As we continue evolving our mission to end racial and economic disparities in Los Angeles, we recognize those systems that perpetuate inequalities need to be changed first. And we know that’s possible when we look back at the legacy of men and women like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.
Chavez used the phrase “Sí, se puede”, or Yes, we can! as Barack Obama adopted it during his presidential campaign, when “la causa” (the cause) labor movement was born. Chavez dedicated his life’s work fighting to la causa fighting for better work conditions and higher wages for farmworkers as well as their right to unionize.
The phrase was meant to give hope to the struggling farm workers in their fight against exploitation and assure them that it was possible to win respect and dignity in their jobs.
Chavez used the chant during his highly publicized 25-day hunger strike in 1968. He was inspired by Gandhi and the nonviolent civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King in the 1960s.
But Chavez didn’t champion farmworkers’ rights alone. Dolores Huerta was Chavez’ right hand and a powerful collaborator. Dolores broke gender barriers at the time and became an example not only for farmworker women but also for younger generations of women to this day. While directing the first National Boycott of California Table Grapes out of New York, she was responsible for having the 60s feminist movement rally behind “the cause”. Dolores consciously began to challenge gender discrimination within the farm workers’ movement.
After organizing several boycotts against California’s grape growers and a five-year strike. They both co-founded the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) in 1971.
“From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength. ”Cesar Chavez
Chavez died at age 66 on April 23, 1993, in Arizona, near his hometown, but his legacy continues to inspire and impact us today.
At 89, Dolores continues to work tirelessly to develop leaders and advocates for the working poor, women, and children. As founder and president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, she travels across the country engaging in campaigns and influencing legislation that supports equality and defends civil rights.
Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta’s organizing legacy is close to our mission because we believe that everyone has the right to a livable wage, safe working conditions, and housing stability. We all have a responsibility to speak up for human dignity and ensure that everyone has access to basic resources and the same opportunities to prosper.
We believe organizing is a powerful way to challenge systems that keep marginalized groups trapped in poverty while facing food and housing insecurity. With that vision, we launched Everyone In, a community movement to end homelessness and address the housing crisis in Los Angeles.
Working with our Everyone In members, we’re organizing communities to build public and political power to create affordable and supportive housing solutions in every part of L.A. County. Homelessness is everyone’s problem, and we each have a responsibility to speak up for human dignity and ensure that all have access to essential resources and opportunities to prosper.
So let’s work together to make it happen! ¡Sí, se puede!
– Esmeralda Fabian, United Way of Greater Los Angeles