By Tatiana Olivera
Published March 22, 2021
Best known for founding United Farm Workers (UFW) with Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta has worked all her life advocating for social justice. She shared about her passion for equity and justice as well as her experiences as an activist in the Ignite! Social Justice keynote event hosted by the Otter Cross Cultural Center (OC3) and Otter Student Union (OSU) on March 12.
Huerta touched on many topics, including the Black Lives Matter movement, free higher education, universal health care, immigration, environmental reform, and women’s rights. Before diving into the Q-and-A portion of the livestream, she emphasized the importance of communicating with local officials as frequently as possible.
“Wash your face, brush your teeth, call your Congressman,” she told students, quoting director and filmmaker Michael Moore from his one-man Broadway debut. “It’s so important that we vote, but voting isn’t enough. We’ve got to get out there and knock on doors. We’ve got to do the advocacy work.”
Students asked various questions, like whether Huerta has experienced imposter syndrome or if she feels the media has given Chavez more coverage and recognition than her.
Huerta said she is no stranger to imposter syndrome, especially as someone from a middle-class family who aimed to represent farmworkers.
“I still have that problem,” she said. But she continues to follow her mother’s advice: “You never have to pretend that you’re somebody else. Just be yourself no matter who you’re with or where you’re at. So long as we’re helping others, we can all be proud of who we are.”
As for recognition, she wants to spotlight those who lost their lives as members of UFW: Nan Freeman, Nagi Daifullah, Juan De La Cruz, Rufino Contreras, and Rene Lopez.
“Those are the martyrs,” Huerta said. “People don’t know about the martyrs who’ve been in jail and beaten while we were trying to get basic rights for farmworkers.”
But she also acknowledged that women should feel comfortable taking the spotlight for their accomplishments.
“I think it’s important for women to claim their roles and be heard,” she said. “For all the women out there, make sure you take credit for the work you do.”
She acknowledged that her platform is a privilege, and her goal is to use it to better the world and the lives of the oppressed. Most recently, she is encouraging everyone to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19 by getting the vaccine as soon as it is available.
“This is my birthday wish — that you all get the coronavirus vaccine!” said the soon-to-be 91-year-old, whose birthday is on April 10.
The audience — which consisted of over 100 viewers — was excited to extend birthday wishes to Huerta and was grateful for her time.
“It was amazing to see the mix of students, faculty, staff, and community members we had come out and be engaged to learn more about the work Dolores has done and is continuing to do throughout her life,” said Michelle White, assistant director of OSU.
Bianca Tonantzin Zamora, coordinator for OC3 and the moderator of the event, agrees.
“I think her moving words and beautiful energy ignited our community to reflect on our power, stories, and roles as feminists,” Zamora said.