On Friday, September 27, we had the opportunity to host and listen to Dolores Huerta as a keynote speaker here at Penn State. Dolores Huerta is the co-founder of United Farm Workers and a profound civil rights activist who has won numerous awards and recognition for her work in advocating for not only farmworkers, but also immigrants, women, and minorities. Huerta focuses her voice in speaking about issues of social justice and public policy.
Aged 89, she showed no signs of her age as she stood in front of a large audience in Schwab Auditorium and energetically spoke about how our nation today is in dire need of changes in public policy. Her core call to action with her audience is to motivate people to take action and stand up for themselves, that everyone has the power to do so and should do so by voting.
Huerta was humorous, yet direct and to the point about ways in which the public education system omits crucial information in who actually physically built the “land of great America”. Huerta said, “humans have no race” because we are all biologically Homo sapien and that we need to work together to get rid of the notion that some “races” are better than others. “There is no such thing” because we are all essentially the same human beings. Huerta emphasized the importance of people engaging with their communities through voting and seeking to inform themselves about current events.
Why should we listen to her? How can we do what she did? Because she has inspired so many people who do not always have the ability to defend themselves in situations where there are desperate needs for improvement. Although her movement started initially for the advocacy of farmworkers in specific, she has grown to influence community members and civilians nationwide as well. She is influential especially for low-income communities to advocate for education, infrastructure reform, and civil rights justice. Her platform focuses on giving everyone, not only farmworkers a voice to be able to say “Si, se puede” and “I can do it” and bring positive change to our communities, and that there will be support for those in doing so. We all have a voice as people living in this country, our ability in using those voices can bring great change and she is teaching us how to utilize our voices to the best of our ability. We all have the power to make the change we want if we are proactive about the change we want together.
Student Farm’s very own Lana Mejias has had a great role in coordinating all the partner sites for the Day of Service. Starting with breakfast and conversations about farm work and social injustice issues, it was also an opportunity for students to hear more from Huerta about how to continue advocating for important workers’ rights issues. Mejias’ outreach to local farms and involving them in the event as hosts for undergrad Latinx student volunteers has led to a great opportunity for a day of volunteering with Huerta.