Slowly but surely, the forgotten heroes of OC history are getting their due, getting rooms and parks and other public spaces named after them (so much better than naming streets after Klan members, ¿que no?). Last month, the Rancho Santiago Community College District Board of Trustees took a step in this right direction by naming the Santiago Canyon College Library after civil rights pioneer Lorenzo Ramirez.
Ramirez, you may not recall, was one of five fathers who were plaintiffs in Mendez, et al v. Westminster, the school desegregation case in the late 1940s that served as a precursor to the far-more-famous Brown v. Board of Education. Mendez, et al is pretty well known in Southern California at this point, but almost all of the attention was placed on the Mendez family, with the other four clans relegated to a footnote at best.
The exclusion of Ramirez from the historical record was the subject of my 2009 cover story on the subject, and I'm proud to say that our story helped activists push for recognition of Ramirez.
"This is a special moment in the history of Rancho Santiago Community College District and in Orange County about the leadership some of our residents have taken to affect national policy," said board president Jose Solorio in a press release. "Lorenzo Ramirez is a hero to our community and to all people who believe that everyone deserves equal rights and a quality public education. He was a humble man who acted on his beliefs and left a positive mark in America."
"It's an affirmation of what my Dad did," added Phyllis Ramirez, Lorenzo's daughter. "It recognizes what one person with courage and integrity can do a great deal for the community. It's important to show children that if you really want change, you need to take action."
Congrats to the Ramirez family–now, step it up, rest of OC, for the other three families. Who are they? Learn your history!