Activism panel at CSUF highlights film about Dolores Huerta and local activists

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(Treva Flores / Daily Titan)

Dolores Huerta worked side by side with Caesar Chavez during the farmworkers movement and coined the famous Spanish phrase, “Sí se puede.” She led many activists in their fight for the rights of agricultural workers in the United States.

The Cal State Fullerton Associated Students, Inc., Association for InterCultural Awareness hosted an activist panel discussion and documentary screening of the film “Dolores” on Feb. 28.

The documentary featured several of her children who recounted memories of their mother’s activism, which has widely gone unrecognized.

During the panel, Rida Hamid from Latino Muslim Unity said all mothers are activists because they have to “raise good human beings.”

“I don’t think we have to think of activism as only grassroots organizers, but we have to think of the capacity that every person has to be an activist in their space to make cultural and social change,” Hamid said.

As a single mother who is both Latina and Muslim, Hamid has fought very hard against stereotypes that are aimed toward her communities.

“I refuse to be identified based on someone else’s perception of myself,” Hamid said.

Gwen Alexis, professor of African American studies at CSUF shared her experience of growing up in the ghetto.

“I didn’t think of myself — and I still don’t think of myself — as an activist. I think of myself as someone who saw a need and wanted to help,” Alexis said.

She helped create after-school programs when she saw that the children in her community had nowhere to go when school ended. She also helped start a soup kitchen and taught dance and drama.

Johnathan Ryan Hernandez, from the Roses in Concrete Community School in Oakland, grew up in a less fortunate neighborhood as well.

“What do you expect of a kid who was born into the concrete? I had more opportunities to be a gang member than I did to go to college,” Hernandez said.

After opening up about his mother’s struggles with methamphetamine and his father’s absence, Hernandez said he became desensitized to seeing regular heroin use in his house whether it was needles in the bathroom or watching his uncle overdose.

Hernandez said the key to escaping his neighborhood was education.

“What I’m most passionate about is encouraging young people to get educated. But come back to the concrete and then we’ll have rose gardens,” Hernandez said.

Susan Chang, a member of the Korean Resource Center, found her activism through school.

“I got into the work that I do now mainly from classes, I started out not knowing anything. Three years ago I wasn’t even registered to vote,” Chang said.

Over time, Chang became more involved through education about social issues happening in Orange County, like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

At the end of the panel, the activists were asked how students could become involved in activism.

Hairo Cortes from Chispa said that something as small as signing a petition helps activists in knowing how much support they have and helps others stay informed about current issues.

“You don’t have to wait. You don’t have to wait to graduate, you don’t have to do this for a career, but you can dedicate some time,” Cortes said.

After all, activists like Huerta and Chavez were just ordinary people who wanted to make a difference.

Hernandez said there are people that “see this as their job” and then there are people that “see this as their life.”

“Don’t do this to make a living. Do this to make a life,” Hernandez said.

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