: The Life of Larry Itliong, which chronicles the life of Filipino-American labor organizer Larry Itliong, who led one of the most significant farmworkers movements in the United States. Both projects serve as strong reminders to change and mold the historical educational system in the U.S., one of Dr. Mabalon’s major endeavors as an activist and educator.
A scholar, writer, historian, friend, foodie, pop culture junkie, and wife, Dawn was born and raised in Stockton, California and dedicated her life to social justice. By always thinking of others and pushing forward the significant stories of her ancestors, she helped pave the way to an enlightened future for the multi-racial reality that honors the toil of immigrants in the United States, and the fight for social and historical equity.