Celebrated Civil Rights Activist Dolores Huerta to Speak at CSUSM
By David Ogul
Celebrated civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, a catalyst in the struggle to improve conditions for farmworkers and a driving force behind the historic national boycott of table grapes a half century ago, will make a special presentation entitled “Transnational Labor: A Struggle Within the Struggle” at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) on April 8.
The presentation, which will focus on fighting for social justice in an increasingly global economy, is set to begin at 6 p.m. in the University Student Union Ballroom. It is the anchor event in CSUSM’s 2015 Arts & Lectures Series.
“Dolores Huerta is a living legend who was instrumental in working to improve the conditions of women, farmworkers and migrant populations in the United States,” said Dr. Xuan Santos, an assistant professor of sociology who reached out to Huerta and helped organize the event. “Given that we have been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution, that we have many artifacts honoring César Chávez, and given that our school has a very strong emphasis on social justice, it is only natural that we invite someone of Dolores Huerta’s stature to come to the campus.”
In 2012 President Barack Obama presented Huerta with the Presidential Freedom Award—the highest civilian award in the United States—and in 1998 she was honored by former President Bill Clinton with the Eleanor D. Roosevelt Human Rights Award.
Her efforts at advocating for social justice, women’s equality, reproductive freedom and LGBTQ civil rights have yet to wane as she educates and influences community leaders to advocate for the working poor, immigrants, women and youth through the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
“At 83, Dolores Huerta continues to work tirelessly developing leaders and advocating for the working poor, women and children,” notes the Dolores Huerta Foundation website. “As founder and president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, she travels across the country engaging in campaigns and influencing legislation that supports equality and defends civil rights. She often speaks to students and organizations about issues of social justice and public policy.”
Huerta’s biography notes that she found her calling as an organizer while serving in the leadership of the Stockton Community Service Organization (CSO). During this time she founded the Agricultural Workers Association, set up voter registration drives and pressed local governments for barrio improvements. It was in 1955 through CSO founder Fred Ross, Sr., that she met CSO Executive Director César E. Chávez. The two soon discovered that they shared a common vision of organizing farmworkers, an idea that was not in line with the CSO’s mission. So the pair left the CSO to launch the National Farm Workers Association, which later merged with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committed to become the UFW.
A principal UFW legislative advocate, Huerta became one of the movement’s most visible spokespersons. The late Robert F. Kennedy acknowledged her help in winning the 1968 California Democratic presidential primary moments before he was shot in Los Angeles. Candidates that she has helped elect include President Bill Clinton, Rep. Ron Dellums, Governor Jerry Brown, Rep. Hilda Solis and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton.
The presentation is co-sponsored by Palomar College, the Palomar Faculty Federation and several organizations at CSUSM including Extended Learning; Community Engagement; the Office of Diversity; the Faculty Center; the College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral and Social Sciences (CHABSS); the College of Education, Health and Human Services; the Departments of Modern Language Studies, Communication, Sociology, Anthropology, Native Studies, and Graduate Studies and Research; the Cross Cultural Center, the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center; the Social Justice and Equity Grant; and the CHABSS Global Commitment and the Diverse Dialogues Initiatives. Tickets are available for purchase online: $10 for community members, $5 for CSUSM faculty and staff, and free for students (please note: students must reserve a space online).
Dr. Santos said he was expecting up to 1,000 people or more to attend the presentation.
“We are facing a crisis in north San Diego County and across the country as far as nativism, racism and anti-immigration sentiment,” he said. “Dolores Huerta is a popular, prominent figure among the Latina/Latino community, so we’re expecting a lot of people from the surrounding community.”
Added Dr. Santos: “It is important to bring role models to the campus not only to inspire our students, but to inspire our community.”