by Emma Brustkern
She is one of the most influential labor activists of her time. She worked alongside Cesar Chavez to co-found the United Farm Workers and organize the Delano grape strike. She has won numerous awards for her continued advocacy and service. And yet, many in America have forgotten her name: Dolores Huerta.
The Drake University Women and Gender Studies department hosted a screening of the documentary “Dolores” on Sept. 11 in Sussman Theater. The event was hosted in association with the Chrysalis Foundation, a Des Moines based non-profit focused on the safety and success of girls and women.
The event was initially planned by Chrysalis in advance of their annual fundraising event INSPIRED, which will feature Huerta as a speaker. Jocelyn Rimes, a Drake student who interned with Chrysalis over the summer, suggested collaborating with Drake. After the connection was made, the Women and Gender Studies department aided in publicity and provided the space for the screening.
“They wanted to do the documentary screening to let the community know about Dolores Huerta and give more people access to learn about her,” Rimes said. “So, I suggested we try hosting the event at Drake.”
The documentary focuses on Huerta’s role in organizing farmworkers to create the United Farm Workers union and weaves in the struggles she faced in terms of sexism within the movement. The film includes footage from the time period as well as interviews with Cesar Chavez, Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem and Huerta herself.
Rimes believes that this film was essential in showing how oftentimes, the impacts of women throughout history can be easily dismissed or ignored.
“A lot of people know Cesar Chavez, but they don’t know Dolores Huerta. She had the same impact, but she’s been lost to history,” Rimes said. “I think it’s great for people to have the chance to learn about her.”
In terms of the current political climate, the messages in “Dolores” remain relevant today.
“There is so much active racism in the country, some of it articulated by political leaders, that we need to remember that that rhetoric has violent consequences,” Professor Melisa Klimaszewski, director of the Women and Gender Studies program, said. “The story of Dolores Huerta’s activism doesn’t just inspire people to work towards change, it also reminds people that these aren’t new problems…it provides important context that shows we don’t always have to reinvent the wheel in terms of social change. People like Dolores Huerta have been teaching us how to do it for decades.”
Approximately 100 individuals attended the screening. Among the crowd were students, faculty, community members, Chrysalis staff and members of Al Éxito, a Des Moines organization designed to promote leadership and education to Latino’s youth. Klimaszewski sees this wide turnout as evidence of Drake’s positive relationship with the surrounding community.
“I would hope that people walked away feeling that Drake’s educational programming is connected to our community and that we’re engaging in that community in a way that we all learn from each other,” said Klimaszewski.
Overall, both Klimaszewski and Rimes believe the event was a great learning opportunity that fostered important discussions.
“It was really impactful and people were really moved,” Rimes said. It was something that they really wanted and needed to learn about.”
For individuals interested in hearing Huerta speak at the INSPIRED event, visit https://www.chrysalisfdn.org/inspired-event/ for more information.