On Nov. 12, my wife Lucy and I attended the most powerful and impactful panel discussion ever. The constant theme was the importance of continuing the fight and struggle for social justice, equal rights, dignity and respect for all. The venue was Wheeler Auditorium and included Dolores Huerta, labor leader, activist and co-founder of the UFW, United Farm Workers; Luis Valdez, American playwright, screenwriter, film director, actor and founder of the Teatro Campesino; and Dr. Francisco Jimenez, writer, author and professor of Latin American Literature and professor emeritus at Santa Clara University. The event was masterfully moderated by Damian Trujillo, NBC Bay Area News reporter, host and producer of “Comunidad Del Valle.”
Adam Escoto, Morgan Hill resident and MHUSD trustee opined, “Sitting in the audience listening to Dr. Francisco Jimenez, I heard encouraging words of my mentors. Listening to Luis Valdez, I heard the spirit of my forefathers crying out, ‘we are not a conquered people.’ Listening to Dolores Huerta, I heard my mother-in-law’s strength, grace, and relentless fighting spirit. Sitting in the audience, I heard all of the things that make up who I am.”
I met with the event organizer, Gilroy Librarian Elizabeth Munoz-Rosas and our Community Librarian Cassandra Wong. I was very interested in how this event came to be. Elizabeth shared that the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service contacted her and wanted to bring the Dolores Huerta exhibit, “Revolution in the Fields, Revolucion en los Campos,” to Gilroy. Once she was convinced by her colleagues that it would be a wonderful and exciting project, they went ahead and committed. Then it occurred to Elizabeth that adding a panel to include Dolores Huerta, Luis Valdez and Francisco Jimenez would be a perfect match to complement this project. She called each one personally and with the very first call, they all agreed to participate.
Claudia Valencia, a South Valley Middle School counselor, shared the following: “It was a privilege being able to attend a panel discussion with three living American legends in my own hometown of Gilroy. Their words and wisdom are always very moving and inspiring. All of them shared a very crucial and powerful message about the importance of each of us becoming leaders in our communities through civic activism. They stressed solidifying the need for all of us to play an active role in making positive change in our own communities.”
I was so moved to see how many young students attended and arrived with their books, authored by Dr. Jimenez, in hopes of having them signed. Included were some of our Youth in Philanthropy and Leadership students, from our Latino Family Fund YIP Program. Our Latino Family Fund Executive Director, Jaclyn Muro, exclaimed, “It was the most inspiring experience. We are forever grateful to be included and honored to be in the presence of these amazing Latino activists and leaders.”
Gilroy City Councilmember Zach Hilton shared, “This is a moment that all of us will remember and talk about forever. The panel discussion was more than listening to their stories, it was a motivational talk from icons in the civil rights movement and a call to action.”
Damian Trujillo, the panel’s moderator and an icon and local hero himself, summed it up as follows: “At your weakest moment or on your most exhausting day, all it takes is a word from any of these three warriors to feel re-energized to fill your fuel tank again, to get up and continue the fight for social justice and equality. I felt that way on Saturday after a long month of hard work. My tank was draining. Now, thanks to Dolores, Luis and Panchito, I’m ready to continue that good fight. Arriba y Adelante!”
This event profoundly motivated and inspired all to continue the fight for truth, human rights, education and social justice. If you missed this event, do not miss the Dolores Huerta Exhibit, Revolution in the Fields, at our Gilroy Library, which closes Jan. 23. Bring your family and friends.
Ernesto Olivares is a longtime Gilroy resident and youth mentor in philanthropy, leadership and community service.