Alexandria, VA– Dolores Huerta gave a passionate speech in English and in Spanish as the first keynote speaker at the 2009 National Sexual Assault Conference after being introduced by Monica Ramirez with the Southern Poverty Law Center.  A long-time labor rights activist and transformative icon in the Chicana/o Movement, Dolores has advocated against all forms of violence, including sexual violence.
The audience gave Dolores a standing ovation, during which she said “While we’re standing, lets thank our waiters!”  Her speech touched on a variety of issues concerning gender violence including the socialization of men and women across cultural and political boundaries, marginalized communities, and human rights.  Around the world, feminists of diverse backgrounds continue to raise awareness, provide leadership and campaign against gender violence.
When discussing violence against marginalized communities, Dolores referenced Benito Juarez “el derecho al respecto ajeno es la paz” (“the right to respect others brings peace”) as the concept applies in the global struggle for human rights.  She encouraged conference participants to contact their representatives and remind them to consider women and children in this pivotal discussion surrounding healthcare reform.
Dolores Huerta, Founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation
By organizing and mobilizing communities, people’s conceptualization of power alters because they become directly involved in creating social change.  The Dolores Huerta Foundation works on feminist issues and uses community organizing to challenge traditional gender norms and myths that pervade U.S. society around issues of choice, domestic violence and sexual assault.  Developing women’s leadership is powerful and critical in sustaining the anti-violence movement.  For instance, given today’s financial climate, sexual assault/domestic violence agencies can build on the leadership of their constituents when having an organizer on staff is not feasible.
In the spirit of organizing and galvanizing communities, Dolores ended her speech rallying the participants with “viva las feministas!” and “si se puede!” while doing the unity clap.  Participants could not have asked for a more iconic keynote speaker to kick-off the conference.