Dionicio Morales

 
Dionicio Morales

born 1918
from Los Angeles

Dionicio Morales ( b. 1918, Yuma, Arizona d. September 24, 2008 Beverly Hospital in Montebello, California.) ‘’ Latino civil rights leader and social entrepreneur. ‘’ Mr. Morales was founder of the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation(MOAF), the largest Hispanic nonprofit in the nation.(1) He spent his life fighting segregation and prejudice in the United States. His abilities to work with corporate and political leaders opened the doors and jobs for thousands of Latinos in the U.S. His personal relationship with President Lyndon Johnson allowed MOAF to win significant civil rights victories for Latinos.(2) His civil rights activism earned him recognition as “an urban Cesar Chavez” and social entrepreneur. He worked tirelessly inspiring several new generation of Mexican American business and political leaders as he pursued his vision of a U.S.A. where all Latinos have equal opportunities in education and the workplace.(3) Mr. Morales was the first of his parents’ 11 children who came of age during the Great Depression era in the then rural community of Moorpark, California. Mr. Moreles’ parents were Mexican immigrants who had settled in Southern California to work in the agricultural fields.(4) Competition for work during the Great Depression worsened anti-Mexican sentiments and Los Angeles County set up a fund to finance their expulsion. Those who remained suffered numerous hardships including deplorable living conditions, lack of adequate health care, which contributed to widespread tuberculosis. Mr. Morales nearly died of the disease just as seven of his siblings did. In school, Mexican and Mexican American children were separated from Anglo students and prohibited from speaking in Spanish with the threat of corporal punishment. Mr. Morales’ autobiography, ‘’Dionicio Morales: A Life in Two Cultures’’, provides numerous insights into the subjection of the Mexican American community to the Jim Crow era segregation in the U.S. based on “race.” Mr. Morales refused to accept the “silent rules” of our society that supported discrimination and inequity. These injustices led him to dedicate his life’s work to bettering the plight of Mexican Americans. Mr. Morales studied at Santa Barbara State Teacher’s College and became a compliance officer with the Bracero program, which brought Mexican workers to the U.S. to labor in the fields and factories depleted of workers by the war effort. It was here he first met Cesar Chavez. He went on to work as a probation officer for Mexican American youth and later a labor organizer in East Los Angeles. His years in East L.A. helped lay the groundwork for the formation of what would become the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation in 1963. MOAF has become the largest social services provider in the U.S.A., serving more than 100,000 Californians and providing childcare for an estimated 8,000 children each day.(5) In 1968, MOAF received its first $1 million federal contract from the U.S. Department of Labor for a job-development program. Mr. Morales developed relationships with corporate giants, including Kraft Foods, Rockwell International, McDonnell Douglas, and Lockheed Martin that would lead to many jobs for Mexican Americans. MAOF still works in job training but 80 percent of its $57 million budget goes to child care programs that enable parents to work.

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Morales founded the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation in 1963 “to provide for the socio-economic betterment of the greater Latino community of California, while preserving the pride, values and heritage o...
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