Ever since she organized farm workers in the 1960s as they fought for better working conditions and fair wages, Dolores Huerta has been committed to fighting for civil rights. The 87-year-old is the focus of a documentary that gives audience members an intimate look at what it takes to devote your life to activism and fighting for those less fortunate. Huerta and the director of the documentary, Peter Bratt, sat down with mitú to talk about activism then and now and what people can do to fight a system they might not agree with today.
Director Peter Bratt is telling Huerta’s story through “Dolores,” a documentary covering her decades of activism.
Bratt, also a writer and producer on the documentary, thinks that Huerta’s story is more crucial now than ever. In the ’60s, even though many farm workers were undocumented and couldn’t speak English, Huerta was able to get them involved in the fight for their rights. Huerta organized farm workers through education and motivated them to see beyond the constraints that held them back.
“Nobody thought that was possible, but with organization, she was able to convince them that they could and I think a lot of people are discouraged right now with the current political climate,” Bratt says. “People are feeling, similarly, that their voice doesn’t count. As she says, a lot of us, we are educated, we are citizens, we do speak the language so all the more we can get organized and create change.”
Huerta credits the success of the farm workers movement to different groups coming together to fight for a common goal and exercising their right to vote.
Huerta remembers how civil rights groups — African-American groups, feminist groups, environmental groups, Puerto Rican groups, and labor rights groups — all came together to fight for the farm workers. But it wasn’t just through marches and demonstrations. Huerta says voting made a difference — something she believes contemporary activists should keep in mind.
“It’s wonderful that we’re marching and protesting but if people do not march to that ballot box, if we don’t elect and campaign for people who are progressive and going to represent us, then nothing is going to change,” Huerta says. “The policies that Trump is trying to roll back or policies that he’s enacting that are against the people are going to stay there. We’ve got to vote.”
Bratt says creating a coalition of civil groups led to Huerta’s success and will, in turn, lead to the success of immigration reform.
Bratt points out that the fight for farm workers began as a labor struggle then turned into a fight for racial justice. Once the farm companies used pesticides while the farm workers were on the field, it turned into an environmental issue. Huerta was even able to get the feminist movement involved as she fought to be a voice in a male-dominated community.
“The Dreamers, they need coalition support so I really hope that activists today move away from silo thinking and silo organizing because really all of those struggles are interconnected and we have to build coalitions,” Bratt says. “That’s the only way we’re going to get victories.
When asked about fighting back today, Huerta says, “I say vote a wall of resistance in the Congress.”
“A wall of representation. A wall of resistance,” Huerta says. “That way we not only change some of the changes that Trump is making but stop some of the other policies he is trying to pass.”
Huerta admits that the fight in the ’60s is very similar to the fight now but that’s how it’s always been.
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Huerta says that we have seen this kind of action before with Operation Wetback in the 1950s, which was a mass deportation attempt after World War II. Yet, despite all of the fighting and threats, the government inevitably circles back to amnesty for undocumented immigrants.
“They say that the more things seem different the more they stay the same and this fight for immigrant rights has been going on every 20 years for decades. At the end of it, we ultimately end up with an amnesty program,” Huerta says. She adds: “We are seeing that same scenario that is playing out. But the one thing we have is that our numbers are so much bigger now and we have more political emphasis now than we did back then.”
When the fight gets tough, Huerta stresses that activists have to keep the faith alive to make sure it all works out.
“We see the Democrats in the Congress who are coming forward and putting in legislation for the Dreamers,” Huerta says. “If we can look down the road into the future, it’s going to happen. We are eventually going to get immigration reform. Not just for the Dreamers but or everybody else. But we know that we have to struggle and we have to keep that hope and the faith alive and know that we have to keep on going forward and keep organizing and just going.”
Bratt says those against Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Dream Act are on the wrong side of history.
“Striking DACA is a moral crisis,” Bratt says. “It reveals a moral crisis in America right now. The American people are good at heart and will do the right thing but sometimes they need a little help to see that.”
Huerta says DACA recipients need to make sure that their safety isn’t used to further harm the rest of the undocumented community.
“We can’t let our anger turn into violence or to hate,” Huerta says.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) September 19, 2017
“We’re going to use that energy that we have and take that fear that we’re feeling right now and turn it into an energy to do something. As they say, when your adrenaline goes that you’re going to fight or you’re going to run. Well, we’re not going to run. We’re going to stand here and fight. There’s a lot of people behind them. This is a journey we’re all on.”
Learn more about Dolores Huerta’s tips on fighting injustice below.
Dolores Huerta shares 5 tips for fighting against Trump.
Posted by We are mitú on Tuesday, September 19, 2017
And you can check out the trailer for the “Dolores” documentary here.