Civil Rights Activist Dolores Huerta Continues to Inspire
By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña
There is something about being in the same room as the legendary civil rights and labor activist Dolores Huerta that brings a sense of responsibility to stand up for those that cannot do so themselves.
Huerta, 87, continues her life’s work as the founder and president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and continues to advocate for women, children, and workers.
On Thursday, April 5, Huerta shared her story with students and guests at UC San Diego and spoke on environmental and gender justice, organizing, and activism.
She also spoke on her most recent work through the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which focuses on teaching communities to advocate for their needs through organizing and activism.
Huerta said that the most pressing issues that we face today are environmental injustices, homelessness and providing them the proper resources, however, she said the solution is simple.
“The most important strategy that we have to use and I know it sounds simplistic is to vote,” Huerta said.
Throughout a large part of history, to some, Huerta has been seen as an assistant to yet another well-known activist, Cesar Chavez, but her story has come to light and her role as an important leader in civil rights is being told.
Huerta founded the Agricultural Workers Association, which pressed local governments for community improvements, and later merged with the National Farm Workers Association to become the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee.
She worked alongside Chavez on the rights of farmworks but she was also paving the path for the young women who were watching her succeed and looked up to her for inspiration.
Lesly Figueroa, UC San Diego Associated Students president, is one of those women.
Figueroa, who has advocated on campus for a food pantry, spoke on her efforts and the moment she knew she had to be an activist.
She said growing up in her hometown showed her the disparities between communities who were disadvantaged and wealthier areas.
Figueroa joined Huerta during her visit to the university held at the campus’ Great Hall where over 100 students, staff, and alumni filled the room with anticipation to see Huerta.
Huerta was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 by President Barack Obama, which is highest civilian award in the country.
Recently her work and role in advocating for the rights of workers was highlighted in the documentary, “Dolores,” which premiered on PBS Tuesday, March 27.
The documentary focuses on her decision to stand up for farmworkers in the country and unionize them to gain rights and protections.
“After I had seen the miserable conditions of farmworkers and knowing how to organize people having achieved these incredible successes on legislation, I just felt that’s what I needed to do,” Huerta shares in the documentary.
The documentary is available to watch until April 24 on pbs.org.
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