Power Is in Your Person

Marian Wright Edelman – President, Children’s Defense Fund Posted: 10/05/2012 4:43 pm

You know, when we started the farm workers movement, I remember going to many conferences, and people [kept asking] how do we do this… We had to convince people that they have power. Of course, when you say to a farm worker who doesn’t speak the English language, doesn’t have formal education, doesn’t have any assets, doesn’t have any money, that he or she has power, they say, ‘What kind of power do I have?’ And so what we had to convince the workers is you do have power, but that power is in your person. That power is in your person, and when you come together with other workers, other people, and they also understand that they have power, this is the way that changes are made. But you can’t do it by yourself. You’ve got to do it with other people. You’ve got to work together to make it happen.

As the founder of the Agricultural Workers Association, the co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers union, and the founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation for community organizing, Dolores Huerta has spent decades working relentlessly to improve social and economic conditions for farm workers and to fight discrimination in all forms. In the process she has improved the lives of countless children and families, especially poor and immigrant families. Huerta started out with a mission to be a teacher, but quickly realized that most of her students were children of farm workers who lived in poverty. She couldn’t stand seeing the children coming to class hungry and needing shoes and she thought she could do even more to help them by organizing their parents. Huerta’s many successes over the years have proven her right about the power every person can have once they are ready to claim it and work together with others for change.

When Huerta spoke to community and youth leaders at the Children’s Defense Fund’s recent national conference, she shared some of her wisdom from her long legacy of working for justice — starting with the point that the people who need change most are the best ones to make it happen.

The thing that we have to remember is that change comes from the bottom, OK? All of the changes that have been made, whether it’s the Civil Rights Movement, the peace movement, the women’s movement, the LGBT movement, the immigrants’ rights movement… we can make the change, but it’s got to start with us. The one thing that we have to always tell people is that nobody is going to do this for us. We have to do it for ourselves… and the one thing that we know is that the people who are suffering the problems are the ones that have the solutions. The people that are going through the suffering and the discrimination, they are the ones that have the answers to how to solve the problems. So the only thing that we need then are the resources for organizing so that we can share our stories.

In this election year, she also had a reminder about the critical importance of including the electoral process as a piece of organizing:

And, of course, part of the way that we were a