Political organizer and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta spoke in Thorne Hall on Tuesday to discuss the importance of education in combating social injustice. Huerta is well-known for her activism for farmworkers’ rights and women’s rights.
La Raza Coalition member and Urban and Environmental Policy and Latino/a and Latin American Studies double major Bianca Cervantes (senior) and Diplomacy and World Affairs and Spanish Studies double major Omar Rodriguez (senior) introduced Huerta’s talk.
Huerta began by discussing the individual’s right to education and more specifically, how student power is being deprived. Huerta posited that some states are intellectually and culturally crippling the public by banning some parts of historical events from their curriculum.
“What does that mean in terms of having an educated public and educated citizenry?” Huerta said.
During her talk, Huerta emphasized that the Occidental community must organize to educate others about the institutional racism that continues in the United States today. She explained that society can combat institutional racism by protecting and defending oppressed groups such as women, immigrants, people of color and the lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and queer community.
Many students present at the talk responded positively, recognizing the importance of Huerta’s activism. Cervantes cited Huerta’s activism as tangible evidence of attainable justice.
“Dolores Huerta conveys the message that there is power in the people,” Cervantes said.
Director of theIntercultural Community Center (ICC) Paula Crisostomo, who has worked to bring Huerta to campus since last August, felt strongly that Huerta highlights issues important to Occidental.
“Dolores Huerta changed the perceptions of women, leadership and women of color,” Crisostomo said.
According to ICCProgram Coordinator Sean Ford, Huerta provides the Occidental community with the possibility to unite and collectively communicate with one another about shared values.
Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), the predecessor of the United Farm Workers (UFW) along with César Chávez in 1962. The NFWA served to educate farmworkers on how to advocate for unemployment insurance.
In 1975, Huerta was a lobbyist for farmworkers’ rights and urged politicians to ratify the Agricultural Labor Relation Act of 1975. The passage of the act granted Californian union farmworkers the same rights as their American counterparts.
U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and and Barack Obama recognized Huerta for her efforts to improve workers’ rights. Clinton awarded her the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights in 1998, while Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
Huerta currently leads the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which she founded in 2002. The foundation educates and aids economically disadvantaged workers, women and children.
Center for Gender Equity, ICC, La Raza Coalition, Office of Community Engagement, Occidental Latino Alumni Association, Remsen Bird Fund, Office of Student Life, politics department, education department and Latino/a and Latino Americans Studies all sponsored the event.
The ICC will continue to promote and celebrate Women’s Herstory Month with programming that includes a Valuing Diversity series and Semana de la Raza.