HomeBad Ass AsiansAJ Rafael honors historical figure Larry Itliong in music video

AJ Rafael honors historical figure Larry Itliong in music video

Singer and songwriter AJ Rafael took to YouTube to carry on the legacy of Filipino American activist Larry Itliong in a music video titled Our Friend, Larry Itliong.

Rafael’s music video describes Itilong as a Filipino immigrant who came to America to study law when he was only 15 years old. However, he was unable to afford his education and became a farmworker, working in Alaska, Washington state and California for little money and poor working conditions. He lost three fingers because of his hard work, earning him the name “Seven Fingers.”

Working in such awful conditions, he gathered Filipino farmworkers to protest for fair pay and equal rights. Itliong and his group of Filipino farmworkers would work in unity with Cesar and his group of Mexicans. This is the beginning of the Delano grape strike and boycott that would go on for five years.

The owners of the farms gave in to the demands after long-winded protests. Because of these events, Oct. 25, his birthday, marks Larry Itliong Day.

Rafael did not know the extensive details of Itliong’s life prior to recording and writing his song. He studied the book Journey for Justice to learn more about Itliong.

“There’s an unsung hero we don’t get to know, and that’s Larry Itliong,” Rafael told 23ABC Bakersfield.

Additionally, Raphael gives credit to Hamilton and rap songs to help communicate historical facts to a younger audience. To film his music video, Rafael filmed in different locations of Delano where many Filipinos still live.

“The community of Delano and all the Filipinos who know about Larry Itliong, were so, so proud of this story. That’s what I got from being there,” Rafael told 23ABC Bakersfield. “Everyone was so thankful. I can’t believe it. They [even] stopped by Filipino Hall while we were shooting. A bunch of people were like, ‘I heard you were here! Can we take a photo?’”

The release of the music video led to Rafael breaking down the lyrics of his song in a San Francisco State University panel.

Now, Rafael wants elementary and middle schools across California to tell the story of Itliong.

“The community of Delano and all the Filipinos who know about Larry Itliong, were so, so proud of this story. That’s what I got from being there,” Rafael told 23ABC Bakersfield. “Everyone was so thankful. I can’t believe it. They [even] stopped by Filipino Hall while we were shooting. A bunch of people were like, ‘I heard you were here! Can we take a photo?’”

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