Dolores Huerta, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and youth of the Martin Luther king Jr Freedom Center participated in a well-attended Martin Luther King Jr Freedom Center report back of the center’s summer of voter engagement in the Central Valley of California.
The report back, held at Ron V Dellums Federal Building in Oakland, featured young people talking about the impact of their intensive summer experiences and commendations from the state, county, city and East Bay Regional Park District commendations for the center’s 15-year record of achievement.
Dr. Roy Wilson of the Freedom Center and Camila Chavez of the Dolores Huerta Foundation also spoke.
“The Freedom Center youth are a uniquely trained group,” said Dolores Huerta, president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
“They put into practice the lessons learned in the civil rights movement. Just to see them is inspiring; to work with them, a joy,” she said. “They are selfless, resourceful and committed in their task.”
While in Bakersfield, Lamont and Arvin, the young people registered 258 citizens to vote and knocked on 7,000 doors in low voter turn out regions. The youth learned a lot about why a lot of registered voters do not vote and why some who can vote, are not even registered.
They also attended 98 hours of civic engagement classes. They worked in over 100-degree weather, sleeping on gym floor, and preparing all their own meals.
According to the young people, leaving cell phones and electronic devices at home and living simply for the month gave them a much better understanding of the difficult jobs of farm workers and the importance of working class people voting.
“Voting is the bedrock of our democracy,” said Congresswoman Lee. “Yet some are working to create unnecessary and unfair barriers to voting. I am so proud of the MLK Freedom Center students and their continuous commitment to overcome barriers and ensure that each man and woman has an equal voice at the ballot box.”
Added Huerta, “In spite of the difficult conditions, (hot) weather and some unfriendly receptions they encountered as they carried out the difficult task of convincing apathetic and disconnected individuals why they need to vote—their friendly, mature and pleasant demeanor disarmed the most hostile person they might encounter.
“The MLK center youth do not just learn the legacy of nonviolence. They practice it. MLK Center youth are a living example of how we can change our world through determined, persistent and active person-to-person engagement.”