On Wednesday, March 18, civil rights activist, community organizer and co-founder of United Farm Workers, Dolores Huerta, spoke to a full crowd at the Skyline College Theater. Ms. Huerta has battled inequality for over 50 years, taking especially strong stands for unions, workers, immigrants, women, and the LGBTQ community. Her work has garnered her numerous awards including the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Huerta spoke to Skyline College students and staff on a variety of topics, but she opened by highlighting the theme of the speaker series: raising consciousness. Huerta stressed that “knowledge itself doesn’t really cut it. We have to combine knowledge with action and that’s the way that we can really make a difference in this world.”
Huerta cited examples like climate change where scientific knowledge is routinely ignored and political leaders are slow to enact impactful change. The overtly partisan political landscape in Washington, D.C. Huerta argued, is driven by a wealthy few, including major corporations that are free to pour virtually unlimited amounts of money into political causes; often these funds are directed towards attacking unions, immigrants, or minorities. She went on to describe the plight of labor unions, specifically a move in the U.S. to destroy labor unions and all they stand for.
Shifting focus, Huerta described the U.S. as a nation of immigrants, but also as a nation that often forgets to give credit to the minorities that established its foundation. She stressed the need for comprehensive K-12 ethnic studies education that highlights the contributions of people of color in order to paint a truer picture of American history.
Huerta also placed special emphasis on women’s collective struggle for equality, quoting Coretta Scott King by saying “We will never have peace in the world unless women take power.” She called on women to take charge of their lives, do away with stereotypes of what a woman should be, and to take credit for their work, ideas and accomplishments even in the face of backlash.
While the barriers to meaningful, democratic change and social equality are high, there are ways to overcome them and raise our voices for progress. One of the key ways to do so, according to Huerta, is to vote.
“Things will not change unless we make it happen,” Huerta stated. “We have the power, but we’ve got to get out there and we’ve got to do the work.”
She then led the audience in a call and response, calling out “Who’s got the power?” while the audience responded, “We’ve got the power!”
“What kind of power?”
Then alternately, “People power!” and “Voting power!”
The call and response proved an inspiring reminder of Huerta’s history as a leader of the worker’s rights movement, where she originated and championed the United Farmworkers’ motto “Si se puede!” or “Yes we can!” – a motto coopted by President Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign.
With an eye towards educating the next generation, Huerta brought her community organizing to Skyline College, and inspired the students and staff in attendance with a vision for making change by exercising our rights and getting out there to do the work oF moving the world in the right direction.
Article by Connor Fitzpatrick | Photo by Raul Guerra