Stockton, CA / Bilingual Weekly
Rarely a degree-conferring ceremony ends with faculty, administrators and attendees shouting “People unite for the common good”
But then again, this was Dolores Huerta’s doctorate ceremony. So not only they shouted “wo n-zambee!*” (Swahili word for “People unite for the common good”) but also performed the “UFW” clapping routine.
Yes. Nearly two hundred people gathered on Thursday, October 21, 2010, to witness civil rights activist Dolores Huerta finally getting a diploma from the institution she attended first in the late 1940’s —when it was the University of the Pacific’s Delta College— and then in the early 1950’s —when it was the College of the Pacific.
From there she went onto the San Joaquin Valley fields to teach, learning of the farm workers’ plight, finally embarking in a lifelong quest for social justice and human rights.
“Dolores Huerta is a civil rights champion who is dedicated to improving the lives of others,” said Pacific’s President Pam Eibeck, “her leadership, determination and compassion exemplify Pacific’s values and provide our students with a model of engaged citizenship.”
Huerta —perhaps the most prominent Latina labor leader in the United States— spent most of her childhood in Stockton, rose to national prominence after co-founding the United Farm Workers (UFW) union with César Chávez and launching the 1965 Delano Grape Strike, which grew into a national boycott and led to groundbreaking legislation in California.
She currently serves as vice president emeritus of UFW and is the founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which focuses on developing indigenous leadership and helping communities organize and address economic disparities in housing, education, health and employment. Huerta was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.
After the degree ceremony, Huerta attended a reception at Pacific’s Grace Covell Hall, where portraits for the Architects of Peace project were displayed. There, faculty, staff, students, friends and local activists posed with Huerta along her official portrait as Stockton’s Architect of Peace.*Not familiar with Swahili language, this is the closest the reporter could make of the word being shouted.