Partida named Brinley Plaque winner
Gloria Partida’s efforts to create a more inclusive community in Davis began not long after she arrived here in 1989.
Partida had moved from Los Angeles with her three young children following a divorce and had enrolled at UC Davis to study biology.
Her children were 5, 6 and 7 years old at the time and her youngest had cerebral palsy.
Partida wanted him to be able to attend school with his older sister and brother and she became active in local efforts at full inclusion in the Davis school system. The effort was successful, and Partida stayed involved in disability advocacy even as she completed her education at UC Davis and took a job as a lab manager on campus.
But the contribution for which Partida is perhaps best known — and the one she is being recognized for as this year’s recipient of the A.G. Brinley Award — came out of an entirely different set of circumstances involving one of her children.
It was March 10, 2013, when Partida’s son, Lawrence “Mikey” Partida, was assaulted by a 19-year-old Davis resident in a hate crime that left Mikey with a fractured skull and brain bleed.
The attack occurred shortly before 4 a.m. outside Partida’s cousin’s house in the 300 block of I Street, where family and friends had gathered earlier that night to celebrate Mikey’s 32nd birthday.
Prosecutors said the assailant, Clayton Garzon, targeted Partida because of his sexual orientation, and Garzon ultimately pleaded no contest to assault, battery and hate-crime charges.
Gloria Partida said a friend sent her a photo of Garzon shortly after the attack and she was struck by his youth.
“He looked so young and I felt really, really terrible that somehow the system had failed him,” Partida said.
She had a 7-year-old grandson and she recalls looking at him and thinking, “how do you get from age 7 to that?”
“I had teenagers. … I felt for his parents. It could have been me.”
As the Davis community reeled from news of the hate crime, support came pouring in for the Partidas.
Some 300 people gathered in Central Park for a candlelit vigil in Mikey’s honor and a Facebook page was established to share information about his condition and collect donations for his medical care.
“There was an outpouring of kindness in the city,” Partida recalls. “I don’t know what we would have done without that.”
Mikey had always felt safe growing up in Davis, Partida said. He came out while in high school and felt supported, but still, Partida said, there weren’t really any resources for LGBT kids like him the community.
“I thought, ‘We need something. We need an organization to advocate for inclusion and tolerance.’ ”
So out of the ashes of a violent hate crime, with Mikey Partida still in the midst of a long and slow recovery, rose the Davis Phoenix Coalition.
The effort was guided not just by Partida, but by some like-minded community members who stepped up to help, creating a coalition that would focus on anti-bullying efforts as well as serving as an advocate and resource for marginalized communities.
Three years later, the Phoenix Coalition remains the community’s only LGBT resource center aside from the one on campus, Partida said, serving people of all ages and from all walks of life.
The coalition also has focused on anti-bullying efforts, including through the annual Upstander Carnival where elementary school-aged children learn techniques to fight bullying; hosted forums with the Davis Police Department to address community concerns around policing, immigration and more; and organized the Davis Pride Festival, an annual celebration of LGBT equality, inclusion and pride.
Today, the Phoenix Coalition is hosting a post-election community gathering where local officials will be on hand to discuss the current political climate and challenges the incoming Trump administration may pose. The gathering takes place from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Davis Senior Center, 646 A St.
Partida said last week she was surprised to learn she’d be receiving the Brinley Plaque, given that so many people have been part of the work of the Phoenix Coalition (she cites Alex Lee-Jobe and Lee Ann Freeman in particular).
And she’s not unaware of what led to this moment.
“I have a hard time with the recognition because of where it came from — if this hadn’t happened to my son, I wouldn’t have gotten this,” Partida said.
But others recognize that not everyone would have used that hate crime as motivation to make the community a better place.
In nominating Partida for the award, Bill Habicht, associate pastor at Davis Community Church, said Partida “represents the very best values of Davis.”
“(Partida) has made tremendous contributions to our city in the areas of race relations, restorative justice, LGBTQ advocacy and anti-bullying,” Habicht wrote in his nomination letter.
The Brinley Plaque, established by John W. Brinley in 1969 in honor of his father, Samuel Brinley, recognizes outstanding service in a particular area, such as the arts, education or health, or in some project that benefits the city.
For Partida, that contribution is the Davis Phoenix Coalition and its ongoing work. The coalition meets monthly, on the third Tuesday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in Classroom 1 at Davis Community Church, 412 C St. All are welcome.
More information about the coalition is available at www.davisphoenixco.org as well as on the Davis Phoenix Coalition Facebook page.
As for Mikey Partida, the man whose devastating experience inspired his mother’s work, recovery has been a very long process, his mother said, and he still suffers from seizures and struggles with anxiety, “but he’s doing well.”