Students and faculty gathered together this past week to listen to social justice warrior and Keynote Speaker Dolores Huerta in celebration of the closing of Latinx Heritage Month. Presented by the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) on Wednesday, Oct. 14., Huerta spoke about her journey as a Civil Rights activist and the co-founding of the United Workers Union with Ceaser Chavez.
Working as a community organizer and social justice warrior for over 50 years, Huerta has a wealth of knowledge about the social justice issues plaguing America in the ’70s and ’80s, as well as a unique perspective on the persistence of these issues today. Addressing issues of racism, sexism, homophobia and classism in the United States, Huerta’s dynamic speech covered a wide range of topics but focused on the importance of voting.
Huerta sees voting as the key to reforming unjust practices in the United States. Through her work at the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF), she educates Latinx community members on the power they have to manifest real change. Huerta personally saw the influence of a united community during the fight for establishing farmer’s rights in California, and now spends her time working to instill confidence in all Latinx people that their voice can, and should, be heard.
“We have the power to decide who the next president is, but a lot of them do not know that. Our job as activists is to get out there, shake people up, making them understand that they have power, that they can change things… this is what I’ve been doing my whole life,” Huerta said.
Along with voting, Huerta calls for education reform to include the stories of Latinx laborers. With a heritage and culture deeply rooted in modern America, Huerta nostalgically recalled a time when the United States was mostly Mexican territory — a time when Latinx culture thrived. Moreover, she feels that Latinx laborers played a vital role in building the United States and continue to keep the U.S. economy afloat. Huerta believes acknowledging the sacrifices and hard work of these people is essential to fully understand American origins and pay homage to Latinx innovation, skill and resilience.
“The stories I am talking about, they need to be included in our textbooks, our schools. We are a great part of the USA even if we are not recognized,” Huerta said.
Although Huerta takes great pride in her indigenous roots, she realizes that racism is a rampant “illness” in this country that must be cured. She called to her audience members to “be the healers of the poisonous white supremacy” by educating racist, sexist and homophobic members of our nation. Through proper education, Huerta believes that a more equitable and cohesive society will flourish.
“We have to think of ourselves as one human race. We should not use the word race unless it’s attached to the word human — we can see we have different ethnicities and nationalities, but we live together as one,” Huerta added.
Huerta remarked that the persistence of racism in the United States has been made abundantly clear throughout the pandemic. She talked about how the Latinx community, among other communities of color, were disproportionately victimized by COVID-19, and how healthcare, childcare are other issues needing reform must be added to the agenda.
Reflecting upon all of her experiences fighting for civil rights and educating communities, Huerta said she wants her story to especially inspire young women to believe that they can achieve their goals despite the oppressive forces of patriarchy in this country. Huerta recounts times when men have taken credit for her achievements and said that it is crucial to educate others on their wrongdoings and not let self-doubt overwhelm dreams and desires for positive change.
“It is hard for women to be up in the front being leaders. We are overly criticized, but we cannot hold ourselves back. We have to be bold, we have to be brave,” Huerta said.
To conclude her speech, Huerta urged her audience members to take pride in their heritage, especially young Latina women, and to harness their power into positive action.
“Whenever you feel like you can’t make change, like you can’t push through, think ‘Si, Se Puede;’ Yes, We Can,” she stated.
For more information about Dolores Huerta and her ongoing work, visit https://doloreshuerta.org.