Despite it happening on a Monday morning, despite it happening during Thanksgiving week, despite it happening far from the scene of the incident, more than 70 people filled into the California Room of the UCLA Faculty Center yesterday to attend a symposium on Doss vs. Bernal, the 1943 civil rights case from Fullerton that paved the way for many, many civil rights victories for Mexicans and African-Americans alike. Leave it to pinche LA to show Orange County how it's done yet AGAIN, in this case putting it in its proper historical context.
In attendance were members of the Bernal family--and were they in for a surprise.
The event started with introductory remarks by Abel Valenzuela, the head of the Chicano studies department at UCLA; he then turned it over to UCLA professor Robert Chao Romero, the moderator for the day. Romero--the nation's leading expert on the Chinese experience in Mexico, and a half-wab, half-chinito himself--then introduced Luis F. Fernández, the Cal State Fullerton graduate student who rescued the case from oblivion. Fernández gave a brief overview of the case, along with even more racialist Fullerton nuggets that we're going to reveal in another post. Chao Romero then followed by giving a brief history of segregation in Southern California--or, as he called it, "apartheid."
Nothing against the academics, but the highlight of the three-hour symposium was hearing the Bernal case from Alex's children: Maria Theresa and Irene (whom you can see as young girls in the Time photo posted above), Alex Jr., David (named after Alex's attorney, David C. Marcus, who also argued the much-more-famous Mendez, et al v. Westminster, et al), and Joseph, who's working on a screenplay about their father's life. They answered many questions about the case, and alternately laughed and cried at his memory. Maria Theresa and Irene also noted that it just wasn't Alex who should be celebrated, but also Esther, whom they only remembered as little girls since she tragically passed away from cancer just a couple of years after the 1943 ruling.
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On that note, the Bernals were shocked when Valenzuela and Romero together presented them with a plaque honoring their parents and their family for their contributions to American civil rights. Has anyone in Orange County done the same? Nope! Congrats to UCLA, to the Bernals, to Chao Romero and Fernández for holding such a great event--now, it's your turn, UCI!