CELEBRATE APRIL 10TH DOLORES HUERTA DAY
By Magdaleno Leno Rose-Avila
Many times we have chanted SI SE PUEDE (yes we can) and we forget that it was Dolores Huerta that made this message the mantra of our human rights struggles.
Fred Ross had years earlier recruited this young bright woman and Cesar Chavez to help build the CSO, the community service organization. And later they would become the central organizers of the FARM WORKERS ORGANIZING COMMITTEE that later became the United Farm Workers Union.
In my life time I have met many leaders, and celebrities but never anyone who is like Dolores. What I admire most about Dolores is how grounded she is in defense of the poor and downtrodden and how well she treats the least amongst us.
Dolores has for her entire life has run against the wind changing the norms of the time and breaking the glass and at times steel ceilings to allow women and the forgotten onto their rightful place at the table.
In the process of doing all this work she has protected the rights of the oppressed at every opportunity.
Today she leads along with her daughter Camila the DOLORES HUERTA FOUNDATION. I have seen first hand their good grass roots work with the local communities in the San Joaquin Valley while still remaining a strong presence on key national issues.
Anyone who has worked with Dolores has many wonderful and colorful stories. Those of us who over the years have been asked to staff her at public events soon learn that she is the last to leave an event and only after she has spoken to almost everyone and has encouraged them to do more. She has a spiritual energy that seems to be fueled by a DREAM OF A BETTER WORLD.
I came out of a Mexican Culture and a Chicano Movement that were macho centric environments. Add to this that when I joined up as an organizer for the UFW in 1970 I don’t think I was ready to meet such a powerful woman. I was pleasantly surprised to see such an amazing smart and strong woman who was the Co-Founder and vice president of the union. And as history would have it most of the recognized leadership at that time of the union was male. But one of the major underpinnings of the movement were women, who like Dolores sacrificed their families, their health and well being in support of a movement that would protect workers and would inspire so many others.
Once in Delano in 1972 I was invited to be part of a contract negotiating team led by Dolores. There we were on the second floor of a motel meeting with these growers on a very cold day in Delano. I was amazed by the way she managed the defense of workers rights. She was like Mohammad Ali, doing her own Ali style shuffle, a bit of Rope a Dope .. and like Ali she would respond with quick jabs and on occasion a flurry of punches that would leave the growers dumbfounded. If they gave academy awards for contract negotiations she would have won more than her share.
Several years ago, 2015 to be exact, one of the national museums in Washington D.C. had a wonderful display of Dolores, and she was in DC for the inauguration of this display And this happened to be around the Fourth of July weekend.. Abe Bonowitz and I both had invited Dolores to join us outside of the Supreme Court where there is an Annual Fast And Vigil Against The Death Penalty. And to our surprise about one a.m. in the morning Dolores shows up with her staff. She spoke to us, we sang songs and prayed together.. This was another one of those unique actions that Dolores repeats on a regular basis. That night she uplifted our spirits which we needed to continue our work to abolish the death penalty.
Once at her home for a special reception she cornered me as she always did asking me to take on some new tasks. When she was done I smiled at her and said DOLORES I NO LONGER WORK FOR YOU.. She smiled back saying YOU KNOW THAT THIS IS IMPORTANT AND I KNOW YOU WILL DO IT. Later that afternoon as I met others at the reception I learned that they too had received their marching orders from her. And now I am happy to be challenged by her since I long ago learned that what she is asking us to do what is right and just.
Many awards and recognitions have been given to Dolores but the most important acknowledgement is the love and respect she gets from the people she has defended.
Dolores at 91 has given and continues to give her all for the protection of Mother Earth and all of her creatures.
Santiago Casal, founder and curator of the Solar Calendar on the west ridge of the park, adds:
The State of California made April 10th Dolores Huerta Day in California. This year, thanks to the Chávez/Huerta Commemorative Committee (chavezhuerta.org), the Berkeley Unified School District and the City of Berkeley have also permanently made April 10th Dolores Huerta Day in Berkeley. We have a Commemorative Period here which begins on March 20th (Spring Equinox and traditional beginning of the planting season, goes through César Chávez Day on March 31st, and continues on to April 10th (Dolores Huerta Day). We installed an interim memorial at Chávez Park in 1998 (http://www.solarcalendar.org — currently being updated to correspond with a soon to be released mobile tour of the park and Homage to Chávez and Huerta) to honor César following his death in 1993. In 2010, we incorporated Dolores into the Commemorations to honor her often unrecognized and ongoing contribution to farm workers and to the Dolores Huerta Foundation .(http://doloreshuerta.org) .