Dolores, a documentary mix of archival footage and interviews with Dolores Huerta, her family and such prominent figures as Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis and Luis Valdez, portrays the United Farm Workers co-founder as a pivotal yet relatively uncredited luminary in labor history.
The time for Diane Rodriguez’s play is 1970, and the immediate setting is the office of El Malcriado, the newspaper founded by Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez in Delano, California.
Seventy-seven years ago, in March 1939, Juan Fabian Fernandez of New Mexico opened a session of the National Congress of the Mexican and Spanish-Speaking Peoples of the United States in downtown Los Angeles. He stood out as the only Latino state legislator present, but he was not the only politico there.
Sometimes the most interesting, and influential, figures in history are anything but household names. A case in point is Fred Ross, one of the greatest organizers of the 20th century.
A few weeks ago, I found myself with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Before me almost a thousand janitors wearing deep purple Service Employee International Union T-shirts lined up to march from a Beverly Hills park to the high-rise offices of Century City.
Three weeks ago Students Matter, the nonprofit group behind the Vergara v. California lawsuit, began prominently touting United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta’s support for that suit on its website. The subhead of the group’s press release boldly claimed the labor icon was one of the “Voices of Vergara,” a collection of pro-lawsuit testimonials that appear on Students Matter’s website and on YouTube. The release stated that “the longtime California labor leader and civil rights activist” endorses the lawsuit and quotes her as saying, “I think it’s awesome that the Vergara lawsuit was filed. There is no excuse why we can’t have equality in education. I think we have the resources to do it, we’ve just got to have the will.”
There was only one problem: The press release’s statement wasn’t true.
On February 3 Huerta sent a strongly worded “cease and desist” letter to Students Matter’s public relations firm,
The police stop a young man. An officer shoots, killing him. The officer claims self-defense, that the killing was warranted.
The community, having endured years of unequal treatment at the hands of law enforcement and other municipal agencies, responds in anger. Protests ensue. Hard feelings persist, as do demands for law-enforcement accountability.
Sound familiar? No, this is not the case of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The young man in question was Augustin Salcido, 17, and the incident occurred in Los Angeles more than six decades earlier. The Internet did not exist at that time and local television audiences were miniscule, so the Civil Rights Congress of Los Angeles produced a pamphlet, Justice for Salcido. In its introduction, author and civil rights advocate Carey McWilliams described the killing as part of a historical pattern of “continued suppression of the Mexican minority.”
About 80 activists representing feminists, gays and lesbians, workers and Hollywood celebrities rallied in front of the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel Monday afternoon to protest the Sultan of Brunei’s introduction of a brutal version of Sharia law.
Hassanal Bolkiah, who is worth an estimated $20 billion and has been the ruler of Brunei for the last half century, owns the hotel along with the Hotel Bel-Air and other luxury properties around the globe.
The new law technically went into effect last week and will be fully phased in by 2015. It allows for the public flogging of women who have abortions, the stoning to death of gay men and lesbians, and the jailing of women who become pregnant outside of marriage. Thieves could have their right hands and left feet amputated.
Monday’s protest took place in Will Rogers Memorial Park, across Sunset Boulevard from the Beverly Hills Hotel. It was organized by the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) and featured former late-night talk show host Jay Leno;
Activists, organizers and elected officials across the United States have come together to urge President Barack Obama to award posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the legendary organizer, Fred Ross Sr. The first to organize people through house meetings, a mentor to both Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, and a pioneer in Latino voter outreach since 1949 when he helped elect Ed Roybal as Los Angeles’s first Latino council member, Ross’ influence on social change movements remains strong two decades after his death in 1992. If there were a Mount Rushmore for community organizers, Ross’s angular face would be on it. Here is a brief summary of Ross’s remarkable legacy, along with instructions on how to get your message of support to President Obama in time for the February 28 deadline.
Like all activists familiar with his work, I had a reverence for Fred Ross, Sr. before I knew the full record of his accomplishments.
Fifty years ago I graduated from high school on the other side of town from where Dolores Huerta had a decade earlier. My high school class will hold its reunion this fall. Also 50 years ago, Huerta and Cesar Chavez founded the United Farm Workers a few miles further south in Delano. The UFW just celebrated its half-century at its annual convention, this year in Bakersfield.
Long before I met Chavez I had heard of the legend. He had learned about organizing under Fred Ross, who was criss-crossing the state building the Community Service Organization (CSO) network among the Spanish-speaking urban barrios. But when Chavez wanted to expand CSO’s mission to organize farm workers in the Central Valley, CSO said no. So he did it on his own, with no money, no budget and only a handful of contacts. He went to Delano and began to work among the vineyards,
Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers and long-time activist who has lent her strength to countless social and economic justice fights, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama on Tuesday.
“Dolores was very gracious when I told her I had stolen her slogan, ‘Si, se puede.’ Yes, we can,” Obama joked during the ceremony. “Knowing her, I’m pleased she let me off easy, because Dolores does not play.”
He explained that throughout Huerta’s work, “She has fought to give more people a seat at the table. ‘Don’t wait to be invited,’ she says, ‘Step in there.’”
“I was humbled, thrilled, and surprised. I never expected to be nominated,” Huerta, 82, told the Daily Beast about the honor. She said the medal highlights the power of “organizing at the grassroots level,” and “how important that is in keeping our democracy alive.”