Monday Hero: Dolores Huerta

 

A Crusader for Justice

To achieve change takes sacrifice. You must give up comfort and ignore the opinions of other people so that racial and economic justice prevail.”  ~Dolores Huerta

‘Dolores’ the movie is opening in theaters in September 2018. Carlos Santana produces the film that gives viewers an intimate look at Huerta who is an intensely private mother to eleven; the film reveals the raw, personal stakes involved in committing one’s life to social change. ‘Dolores’ is directed by film maker Peter Bratt.  

Dolores Huerta sacrificed much in her lifetime on behalf of underserved and oppressed migrant workers and women.  In deserving recognition of her lifelong continuous and distinguished crusade for justice, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama on May 29, 2012.

The crusade for parity for migrant workers, for Huerta, began with the example by her mother when she was a little girl.  After her parents divorced when she was three years old, Dolores saw a quiet strength and compassion for Hispanic workers in her mother, Alicia Chávez.

Sacrifice and Action

Dolores Huerta, mother of 11 children, often left her family for days and sometimes months to fight for justice. She was widely criticized for this, mostly by men, in a propaganda smear to get her to “shut up and go home.”  None of the criticism deterred her and she admits to the pain welted onto her family but she could not stop.

She used fierce determination and mother-wit wisdom to earn the recognition as iconic American labor leader and civil rights activist who, with Cesar Chavez, was the co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW). Huerta helped organize the California grape strike in Delano in1965; rightly she was the lead negotiator in the workers’ contract that was created after the strike.

She did not stop.  As a lobbyist for farm worker’s rights, she supported legislation and championed bills such as helping to repeal in1962 the racist Bracero Program; extending AFDC federal program for California farm workers, and fighting for the passage of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act in1975.

As an advocate for farmworkers’ rights, Huerta has been arrested twenty-two times for participating in non-violent civil disobedience activities and migrant workers strikes.  In 1988, she was severely beaten, which was caught on camera, by SFO police officers during a lawful and peaceful protest about the policies of then candidate George H. W. Bush.

Following a lengthy recovery, Huerta took a leave of absence from the union to focus on women’s rights, especially for Latina women. Later she served as National Chair of the 21st Century Party, founded in 1992, insisting that political and legislative representation must reflect the ethnic diversity of the nation.

“The thing about nonviolence is that it spreads. When you get people to participate in nonviolent action – whether it’s a fast, a march, a boycott, or a picket line – people hear you, people see you, people are learning from that action.” ~ Dolores Huerta

Yes We Can

Dolores Huerta made her voice strong. She is credited with coining the movement’s famous slogan, Sí se puede — Spanish for “Yes, we can” — which inspired President Obama’s own popular campaign slogan.  Yes, we can and if Dolores has her way, we will.

 

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