By Gabriela Gutierrez
Social activist Dolores Huerta reminded people how crucial voting is when it comes to issues like racism, sexism and social inequity.
During a Zoom meeting last week for a Town Hall series Racial Equity and Social Justice event with East Los Angeles College, Huerta spoke about what being a social activist really means. Huerta’s most resonating message was that people need to vote.
“Why is this so important? Because we know that, (especially the Latino population) we are now such a major population that we can influence elections. All of these things that we need for our community, we are the ones that can make that happen,” Huerta said.
Huerta was introduced by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors first district member Hilda Solis who recognized Huerta as a selfless person who is always willing to sacrifice for others. She also recognized many of Huerta’s achievements.
“In 2002 she received the Puffin Nation Prize of $100,000 for creative citizenship, which she then used to establish the Dolores Huerta Foundation. […] With that she has helped to propel many Latinos and Latinas into important positions of power,” Solis said.
Huerta put pressure on the need for a broader and more inclusive educational curriculum.
She said the addition of Chicano studies in colleges has been historical, but other necessary studies are still excluded.
This includes African-American studies, gender studies (which includes learning more about the LGBTQ+ community), labor studies and civics studies are all necessary in every single school.
Huerta emphasized the importance of civics studies because she believes this can teach young people to be more engaged in the electoral process.
Being a Latina woman, and now of older age, Huerta is aware of discriminations against her and women like her.
She said men of color are also victims of deep-rooted discrimination and that it is an ongoing issue that requires change. “When we have a racial slur or we have a sexist comment made about us, those hurts, they stay with us. It’s not like when you hurt your arm or leg, that [the] hurt goes away. Those hurts stay with us. So we have to learn how to deal with them, how to forgive people, how to not let that get in our way and not let it stop us,” Huerta said.
Huerta said that with the technology of today, people can mobilize faster.
She said there are many more organizations today than in the ‘60s.
The ability for people to mobilize faster was evident with the Me Too and the Black Lives Matter movements.
“As always, the solutions to the problem[s] are to reach out to the people [who] have the problem and then invite them to give us their ideas on how to solve the problem. I don’t know if [it’s] possible, but if we can get a lot of community outreach, meeting with families out there, asking them ‘what is it you need?’ so that we can get education back on track. Education, of course, is going to be the savior of our country right now,” Huerta said.
Huerta emphasized this message to a member of the audience, Roy Payan, who said he filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Community College District for failing to accommodate him as a person with a disability.
“What you are doing is, actually, you are representing other people who have disabilities. Unfortunately, that is a group that kind of gets ignored in our society. My answer is always organize, organize, organize. Reach out to other people [who] have disabilities that can really join your cause and [so] that your voices can become louder,” Huerta said.
Huerta said that undocumented people and those who can not vote are not exempt from having an influence when it comes to voting.
They can organize and mobilize with others, and educate themselves on the voting process.
They can share that knowledge with others and call others to action. Huerta said voting is the only way we can save our democracy.
“We can march and march and march and protest, but unless we put it into a Law then it’s not going to happen. A lot of young people think that they don’t want to vote. They [say] ‘if I don’t vote, then I’m fighting against the establishment. ’What we have to say to them is ‘you have to be the establishment.’ The only way that you can do that is by voting,” Huerta said.
The event was introduced by ELAC President Alberto J. Roman and facilitated by ELAC’s Theater Arts Department Instructor Cristina Frias.
The event of almost 300 people, was sponsored by Women and Gender Studies and had two ASL interpreters.