Dolores Huerta at CI: Honoring heroes of the past and present 

Dolores Huerta at CI: Honoring heroes of the past and present 

Photo courtesy of CSUCI Communication and Public Relations

By Destiny Caster

On Wednesday, March 8, CI hosted Dolores Huerta along with other women activists at the John Spoor Broome Library for a daylong series of events. This included the opening of the “Dolores Huerta: Revolution in the Fields / Revolución en los Campos” exhibition, which will run through May 7 in the Broome Library. The exhibition and the following events brought a large crowd of students from CI and surrounding elementary and high schools, as well as community members and alumni to see Huerta and hear her story as a civil rights and labor activist, mother and labor leader.

Photo courtesy of CSUCI Communication and Public Relations

Storytelling with Dolores

Huerta opened the day’s events by telling stories about her life and then reading the children’s book “Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers” by Sarah Warren to local elementary school children from University Preparation Charter School. The fourth-grade students asked Huerta questions ranging from her favorite hobbies to what sports she played when she was their age.

After answering questions, Huerta read the story of the battle she fought to ensure fair and safe working conditions for migrant workers. The book talks about the many roles that Huerta played. Before becoming an activist, Huerta was a teacher. She noticed that her students were coming to school too sick and hungry to learn and later found that their families’ hardships were the cause, so she shifted gears and turned her motivation to campaign for better working conditions and pay.

Photo by Ashley Tolteca

Becoming a Woman Activist: A Conversation with Dolores Huerta

The second event of the day, celebrating International Women’s Day, featured Huerta speaking on a panel with local women community leaders and activists about activism in the past and how it has evolved to today’s activism and what it means to be a woman activist.

Joining her on the stage was her daughter, Lori de Leon, who is the Archive Director of the Dolores Huerta Foundation. Other women activists on the panel included Oxnard attorney, Barbara Macri-Ortiz, who worked with Huerta for over 20 years, environmental justice and workers’ rights activist Ana Rosa Rizo-Centino and Director of Communications for California State Assembly member Steve Bennett, Michelle Sevilla.

Each of the panelists offered words of advice as they shared stories about their lives and why they became activists. “Being an activist doesn’t mean that we have to be serious all the time, you know. Have fun in the work that you’re doing,” Huerta explained.

 “I just learned that there are so many different layers and things that compounded upon our issues, depending on your identity … I think that the activism life really came out,” Sevilla shared about becoming an activist. “People volunteer as a person who just care about certain issues and really spending the time. You don’t have to spend resources. Your time is just as valuable as, you know, any other resource, the giving of yourself.”

The conversation concluded to be followed by the ribbon cutting ceremony for “Dolores Huerta: Revolution in the Fields / Revolución en los Campos.”

Photo by Ashley Tolteca

Exhibition Ribbon Cutting

The local debut of the traveling Smithsonian Museum exhibition on Huerta’s life and activism went live on March 8 and will remain open through May 7 in the Broome Library for all to see. The photo-based exhibition explores Huerta’s life, from her childhood in Stockton, CA through the time spent organizing labor efforts in the 1960s and 1970s. The exhibition has traveled to six states and 12 cities on its 15-city tour through 2023. Project Director for Latino Initiatives at the Smithsonian Institution, Maria del Carmen Cossu joined Huerta in sharing a few words about what it meant to put together the exhibit with the efforts of student assistants who helped with the installation.

Before the ribbon cutting, Director of the Center for Community Engagement, Pilar Pacheco stated, “As a Hispanic Serving Institution, it is important that the campus create culturally relevant programming that contributes to all students’ success. The Center for Community Engagement, in partnership with the Broome Library, saw an opportunity to do just that with the hosting of this traveling exhibition that introduces Dolores Huerta’s work as a civil rights icon to the next generation of young leaders and keeps her legacy of activism alive.”

The exhibition features bilingual text (English and Spanish), explores Huerta’s public life as an activist and co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union and what led her to become a Latina civil rights icon. It tells the story of her life as a teacher, mother, communicator, organizer and lobbyist who helped improve the lives of farm workers in California.

Photo by Ashley Tolteca

Women’s Recognition Awards
The 20th annual Women’s Recognition Awards acknowledged and uplifted the work of women in the community. Presented by Inclusive Student Services, Associated Students, Inc. and the Center for Multicultural Education, and hosted in the Broome Library Plaza, the ceremony was an opportunity to honor those who have invested in the community. Las Colibri, an all-female Mariachi band played at the beginning of the ceremony as eventgoers transitioned from the exhibition ribbon cutting to the awards ceremony. Ten women were recognized at the event, along with Huerta as the keynote speaker for their transformative influence and leadership. The event was followed by a reception also in the Broome Library Plaza.

The celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day acknowledges all the hard work and accomplishments of women in in our community and around the world. The events on March 8 recognized the outstanding women who have paved the way for future generations to come as activists, mothers, daughters, sisters and community members.