Define American‘s mission is to engage people in the immigration debate using the stories of those being impacted. As a way of carrying the conversation, the immigration advocacy organization is hosting a film festival May 11 through May 13 in Charlotte, N.C. The festival will showcase different documentaries that touch on the myriad aspects surrounding the immigration and race debate in the U.S. Here are a few of the documentaries that will be shown at the Define American Film Festival.
“Residenté” follows Calle 13 rapper, René Pérez, a.k.a. Residenté, as he travels the world to discover his roots. After having a DNA test, Residenté plans a trip around the world to trace where his family is from and tell the stories of locals in the places he visits. The experience is deeply connected to an album he created that incorporates all parts of his ancestry including languages, instruments, and folklore to tell a complete story about who Pérez is as a person and the connection shared by all people in the world.
2. Forbidden: Undocumented And Queer In Rural America
“Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America” explores the intersectionality of being both queer and undocumented in a rural community in North Carolina. The documentary follows the life of Moises Serrano as he juggles life on the fringe through the Real ID Act of 2005, getting accepted to college and figuring out his finances to afford school, love, and the fragile balance as a DACA beneficiary. The Real ID Act of 2005 came when Serrano was about to graduate high school with a hope of going to college. The act made it so undocumented people were not allowed to have driver’s licenses or government issued ID’s which effectively blocked undocumented people from going to school, getting work, and driving a car.
There isn’t a trailer for this documentary but the title kind of gives you all you need to know. “Dolores” documents the life, fight, and experience of one of the most iconic activists among Latinos, Dolores Huerta. The documentary dives into her time with the farm workers in Delano, Calif. as well as her teaming up with the iconic women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem. The documentary also gives viewers a look into her personal life including loves, children, and her home life.
4. White People
Jose Antonio Vargas, the founder of Define American, is also having a film showing during the film festival. Titled “White People,” Antonio Vargas along with MTV made a documentary exploring race in America from the young, white perspective. The provocative documentary makes people uncomfortable as they tackle the issue of race in America during a conversation with young white Americans and how they navigate the touchy subject.
Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez are often considered the leaders in the farmworkers rights movement. The two have done a lot to better the lives of those working in the fields, but a new documentary is highlighting a forgotten hero in the farmworkers rights movement. “Adios Amor” is highlighting the work of Maria Moreno, who fought for their rights before Huerta and Chavez continued her work.
Before Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, there was Maria Moreno, the first female farmworker to lead a union.
Adiós Amor—The Search for Maria Moreno, is a feature film that examines the life and death of the obscure labor leader. Moreno was a migrant mother who sacrificed everything but her twelve kids in the pursuit of justice for farmworkers. During the late ’50s and ’60s, Moreno’s work led poor agricultural workers into a movement that would later capture the heart of the nation.
The discovery of forgotten photographs taken more than fifty years ago sparked the search for an unsung hero. A migrant mother haunted by a personal tragedy who rolled up her sleeves, collected signatures, and electrified audiences with her gift for public speaking for a cause she believed in.
Moreno was the first female farmworker in America to be hired as a union organizer. She was elected by her fellow Mexican American, Filipino, Black and Okie farmworkers to represent them. Her charisma attracted crowds, but it also got her into trouble with her labor bosses who fired her for being so outspoken.
The film’s director and producer Laurie Coyle found photos of Moreno tucked away in an archive.
Were it not for the Maverick photographers and journalists who captured Maria’s legacy, her story might have been lost. Coyle has said that the idea for the project began after she found the images captured by late farmworker photographer George Ballis. The photos depict Moreno speaking in front of crowds and meeting with workers in the fields of California, racing to events with her children and husband.
“She had this piercing gaze and always seemed to be surrounded by children,” Coyle told Shoot Online. “I couldn’t help but be captivated.”
Coyle began researching about Moreno. But the whereabouts of the activist later in life remains a mystery. The search for Moreno guides the documentary, where characters fade in and out like ghosts. From California’s Great Central Valley to the Arizona desert and U.S.-Mexico border, the journey tells Moreno’s story with passion and humor. The director soon discovered radio journalist Ernest Lowe, who had followed Moreno during her days as a union leader and had also been enchanted by her charisma.
Moreno and her family were traveling farmworkers following the crops.
Born to a Mexican immigrant father and Mescalero Apache mother, in Karnes City, Texas; Moreno and her family were nomadic farmworkers for years. Following the crops, their travels took them to Utah, California, Arizona, and Texas.
In April 1958, Moreno started her union activism following a flood that pushed many workers into starvation. Coyle found that one of her sons went blind temporarily due to extreme hunger. “How do you think that I feel … seeing my son blind only because we don’t got nothing to eat?” Moreno said in one passionate speech. “(Meanwhile), some other tables are full and wasting food.”
In a time of unprecedented abundance, farmworkers lived in dire poverty, and Maria Moreno set out to change that.
A deeply human drama is brought to the viewers’ attention, Mexican-American farmworkers living in dire poverty at a time of unprecedented abundance. An abundance sustained by impoverished peoples’ faith, family values, and working-class culture.
She gained support from Oklahoma migrants, Filipino American workers, and Latino pickers, and was active in the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, a union that was sponsored by the AFL-CIO.
“It was so unusual for a woman like her back then to be in this position,” Coyle told Shoot Online. “The first time I understood that she was somebody different was when she went to (University of California,) Berkeley,” Martha Moreno Dominguez, her daughter, said in the film. “I realized who my mother really was … I said, wow, you know. Here’s my mother, a second-grade education doing this.”
Eventually, Moreno was forced out of the union and left California to practice her faith.
Eventually, in 1962, Moreno was forced out of the fight due to jealousy and disagreements within the union. Documents show an AFL-CIO official accused her of misspending and she was forced to step down from leadership.
“She wasn’t afraid to say whatever she had to say,” Gilbert Padilla, co-founder for the United Farm Workers, told Shoot Online. “I assume that’s why they got rid of her.”
Coyle’s research found that when Cesar Chavez began to form his own farmworkers union, he purposely kept Moreno out of it, seeing her as a “big mouth”, and a possible rival.
Moreno’s children say she left California for a remote part of the Arizona desert, 100 miles west of Phoenix, where she asked God for guidance. Later in her life, Moreno became a Pentecostal minister along the US-Mexico border in San Luis, Arizona. She sought to transform society one soul at a time, instead of focusing on systemic change. Maria Moreno died in 1989, largely forgotten.
Watch the trailer below.
The film is set to premiere Friday, September 27 on most PBS stations.
Dolores Huerta is one of the best-known and relentless labor organizers in the U.S. Her career fighting for workers’ rights spans decades and her work is nowhere near done. Today, the 89-year-old activist was detained while protesting the treatment of In-House Supportive System workers in Fresno County who have been negotiating a pay raise for years. Here’s what went down during the Board of Supervisors meeting at the Fresno County Hall of Records.
Dolores Huerta kept her chin up in defiance as she was escorted, in plastic handcuffs, from a Board of Supervisors meeting in Fresno County.
According to the Fresno Bee, Huerta was one of several protesters demanding that the Fresno Board of Supervisors approve a respectable raise for In-Home Supportive System (IHSS) employees.
The IHSS program “helps elderly, blind and disabled people to safely remain in their own homes when they are not able to fully care for themselves or handle routine household tasks,” reads the website. “IHSS encourages independence and self-reliance, when possible, and is an alternative to out-of-home care in institutions or nursing facilities.”
IHSS employees offer clients services like housekeeping, meal prep, laundry, bathing, and accompanying patients to medical appointments, to name a few.
Huerta and other protesters filled the Fresno County Hall of Records to voice their demands to those making the decisions.
According to the Fresno Bee, the IHSS workers currently make the minimum wage, which is set at $12 an hour. The labor union has been negotiating a pay raise for the workers for years and the Fresno Board of Supervisors was set to approve a 10-cent per hour raise. That is what sparked the protest demanding a proper wage increase.
According to the Fresno Bee, more than 17,000 people in Fresno County rely on caregivers and that number is expected to reach 106,000 by 2030.
People are absolutely celebrating the activist for her unapologetic stance for laborers.
Huerta co-founded the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers, back in in 1962 and used her activist knowledge to fight for better working conditions for farmworkers in Delano, California. Since then, Huerta has been an example of activism and her fight for the most vulnerable in the employment community has continued.
Her reputation as a strong woman has become an irrefutable characteristic of the activist.
Señora Chingona, indeed. Huerta has been arrested several times as part of her activism. She has even used her voice and name to fight for what she thinks is right in politics. Her activism was on full display during the 2016 elections as people mobilized to fight for the Latino community.
The protesters at the Fresno Board of Supervisors meeting today were optimistic about their ability to exact change.
Protesters joyfully chanted, “We believe we can win” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, poverty wages have got to go.” The protesters were effective in getting the attention of the board. The protest was disruptive enough that the meeting was recessed for 10 minutes just 30 seconds after they began chanting. The Fresno Bee called the protest ill-timed but the protesters knew they had the attention of those in charge.
“They are finalizing the budget in September. We want to make sure they put us in the budget for a wage increase,” organizer Ua Lugo told the Fresno Bee. “So today is very important.”
Despite numerous people being detained, the protesters continued in their fight.
“It should not come to this. It should not come to this,” protester Martha Valladarez told the Fresno Bee about caring for her daughter with Down Syndrome while officers placed plastic cuffs on her. “They have no idea the love that we have for our family members.”
Huerta was released shortly after being detained and she was greeted with a cheering crowd for her willingness to keep protesting.
What do you think about Dolores Huerta being detained for her protest in Fresno?