Civil Rights leader and activist Dolores Huerta threw out the ceremonial first pitch ahead of the Dodgers’ 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday. She added another award to her immense list of accomplishments (which includes two Presidential medals) when she received a Community Hero Award at the Viva Los Dodgers festival, which celebrates the legacy of past and present Latino Dodgers and Latino cultures in LA.
In addition, families from the Dolores Huerta Foundation – which she formed after receiving the $100,000 Puffin/Nation prize for Creative Citizenship in 2002 – were in attendance, thanks to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and his wife. The DHF has implemented grassroots community organizing models in six rural communities in California’s Central Valley, and utilizes its Youth Leadership program to provide youth ages 12 to 18 with educational, community service, and policy advocacy opportunities.
Huerta is most well-known for founding the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez, the first successful and largest farm workers union. The organization’s vision is to provide “farm workers and other working people with the inspiration and tools to share in society’s bounty,” based on the principles of integrity, a si se puede attitude, innovation, non-violence, and empowerment.
The honor came three days after the 50th anniversary of the National Workers Association’s vote to join the American Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee’s strike against Delano-area grape growers, which resulted in growers signing their first union contracts in 1970. It was a particularly special day for Huerta, a defender of the people’s right to vote, an advocate for better working conditions for farmers, and a lifelong Dodgers fan.
When she was honored as part of the Civil Rights Game festivities earlier this year, Huerta said that when people ask her why she’s a Dodgers fan, she responds by saying that it’s “because of Jackie Robinson,” the legendary second baseman who broke baseball’s race barrier when Huerta was 17. The team’s barrier-breaking reputation and history had a tremendous impact on her, and, in her opinion, “Jackie Robinson made a big, giant step for our society and for the United States of America when he was able to hang in there and not quit in spite of everything they threw at him.”
She went on to describe television commercials that projected sentiments of baseball as the “All-American game,” accompanied by a sequence of players with Latino names on the backs of their jerseys. “I thought it was pretty cool,” she said, “and it is the All-American game, and we’re talking about the Americas, which is a hemisphere. Absolutely, it has to be very diverse, and not only in terms of Latinos, also Asians. And that’s what baseball stands for.”