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Larry Itliong was a key figure in initiating the Delano grape strike in 1965, but his contributions and those of other Filipino-American labor leaders are not as well known as those of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.

Filipino Americans have had a big impact on U.S. history, but students won't often find their contributions in history books. To combat that, a series of children's books about Filipino American historical figures is in the works, with the first out now.

"Journey for Justice: The Life of Larry Itliong" tells the story of Itliong, a pioneer in the farmworkers movement. Fittingly, a tour supporting the book will kick off this weekend in Delano, where Itliong led Filipino workers in the grape strike of 1965.

The book was written by the late Dawn Bohulano Mabalon, with Gayle Romasanta, and illustrated by Andre Sibayan.

Itliong was a leader of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and the grape strike, when farmworkers (most of them Filipino) walked off the farm, demanding fair pay equal to the federal minimum wage. The National Farm Workers Association (Mexican farmworkers led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta) joined the strike and AWOC and NFWA merged to form the United Farm Workers.

The 15-city book tour starts with a handful of events in Delano this weekend. Friday happens to be the 42nd anniversary of Itliong's death, while Sunday marks six months since Mabalon's death.

On Friday, there will be three "Reader's theater" appearances, one at Princeton Street Elementary School at 9:45 a.m., one at Morningside School at 11 a.m. and another at Harvest Elementary School at 12:45 p.m.

Friday evening there will be a book discussion and signing with co-author Romasanta at 5:30 p.m. at Bakersfield College's Delano campus in the Science and Technology Building. History professor Oliver Rosales will moderate.

Guests can take a historical tour of Delano on Saturday from 8:30 to 11 a.m. They will meet at the Filipino Community Hall (1457 Glenwood St.) and travel by Delano Union School District bus.

Following the tour, even more will be going on at the Filipino Community Hall from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be a screening of Marissa Aroy's documentary "Delano Manongs: Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers" and a ceremonial book-giving to the Itliong family, City of Delano and the Delano Union School District. 

Starting at 3:30 p.m. there will be panel discussions at Robert F. Kennedy High School (1401 Hiett Ave.) in the auditorium. Topics will include the progress and missteps of the farm labor movement, how educators can implement Filipino American history in schools, a teacher's guide for "Journey to Justice" and using art and media to tell stories of Filipino American history on a national stage.

Saturday evening at 5:30 p.m. there will be a dinner ($15, $6 children 10 and younger), also at the community hall.

Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. there will be a dedication Mass for Itliong and Mabalon at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church (1015 Clinton St.) and a closing lunch reception at noon back at the Filipino Community Hall. 

For more information on all events, go to and search "Journey for Justice."

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