Civil rights and labor leader is first and only living person to have a state observed day in her honor
LINDSAY – Lindsay Unified will celebrate civil rights leader Dolores Huerta by observing her birthday this week. The school board approved a resolution at its March 22 meeting designating April 10, or the closest day since it is a Saturday, to be Dolores Huerta Day.
“[Y]oung learners will benefit from having the opportunity to learn more about this leader for social justice and civil rights, empowering them to fight for fair representation, voting rights, and equitable education,” the resolution reads. “[A]ll schools in the Lindsay Unified School District are encouraged to teach about the life and struggles of Dolores Huerta, the rich history of the Central Valley and to conduct celebrations honoring the life of Dolores Huerta as a powerful force for social justice and empowerment for all.”
In 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2644 making the civil rights leader and community organizer the first and only living person to hold the honor of having their own day observed by the state. The bill states “On Dolores Huerta Day, all public schools and educational institutions are encouraged to conduct exercises remembering the life of Dolores Huerta, recognizing her accomplishments, and familiarizing pupils with the contributions she made to this state.”
Huerta was born on April 10, 1930, in Dawson, New Mexico, the daughter of Alicia St. John Chavez and Juan F. Fernandez. She eventually moved to California’s central valley where she worked as a school teacher in Stockton, Calif. and saw her students come to school hungry and often without shoes.
In 1955, Huerta met her mentor legendary community organizer Fred Ross, Sr. and found her calling as an organizer serving in the leadership of the Stockton Community Service Organization (CSO). She set up voter registration drives, pressed local governments for barrio improvements and founded the Agricultural Workers Association (AWA) which became the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (IAWOC). She used her position to uplift other minority groups, including the recruitment of Larry Itliong, a talented Filipino organizer.
She is best known for coining the phrase “Sí Se Puede”, which means “Yes We Can” and “Yes I Can” and co-founding the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), the first labor union for farmworkers most of whom were Hispanic, with fellow civil rights legend Cesar Chavez. Throughout the 1960s she worked served as political director for CSO and the UFW where she organized field strikes, directed boycotts, led farmworker campaigns for political candidates, negotiated the first UFW labor contracts and has played a major role in the American civil rights and labor movement.
Her lobbying efforts secured Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), disability insurance for farm workers, voting ballots and drivers licenses in Spanish, voter registration reforms in California, and amnesty for Farm Workers as part of the Immigration Reform Act in 1986.
In 2002, she founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which recruits and empowers grassroots volunteers to organize and take leadership in low-income communities to advocate on issues in education, health, the environment, civic engagement and economic development.
Huerta has received numerous awards during his illustrious career. She was the first Latina inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993, served on the Board of Regents of the University of California, has taught as an adjunct professor at USC and UCLA and has schools named for her in California, New Mexico and Oklahoma. In 2012, President Obama presented Huerta the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.
Other official days approved by the board at the meeting include:
- Read Across America, March 2, 2021
- Cesar Chavez Day, March 26, 2021
- Autism Awareness, Month April 2021
- Child Abuse Prevention Month, April 2021
- Earth Day, April 22, 2021
- National Mental Health Month, May 2021
- National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 3-7, 2021
- Classified School Employee Week, May 16-22, 2021
- Attendance Awareness Month, September 2021
- Patriot Day, September 11, 2021
- Bully Prevention Month, October 2021
- Digital Citizenship Week, October 17, 2021
- Red Ribbon Week, October 25-29, 2021