Dolores Huerta: From young and brave Latina, to change agent, to empowering elder.

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Reach And Teach ace reporter Drew Durham attended a talk by Dolores Huerta and offered to share his reflections on her work and that event. Thanks Drew!!!!

Dolores Huerta gave rousing speech on March 14th at a theater in Belmont.
Report by Drew Durham

Public school textbooks ignore many civil rights leaders. Dolores Huerta, a pioneering community organizer since 1955 is one of them, but she is a transformative force for social justice and progressive civil change. Huerta gave a powerful stream of consciousness talk at a Bay Area theater on March 14th, 2013.

Huerta, now 82, has been an active advocate for justice and civil rights, for over 50 years. Huerta spoke of her main influence, Fred Ross, Sr. and her partner in the United Farm Workers leadership, Cesar Chavez. From Ross Sr. she learned that "Your power is in your person, and within yourself is all the power you need." From Chavez she learned the power of nonviolent action.

As a result of the United Farm Workers organization and their nonviolent civil disobedience and getting out the vote, a number of California and national laws were passed in favor of the United Farm Workers including the 1986 Amnesty Bill, which removed the barriers to citizenship for over one million undocumented immigrants.

Huerta also spoke of her foundation ( and how along with her organization, she now raises money, trains organizers and empowers them, including undocumented immigrant community leaders. Part of the empowerment strategy of her organization is education, particularly teaching about the social policies that create and maintain the school prison pipeline in the United States. In California's central valley, Huerta said there have been 17 prisons built since 1965 but only one public university built during that same period. The prison-industrial complex is a major source of injustice, even for the taxpayers. Huerta pointed out that it costs the taxpayer more each year for someone to go to jail than to send a student to Yale.

Huerta had strong words to say to the "far right, racists, and the Tea Party" including, the "scientific fact that we are all African, so get over it!" She also said that labor unions are not special interests, for the only interest they have is their own well-being not any stockholders.

Huerta quoted Cornell West, "Justice is love on legs, spilling over into the public sphere."

In 1972, Huerta came up with the slogan "Si, se puede" (translated by the UFW as "Yes, it can be done"), which became a powerful chant during the struggles and victories of the United Farm Workers in the 1970s and has been adopted by many other progressive causes. When Huerta was talking with President Obama after winning the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom, Obama asked her, "I stole that from you, didn't I?" Huerta replied without hesitation but with a smile, "yes, you did!"

Huerta is also a strong feminist, and spoke of how men can be feminists too. She ended with encouraging words. "Build your own power and don't let anybody get in the way of your destiny." Then she led the audience in several chants, including the finale "Si, se puede!"


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