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Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. announced Thursday that the county is declaring Oct. 15 as Rafaela “Lalie” Garcia Day.
Garcia, who died in June at the age of 93, was a longtime community activist and political organizer, fighting on the front lines for economic, social and racial injustices. She was an activist in the Latino and Hispanic communities in Kansas City. Oct. 15 is the last day of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
“At the time of her death, she was still civically engaged throughout Jackson County and leaves behind a lasting legacy for us to admire and follow,” a news release announcing the proclamation issued at the Guadalupe Center Administration Building said.
Garcia was born in 1927 in Kansas City, Kansas and lived in the Armourdale community until the Flood of 1951 effectively destroyed the community.
She and her husband, Jesse Garcia, then moved and resettled in the West Side. Once there, she became known as the “Queen Bee” because she buzzed around town and stayed involved in various social clubs. U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II described Garcia as a close friend for nearly 40 years.
“Every person wanting to get elected in Kansas City had to at some time or another sit down and talk to Lali Garcia. The last thing you wanted was for her not to be for you,” Cleaver told The Star in June for her obituary. “She was a sweetheart who could also take somebody apart.”
Garcia helped develop Guadalupe Centers, a nonprofit organization that offers social and educational services to Hispanic and Latino Kansas Citians. She co-founded La Raza Political Club and helped Robert “Bobby” Hernandez become the first person of Mexican descent to be elected as a Kansas City Councilman in 1975.
“When I was a young person, we were not let into restaurants,” Garcia told The Star in a 1994 interview. “They kicked us out because we were Hispanic. He was always telling me, ‘If you can ever do anything for your people, I want you to find a way.’ He told me, ‘You’re strong enough, and you’ve got the mouth for it, so just do it!’”