Groundbreaking new Peace and Justice Center set to transform Bakersfield’s community landscape

September 22, 2023 /

Locals can mark their calendars for the groundbreaking new development of the Dolores Huerta Foundation’s (DHF) Peace and Justice Center, which is expected to be finished in Fall 2026. It’ll be located at 21st and I Street, a short distance from city staples like the Fox Theatre and the Padre Hotel. 

DHF began its journey four years ago to create Bakersfield’s soon-to-be Peace and Justice Center. They collaborated with community organizations, leaders, unions, and government officials to move the project to its final stages. This is a historic moment for many community members who grew up knowing the location as a blank dirt plot between a busy street and a public transit stop. 

DHF plans to invest $32 million into this project and Camila Chavez, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the DHF, stated that the center will have an auditorium, an outdoor event center, a youth lounge, a production studio, and a community resource center. Chavez explained that the second floor will have administrative offices along with an interactive hologram of Dolores Huerta.

The last $7 million needed for the Peace and Justice Center was granted by the state of California, finalizing plans. This week DHF met with local organizations and government officials to make the announcement.  

Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters representatives attended the press conference held by DHF. Kern Sol News spoke with Josh Taylor and Jorge G. Torres who are both happy for the new job opportunities the new center’s construction will bring.

“We had labor organizations, some of the carpenters and laborers who contributed funding to get this thing off of the ground all because of what this was going to do for the community, disadvantaged members of the community, the youth,” Taylor said.

Taylor described how youth looking for jobs can now create career pathways through employment and experience with the center’s construction. 

“In the construction industry, when we get to build things that’s our mark we leave on the world. So the pride that’s going to follow leaving a mark like this in the community- it’s going to be so uplifting for so many people- that’s like having your legacy right there on the corner of the street and that’s awesome,” Taylor said.

Many government officials have also collaborated and supported the efforts to raise funds for the center. Some of those individuals in attendance included Rudy Salas, 35 District Assemblymember Dr. Jasmeet Kaur Bains, Delano Councilmember Veronica Vasquez, and District 5 Supervisor Leticia Perez. 

Despite slow progress due to changes in the budget because of inflation or the many struggles that came with the pandemic, the funds necessary for the new budget were met.

“The Peace and Justice Center is going to mean so much for our community,” stated Assemblymember Rudy Salas. “It’s going to bring thousands of jobs here locally.”

“The Peace and Justice Center is going to be that beacon to show that our community can come together, that despite the political dividedness you see on the news and you see on television and you hear about, there are good people in our community that want to come to together and make life better for their neighbors,” Salas stated. 

Flor Juarez, a communications associate at DHF, has been dreaming of moments like these during her time working with Dolores Huerta. She joined the foundation after graduating from CSUB and West High School. 

Ever since participating in Kern County’s Latina Leadership youth program, Juarez knew she wanted to work with DHF. For Juarez, the future Peace and Justice Center is the new dream job location and will be just a short walk from her home. 

“This is a cultural place for everyone,” Juarez stated. 

Juarez is excited that resources and services are expected to expand. She hopes more residents will find it easier to access the new building because the center will be more visible. 

“I’m really excited that it’s going to be in the community, right in downtown. It’s not going to be 20-30 minutes away, it’s going to be in the heart of Bakersfield,” said Juarez. 

Assemblymember Dr. Bains said after the walk-through of the purchased land, “It’s an exciting time, it’s exciting to be in the position of Assembly Member, to be able to be involved in a project like this from the [start].”

Bains grew up in the Central Valley in Delano and explained that it was important for her whole team to support the project’s success.

“It’s super important to keep our history alive, right? If we don’t keep our history alive we’re going to forget it,” Bains continued. “It’s super important for kids to see structures to look up to and say ‘Hey, this is our history, this is who we are.’”

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