Monday, November 13, The Center for the Arts, BriarPatch Food Co-op, Nevada City Film Festival, The Onyx Theatre and See Jane Do present a special one-night only screening of the award-winning documentary film “Dolores.”
Dolores Huerta is among the most important, yet least known, activists in American history. An equal partner in co-founding the first farm workers unions with Cesar Chavez, her enormous contributions have gone largely unrecognized. Dolores tirelessly led the fight for racial and labor justice alongside Chavez, becoming one of the most defiant feminists of the twentieth century—and she continues the fight to this day, at 87.
Co-produced by music legend Carlos Santana and directed by independent filmmaker Peter Bratt, “Dolores” makes extensive use of archival footage and interviews with key players in the civil rights and labor movements, to reveal the raw, personal stakes involved in committing one’s life to social change.
“We are incredibly proud to be a part of the effort to tell Dolores Huerta’s story to our community. So much of what is fundamental to the co-op’s mission and values, whether it is safe, quality food, meaningful empowered jobs, education or food justice, is a direct continuation of the work to which she has dedicated her life,” explains Chris Maher, BriarPatch General Manager. “In as much as we seek to carry on this work to improve our food system, we look to leaders like Dolores for inspiration and guidance.”
Born on April 10, 1930 in the mining town of Dawson, New Mexico, Huerta was the second of three children of Alicia and Juan Fernandez, a farm worker and miner who became a state legislator in 1938. Her parents divorced when Huerta was three years old, and her mother moved to Stockton, California with her children. Huerta’s grandfather helped raise Huerta and her two brothers while her mother juggled jobs as a waitress and cannery worker until she could buy a small hotel and restaurant. Alicia’s community activism and compassionate treatment of workers greatly influenced her daughter.
Huerta received an associate teaching degree from the University of the Pacific’s Delta College. She married Ralph Head while a student and had two daughters, though the couple soon divorced. She subsequently married fellow activist Ventura Huerta with whom she had five children, though that marriage also did not last. Huerta briefly taught school in the 1950s, but seeing so many hungry farm children coming to school, she thought she could do more to help them by organizing farmers and farm workers.
In 1955 Huerta began her career as an activist when she co-founded the Stockton chapter of the Community Service Organization (CSO), which led voter registration drives and fought for economic improvements for Hispanics. She also founded the Agricultural Workers Association. Through a CSO associate, Huerta met activist César Chávez, with whom she shared an interest in organizing farm workers.
In 1962, Huerta and Chávez founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), the predecessor of the United Farm Workers’ Union (UFW), which formed three year later. Huerta served as UFW vice president until 1999.
Despite ethnic and gender bias, Huerta helped organize the 1965 Delano strike of 5,000 grape workers and was the lead negotiator in the workers’ contract that followed. Throughout her work with the UFW, Huerta organized workers, negotiated contracts, advocated for safer working conditions including the elimination of harmful pesticides. She also fought for unemployment and healthcare benefits for agricultural workers. Huerta was the driving force behind the nationwide table grape boycotts in the late 1960s that led to a successful union contract by 1970.
In 1973, Huerta led another consumer boycott of grapes that resulted in the ground-breaking California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, which allowed farm workers to form unions and bargain for better wages and conditions. Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, Huerta worked as a lobbyist to improve workers’ legislative representation. During the 1990s and 2000s, she worked to elect more Latinos and women to political office and has championed women’s issues.
The recipient of many honors, Huerta received the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award in 1998 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. As of 2015, she was a board member of the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus of the United Farm Workers of America, and the President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
“Dolores” premiered at Sundance in 2017 where it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize for a Documentary Film. It has since won awards from the Nashville, San Francisco, Montclair, Minneapolis St. Paul Film Festivals and been nominated for Best Documentary Film at Hot Docs, Critics Choice Documentary Awards, and Cleveland International Film Festival. The San Francisco Chronicle called the film “exuberantly inspiring… makes you want to march and dance” and Joanna Butcher of CineSource reviewed it was “a documentary of exceptional storytelling power.”
“Our goal is to provide the best in independent film to our patrons,” explains Celine Negrete, manager of The Onyx Theatre in Nevada City. “We also make a conscious effort in programming our films to bring titles to our area that bring a diversity of voices and perspectives to the screen and would not be seen here otherwise.”
Proceeds from this screening will be donated to The Dolores Huerta Foundation, a 501(c)(3) “community benefit organization that organizes at the grassroots level, engaging and developing natural leaders. DHF creates leadership opportunities for community organizing, leadership development, civic engagement, and policy advocacy in the following priority areas: health & environment, education & youth development, and economic development.
Content and photos submitted by Jesse Locks