Dolores Huerta to speak on civic engagement at West Marin School

08/07/2019

Dolores Huerta, a lifelong activist who co-founded the National Farmworkers Association with Cesar Chavez in the early ‘60s, is coming to speak to West Marin. Bolinas resident Edward Chiera worked for the farmworkers association decades ago as a research assistant and helped facilitate the event, which is sponsored by West Marin Community Services. “Dolores is, in her own right, a very strong civil rights leader,” Mr. Chiera said. “Given the situation we have right now with our administration—a solipsistic, amoral President who is inciting fear in our immigrant community—combatting that and having a message of hope and empowerment is what Dolores can bring to the audience.” He added, “She has a tremendous amount of energy, but more than all of that, she is all about empowering others.” On Aug. 30, Ms. Huerta will speak to the students at West Marin School and, later that evening, to the public during a free event that begins with food and music at 5 p.m. Mr. Chiera encouraged donations, which will be split between the Dolores Huerta Foundation and West Marin Community Services, whose work through Abriendo Caminos and other programs is designed to engage and empower Latinos. Ms. Huerta has some powerful messages for West Marin, he said: “Number one, for people who can vote, they need to register. Two, those who can become citizens, become citizens. And, most importantly, we need a real and accurate count in the U.S. census. These are the things Dolores will touch on and the kinds of actions that are supported through West Marin Community Services.” Ms. Huerta, who lives in Bakersfield, grew up in Stockton with a single mother. Much of her life was spent as an organizer and activist in the Central Valley, where she became the lead spokeswoman of the National Farmworkers Association. Not always adequately recognized for her instrumental role in the organization, she was also an ardent feminist. According to her website, she and Mr. Chavez had infamous arguments, which she views “as a healthy and necessary part of the growth process of any worthwhile collaboration. While Dolores was busy breaking down one gender barrier after another, she was seemingly unaware of the tremendous impact she was having on not only farmworker women, but also young women everywhere.” Today the Dolores Huerta Foundation supports several grassroots programs, including an organization in the Central Valley focused on four main pillars: equality, civic engagement, healthy environments, and education and economic opportunity. Ms. Huerta’s daughter, Juana Chavez-Thomas, who serves as the development coordinator for her mother’s foundation, told the Light that spreading the word about participation in the upcoming census is a huge focus for the organization. “Civic engagement is important for every community, and for West Marin,” she said. “For the last two years, we have said, ‘Don’t open your doors’ regarding ICE. But now we are asking people to please open your doors so that everyone can be counted in the census, which determines the resources that come to communities. There’s a lot of educating to do around that.”