CCPJC of Denver Reflects on Essential Justice
By Toni Frésquez
It’s important to remember the life and advocacy of César Chávez—an extraordinary humanitarian—and all who worked tirelessly alongside him, such as Dolores Huerta, Gilbert Padilla, Larry Itliong, Peter Velasco and Philip Vera Cruz and the thousands of farmworkers, to build one of the nation’s most respected farmworker advocacy group, the United Farm Workers.
This year was a monumental effort in Denver, Colorado, celebrating two decades of honoring the late civil rights leader. This year’s event was held virtually with keynote speaker Dolores Huerta, who will be 91 on April 10, and worked alongside Chávez to form the United Farm Workers.
Huerta, who founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation, spoke about the importance of ongoing state and federal legislation to create just and fair working conditions and pay for farmworkers.
“[Regarding] farmworkers in Colorado, we have to say to our legislators you know, that we are so far behind and that now it’s time to catch up,” said Huerta, discussing state legislation for farmworkers rights.
“We need to remind them [legislators] that the food they eat—farmworkers touched their food,” commented Huerta. “Look at the food on everybody’s table every day, when they sit down to eat, a farmworker puts their food on the table. And now, we need to say to the growers in Colorado that we need to step up into the 21st century.”
Huerta discussed the significant sacrifices that farm workers continue to face while trying to earn a living for their own families.
“They are working during the pandemic and in California they have worked during the wildfires and the smoke; it was hard for them to breathe, and they still kept working and putting food on everybody’s table, every day.”
Huerta discussed the connection between legislation and Chávez. “This was all part of César Chávez’s legacy,” she said.
“This is a pivotal moment in our country, the people have the power to make change,” encouraged Huerta.
She explained the beginnings of the farm worker movement. “Fred Ross, Sr., taught us all how to do grass roots organizing, getting people together by families—4 ,5, 6 at a time—talking to them and explaining how to change their conditions and convincing them that they had the power to do it. We explained to them, that nobody was going to do it for them—that they had to do it for themselves.”
Huerta shared the steps they took to create the historic movement and the power of organizing.
“As soon as we organized, we registered people to vote, we went door-to-door to get people to vote and then we supported progressive candidates who supported us and that would work for us, and not work against us. It’s the same process we taught farmworkers,” explained Huerta. “It’s important we remind people, especially young people, that unless you put it into a law, it can’t be implemented, it can’t be enforced, and you can’t hold people accountable; so, doing the action work is part of the basis of everything for change.”
Huerta pointed out the current acts of voter suppression and the importance of voter participation.
“Voting is a non-violent action. Boycotting is a nonviolent act – we have to make them [businesses] understand and make them accountable,” stated Huerta. “We are at a critical point in our country right now, the people have the power, and we have the right to organize. ¡Si se puede!” said Huerta.
The beloved Huerta ended her speech sharing a recent discussion with her son, who told her “Mom, you are not an icon, you are a ican.”
For over twenty years, a dedicated group of volunteers have maintained the vision and ideals of the late César Chávez through the efforts of the César Chávez Peace and Justice Committee of Denver (CCPJC).
The Weekly Issue/El Semanario has chronicled the beginnings of the CCPJC actions and events to ensure his work continues, and the history of the farmworker movement.
Through numerous endeavors to ensure Chávez’s place in history in Colorado, the CCPJC of Denver led efforts in renaming a park to César Chávez Park in northwest Denver, which also displays a bust of Chávez, created by artist Emanuel Martínez.
Each year the Committee awards community members and organizations who follow Chávez’s ideals of nonviolence in obtaining justice for all people.
This year’s awardees included, Ellen Alires Trujillo of Broomfield, CO, who received the Anciana Leadership Award. Deborah and Juan Espinoza of Pueblo, CO were presented with the Anciana/o Leadership Award; Rhonda Solis of Greeley, CO was awarded the Female Leadership Award; Mitchell García of Denver, CO received the Male Leadership Award; Orlando Moreno of Denver, CO was honored with the Youth Leadership Award; and the Tepeyac Community Health Center (formerly Clínica Tepeyac) in Denver, CO was presented with the Organizational Leadership Award.
Dr. Ellen Alires Trujillo of Broomfield, CO, was presented with the Anciana Leadership Award.
“This award is especially meaningful to me,” said Alires Trujillo, “having spent time working in the fields in my youth, I have deep appreciation for César Chávez and Dolores Huerta and those who engage organize and continually support our community.”
“This is a pivotal moment in our country, the people have the power to make change.”
Dolores Huerta, Dolores Huerta Foundation
Activist Mitchell García of Denver, CO was honored with the Male Leadership Award and CCPJC member, Toby Leroux, read remarks on behalf of García, who joined the event remotely.
“I have requested that my remarks be read in order to address my disability challenge. Thank you to CCPJC Denver for this esteemed honor, I humbly accept this award in memory of my late parents and as a tribute to them and the hardworking farmworker Chicano families of the San Luis Valley. We must look for a pathway to change the farmworker laws in Colorado.”
This year’s youth leadership award was given to Orlando Moreno, a student at Metropolitan State University of Denver who shared his gratitude for the honor. “I want to thank the committee for receiving this honor and recognizing the Elders. I also want to thank Dr. Renee [Fajardo] and Dr. Ramón [Del Castillo] for their efforts. I’m the first Moreno to go to college. I’m humbled. Thank you for mentoring me.”
For More Colorado News: ELSEMANARIO.US