Rousing the audience with the chant of “Who’s got the power? We’ve got the power,” civil rights activist Dolores Huerta ended her talk at Sonoma State Thursday with a loud round of applause and standing ovation from the crowd.
In time for the new release of Cesar Chavez’s movie and yesterday’s Cesar Chavez Day, Huerta addressed an engaged crowd of close to 1,000 people, speaking about her legacy in social justice, education and public policy.
This event in the Student Center Ballroom was part of the H. Andrea Néves and Barton Evans Social Justice Lecture Series, which has sponsored eight other speeches in the past at Sonoma State. The speech was held in collaboration with the School of Social Science, School of Education and On Campus Presents.
After short introductions by President Ruben Armiñana, Carlos Ayala, dean of the school of education, and Andrea Néves, founder of the H. Andrea Néves and Barton Evans Social Justice Lecture Series, Huerta came onto the stage to welcome the crowd.
She began with discussing the deadline for signing up for healthcare is coming up and said, “If we do not sign up in the Latino community, especially young people, the whole thing is not going to work. We are going to deter and we are going to create a big problem for the national healthcare insurance.”
She pushed the idea that it is important for everyone to sign up for health insurance in order to ensure people’s health.
Huerta went on to discuss the upcoming Cesar Chavez Day and “Cesar Chavez,” the movie that came out this past weekend. Huerta pushed the audience to see the movie in order to “inspire Hollywood to do more movies about our [Latino citizen’s] experiences.” She told stories about some of her work she had done with Chavez that did not make it into the movie, such as the changes that she and Chavez made in the farmworker’s union.
“One of the things that is not in the movie, unfortunately, is that it doesn’t really show the kind of work we did in the farmworker’s union in terms of engagement; of getting people to sign up to vote and support the people that were running for office,” said Huerta.
Huerta spoke about how difficult it was for farmworkers to use the restroom, especially women. This was one of the issues Chavez and Huerta worked to solve in the farmworkers union. They also worked together to get more rights for farmworkers, like cold water that workers did not need to pay for.
Huerta explained the way they won the rights for the labor union was with the grape boycott she and Chavez started. Seventeen million Americans did not eat grapes in result of the boycott. This was how farmworkers got some of the basic privileges they needed.
After speaking about Chavez and the work she accomplished with him, Huerta began to discuss women’s rights and what needs to be done in order to make a change in our world.
“We have to change the way we raise our women and our children so they can be strong and defend themselves physically,” said Huerta. She quoted Coretta Scott King: “unless women take power, we will never have peace in the world,” reiterating the fact that women need power in this world and women’s power is the only way the world can be just.
“If we don’t use our power, we’ll never change,” said Huerta.
In her passionate speech, Huerta discussed many different topics of importance. She spoke about women’s rights and immigration reform. She also discussed respect among society, the changes that need to be made in education and how important it is to be aware of what is going on in the world.
“People shouldn’t have to wait until college to learn about ethnic studies,” said Huerta. Huerta made a point that it is important for the youth to be educated on what has happened in the past, especially hard working people who do not usually make it into textbooks. She went on to discuss the importance of the fact there are so many homeless people and so many empty houses.
Like much of the community who came out to see Huerta’s speech, Arcelia Sandoval Cabrera, who works in the Sonoma State development department, said she and her family admire Huerta lot and are greatly inspired by her.
“I wanted my family to have the experience of listening to such an amazing speaker,” said Cabrera.
Through her inspiring life, Huerta continues to bring hope to the world around her with her engaging speeches about social justice, education and public policy.