UNION CITY, California—It’s official–Itliong-Vera Cruz Middle School will be the first school in the nation named after Filipino-American heroes.
After facing months of campaigning by the Fil-Am community, the New Haven Unified Board of Education on Tuesday night approved the renaming of Alvarado Middle School to Itliong-Vera Cruz Middle School, effective September 2015.
The name change honors Filipino-American labor leaders Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz, who were farm worker organizers and labor leaders. Itliong founded the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, which initiated the 1965 Delano Grape Strike later joined by Cesar Chavez’s organization, the National Farmworkers Association. The two organizations eventually merged, forming the United Farmworkers (UFW).
The school district will draw up an implementation plan to facilitate the transition, and community groups have pledged to raise funds to free the District from costs for new signage, stationary and other incidental expenditures related to the renaming. The anticipated costs have been estimated to be $15,600.
Of particular significance during the renaming campaign was the dogged organizing and leadership of Union City’s Filipino-American youth groups. Observers noted their composure and perseverance in the face of adversity, and the passion with which they organized a local rally, a march, and an educational community workshop..
Anthony Chavez, grandson of Cesar Chavez, attended the Board meeting to affirm the importance of Itliong and Vera Cruz in the development of his grandfather’s legacy and improvement of farm workers’ rights.
Chavez said his grandfather’s work would not have been possible without the help of Itliong and Vera Cruz and that renaming the school would “bring about a great unity.” Additionally, a letter of support sent by labor leader Dolores Huerta was read at the Board meeting.
The support of these two individuals and organizations such as the Fred Korematsu Institute at the Asian Law Caucus, sent the very distinct message that the name change stems from interethnic solidarity and that the benefits of the change extend to all Americans, not just those of Filipino descent.
Fundraising and planning have already begun, headed by the Pilipino American Society for Education, Filipino Advocates for Justice, JLHS Filipino Heritage Studies class, and Kaisahan. Aside from raising money, the primary goal of these groups is to educate the community to build awareness and strengthen unity among Union City’s diverse communities.