Neighbors united at annual leadership conference

August 26, 2019 /

Hundreds of people from across the Central Valley gathered at the Kern County Fair Grounds Sunday for the annual Vecinos Unidos Leadership Conference, hosted by the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

Nearly 350 people from Fresno, Tulare and Kern County attended the conference to hear from elected officials, such as Assemblyman Rudy Salas, Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez, State Senator Melissa Hurtado and Representative TJ Cox, and learn about civic engagement.

“Be engaged,” said Salas. “By being here today, you are being engaged. You’re informing yourself. Take this information today and pass it along to others.”

Two topics the Dolores Huerta Foundation focused on at Sunday’s event was the 2020 Census and a School and Communities First initiative.

DHF informed the attendees of the importance of the 2020 Census and an accurate count. The census will bring $20,000 in funding over a 10-year period for every person counted. Those funds will provide resources for education, health care and infrastructure, just to name a few.

“When we talk about counting people and making sure their voices are heard, we need to make sure the resources go there as well,” said Salas.

Schools and Communities First is a proposition that will be placed on the November 2020 general election ballot. It calls to bring $11 billion to the state of California from commercial property tax revenues.

“Together as Vecinos Unidos, we will response to those vicious attacks on our communities by working harder to expand our grassroots volunteer base to overcome the ignorance and racism, misogyny and homophobia that leads to these attacks,” Dolores Huerta wrote in a letter for the event.

DHF has led Vecinos Unidos Chapters to identify critical needs in communities across the Central Valley. Members learn to work with campaigns, building alliances and communicating with public officials. They advocate for policies that will affect education, health, environment, civil rights and economic development.

The goal of the conference is to strengthen unity among different regions, while expanding the Vecinos social justice movement, said a press release.

There are now nine chapters in Arvin, Lamont, Greenfield, California City, Woodlake, Lindsay, Sanger, Parlier and Caruthers.

Those attending the conference also learned about empowerment, volunteerism, LGBTQ equality, environmental justice, non-violence pro-choice and social justice.

“What really drives me most is a sense of social justice — about looking out for those who might have been overlooked,” Cox told the crowd. “That’s why I’m here today — because of all the injustices I see.”

“I’m going to do something about it, and I know you guys are doing something about it right now.”