Activist exhorts kids to stay in school
Arizona Daily Star
April 5, 2008


By Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Tucson, Arizona | Published:

Labor organizer and activist Dolores Huerta commanded nearly 1,500 students at Sunnyside High School on Friday to promise they would stay in school.

"Get them up, get them up," Huerta told the crowd, waving her arms.

With their hands raised, the students, sitting in seats, on the floor and standing along the walls of the Sunnyside auditorium, recited her words: "I promise to not drop out of school."

"César's spirit is here with us today," Huerta said at the event recognizing both César Chávez's birthday, March 31, 1927, and the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death.

King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968.

Raúl Nido, Sunnyside's principal, introduced Huerta to the students during an event that included performances by the school's folklorico and mariachi groups. Nido told students she is "an icon of the Chicano movement."

Huerta is known mostly for co-founding the United Farm Workers union with Chávez, but in April 2006 she created a national controversy when she said, "Republicans hate Latinos," in a speech to students at Tucson High Magnet School.

This time around, Huerta made no mention of the Republican Party.

Instead she told students to send letters and postcards to senators and congressional representatives calling for the creation of a "legalization bill" to reverse anti-immigrant laws.

"In today's world, money crosses borders, material goods crosses borders — but the only people who get punished are the workers," Huerta said.

She also told the high schoolers they must carry on the work of Chávez, King and others, including Robert F. Kennedy.

"Who's going to change it? We're going to change it," Huerta said as the students cheered.

"We need to knock on doors and get people out to vote and change this nation and change this state and get rid of racism."

● Nathan Olivarez-Giles is a University of Arizona journalism student who is apprenticing at the Star. Contact him at 573-4176 or at