Helen Agcaoili Summers Brown, founder of the Filipino American Library (FAL) and an icon of the Filipino-American community, died January 25, 2011. She was 95.
Brown was born in Manila, Philippines in May 16, 1915 to Trinidad Agcalli and Geroge Summers. After graduating from Manila Central High School, Helen moved with her family to the United States. She enrolled first at Pasadena Junior College and then at UCLA where she earned her Master’s degree. She then began a long career as a teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Throughout her studies and career as an educator, Brown grew the private library collection started by her father. According to her biography on the FAL website (written by Professor Tania Azores):
She realized the importance of the library she inherited from her father, and she began to build on it by collecting books, pamphlets, newsletters, newspaper clippings, and even the souvenir programs given out during the annual balls of various Filipino organizations. In her mind, nothing was too insignificant when it came to preserving the social history of Filipinos in the United States.
This library would be the start of the Filipino American Library, the first of its kind in the United States. FAL opened its doors in Los Angeles’s historic Filipinotown on October 13, 1985. The work that Auntie Helen, as she was affectionately known, started over a quarter of a century ago continues today as the library preserves and promotes the stories of the Filipino-American community.
For information about the community tribute/memorial being planned to celebrate Brown’s life, please contact FAL board member and Past President Rose Ibanez at email@example.com.
In 2006, Florante Ibanez produced this documentary about Brown and the creation of the Filipino American Library: