An anonymous letter to an American Canyon resident sparked a rally for diversity at City Hall Wednesday evening. Carring signs saying “We (heart) Everyone in AmCan,” about 40 city officials, including the mayor, city councilmembers and citizens, braved cold, damp weather to march across Highway 29 to Napa Junction shopping center.
The undated printed letter addressed to Maria Aida Ignacio Brandes with a heading that read, “California Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Barbering & Cosmetology” and signed “Concerned American Canyon Neighbors,” accused Ignacio Brandes of operating with a revoked business license.
The letter ended with slurs and derogatory comments about the Filipino-American community, describing it as “filthy” and “scum.”
Ignacio Brandes turned the letter to American Canyon police.
A Facebook posting of the letter on Monday by Filipino resident Derek Valencia went viral, prompting national attention by the Huffington Post and an interview of city officials by local ABC television affiliate Channel 7.
Longtime resident and community activist, Morris Curry, who is African American, said he experienced racial slurs when he arrived in town more than 30 years ago.
“The same thing happened to me when I got to American Canyon in 1980. It was on front page of Vallejo Times Herald,” Curry said.
Curry said the issue was personal for him, having grown up with segregation in Oklahoma and since he has been married to a Filipino woman for 45 years.
“My father-in-law is a Bataan death march survivor,” Curry said.
Eva Garcia, wife of American Canyon Mayor Leon Garcia is also Filipino.
A “couple” of people received the letter, American Canyon Police Chief Jean Donaldson said Wednesday.
“It’s something that we’re looking at,” said Donaldson.
Belia Ramos Bennett, city councilwoman and one of the organizers of the rally and march, recruited supporters with an email late Wednesday afternoon.
“We (the American Canyon City Council) are having a march tonight in support of diversity and to speak out against the hateful letter making disparaging remarks about the Fil-Am community and all intolerance,” Ramos Bennett wrote.
While some, including City Manager Dana Shigley, questioned whether the community’s reaction gave the letter writer undeserved attention, in a letter to the editor Curry said, “... this kind of thinking, ‘keeping it quiet,’ is the kind of attitude that makes for a dangerous situation.”
He urged a forceful response.
“American Canyon is a great place to live, and I refuse to allow any such attitude to prevail in my town,” Curry wrote.
Curry said when he was confused as a child about why there were different races, his mother offered a beautiful explanation.
“God loves flowers,” Curry said his mother told him. “We’re God’s flower garden.”
Reporter Kerana Toderov contributed to this story.