Dolores Huerta Awarded Presidential Medal Of Freedom

Dolores Huerta and The Harvest Dir. U Roberto Romano

Dolores Huerta and The Harvest/La Cosecha Dir. U Roberto Romano at a June 2011 screening of the documentary in DC (photo credit: Bruce Guthrie)

Dolores Huerta, a civil rights advocate and labor leader who fought for farmworkers rights alongside César Chavez, was honored with one of the nation’s highest civilian honors — the Presidential Medal of Freedom– on Tuesday.

 “I was humbled, thrilled, and surprised,” she said. “I never expected to be nominated.”  For more than 50 years, activist Dolores Huerta has worked tirelessly to advance the cause of marginalized communities. She is internationally recognized as a feminist, a farm worker advocate, a gay rights activist, and a labor leader.  Alongside activist César Chávez, Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, and then served as the first vice president of the United Farm Workers. As a fearless advocate for civil rights, Huerta has been arrested twenty-two times, and has been severely beaten by police while protesting.

Huerta is now 82 years old, a mother to 11 children, and grandmother to seven. Huerta considers some of her proudest accomplishments to be, “Spanish-language ballots for voters, public assistance for immigrants, toilets in the fields, drinking water protection from pesticides,” and an immigration act which gave legal status to over a million farmworkers.  She continues to work tirelessly developing leaders and advocating for the working poor, women and children. As voluntary President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, she travels across the country speaking to students and organizations about issues of social justice and public policy.

“The great social justice changes in our country have happened when people came together, organized, and took direct action. It is this right that sustains and nurtures our democracy today. The civil rights movement, the labor movement, the women’s movement, and the equality movement for our LGBT brothers and sisters are all manifestations of these rights. I thank President Obama for raising the importance of organizing to the highest level of merit and honor. It is a unique honor and privilege to be included in this group of distinguished individuals being honored here today and the communities they represent” she said in a statement.

Dolores Huerta spoke at the June 2011 Washington DC screening of Shine Global’s film The Harvest/La Cosecha delivering a heartfelt statement of support for the film and for the ongoing effort to improve the lives of farmworker children and farmworker rights in general, urging every person to take action on these pressing issues.

She has received numerous awards among them the Eleanor Roosevelt Humans Rights Award from President Clinton in 1998, Ms. Magazine’s one of the three most important women of 1997, Ladies Home Journal’s 100 most important woman of the 20th Century, Puffin Foundation award for Creative Citizenship Labor Leader Award 1984, Kern County’s Woman of The Year by California State legislature,the Ohtli award from the Mexican Government, Smithsonian Institution – James Smithson Award, and Nine Honorary Doctorates from Universities throughout the United States.  Huerta received the Presidential Medal of Freedom alongside 12 others, including Bob Dylan and Madeleine Albright.

9-year-old Gets School to Serve Healthier Lunches

Martha Payne's first school lunch post

9-year-old Martha Payne didn’t like the unhealthy and oftentimes unpalatable food she was being served at her school in Scotland.  So, with the help of her Dad, she started a blog documenting the day’s food with a picture and rating it on a “Food-o-meter” and a scale of 1-10 for healthiness.  She also documents the price, number of mouthfuls, and how many pieces of hair (she has gotten at least one so far!) and also accepts submissions of school lunches from around the globe to compare.

Her blog is called NeverSeconds and she writes under the name “Veg.” Her first post on May 8 showed a picture of that day’s school lunch — a small cheeseburger, two potato croquettes, three cucumber slices and a popsicle. “You don’t really get much vegetables,” she told the BBC.  Since then she has gained the attention of celebrity chef and healthy school food campaigner Jamie Oliver, who tweeted encouragement to her and sent her a signed copy of his book, and over 1 million hits on her blog.

With all the attention, her father met with the school council, which announced all students would be allowed unlimited servings of fruit, vegetables and bread.  You can see the difference in her lunch plate the next day, heaped with an extra serving of peas.  “For the first time ever I have seen at lunch cherry tomatoes, radishes, carrot and cucumber shreddings,” Martha wrote on May 15.

In the US, the National School Lunch Program feeds more than 31 million children every school day.  18 million of those children qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. And children today are facing an epidemic of obesity and diabetes.  One child in every four in America is overweight or obese, and one in three will develop diabetes in his or her lifetime. For African-American and Hispanic children, that number rises to one in two.  Obesity and diabetes are so destructive that today’s kids are the first in over two centuries to have shorter life expectancies than their parents.  One third of the food children eat is at school and it is the responsibility of those administering the lunches to ensure they are providing sufficient nutrients and building a strong nutritional foundation in school meals.

But many warn that simply taking away the unhealthy options and trying to force children to eat their veggies will not work. Last fall, the Los Angeles Unified School District eliminated flavored milk, chicken nuggets and other unhealthy cafeteria staples. But instead of making kids healthier, the changes sent students fleeing from school cafeterias and into a thriving black market of junk food , pizza deliveries, and family-sized bags of chips.

Martha Payne’s method seems to be the true success story.  The encouragement from her family led her to demand healthier food.  And with students joining parents and health experts to demand healthier lunch options, the school had no choice but to listen.

“Keep it up!” Jamie Oliver wrote Martha in the book he sent.

“Thanks Jamie, I do intend to keep it up!” she replied.

Visit Martha Payne’s blog NeverSeconds at

You can learn more about school lunches and get tools to start a campaign in your own school from Jamie Oliver’s site:
And learn more about national legislation and more actions to take in your community from Slow Food USA

Fundraiser and Screening of Inocente in Santa Monica June 13th

You are cordially invited to a fundraiser in support of Shine Global with a screening of Inocente.

 Inocente is the inspiring story of a homeless and undocumented girl who refuses to give up her dream of being an artist by the Academy Award-nominated directors and producers of War/Dance and the producers of The Harvest/La Cosecha.

Hosted by:
Beatriz Acevedo and Doug Greiff
Giselle Fernandez
Jeanine and Kevin Kay
Susan MacLaury and Albie Hecht
Mike and Lisa O’Malley
Susan Ringo and Barry Sonnenfeld
Shannon Sheehan

Conversation with the filmmakers and special guests:

Tom Saenz, President and General Counsel of MALDEF
Matt D’Arrigo, Founder and Executive Director of ARTS
Featuring a special presentation of her art

 Wednesday, June 13th 6-8pm

 Wine and hors d’oeuvres

Writers Boot Camp at Bergamot Station
2525 Michigan Avenue, Building I
Santa Monica, CA 90404

To RSVP and purchase tickets or donate click here

 Shine Global is a non-profit film production company dedicated to shining a light on children in need.  Inocente is our fourth documentary film.

 For more information, please contact Alexandra Blaney at Shine Global at or 646-535-6703

Harvest Associate Director Julia Perez honored with a Latino Spirit Award

Shine Global would like to congratulate Julia Perez, the Associate Director of our documentary film The Harvest/La Cosecha (2011), for being honored with a Latino Spirit Award by the California Latino Legislative Caucus. The Spirit Awards recognize those individuals who exemplify the spirit of the Latino community and have contributed to the State of California. The honorees have been found to have furthered the understanding and acceptance of Latino values, culture and traditions through leadership and service. This year’s recipients include pioneers in film, literature, art and public service, among other categories. Many have overcome tremendous obstacles, rising to become role models and community leaders. Past honorees include: Carlos Santana, Grammy Award winning recording artist; Rita Moreno, the first artist to win an Oscar, Emmy and Tony Award, Dolores Huerta, Co-founder of the United Farmworkers Union and Tom Flores, former coach and player with the Oakland Raiders.

Julia Perez is an electrical engineer and an Arizona native. “I was 5 years old when I started working in the fields with my parents. We lived in 10 different states and I was the first in my family of ten brothers and sisters to get an education and to get out of the fields,” said Pérez. Her personal experience in the fields helped her connect with the families and children she and director U Roberto Romano interviewed over the course of filming. “I was able to relate to these families on a very personal level. I was in their shoes so many years ago and yet, I find that nothing has changed. Young children are still working in the fields and getting exposed to dangerous pesticides which in the long term could have life-threatening consequences. Children simply should not be working in the fields at such a young age and that is the bottom line,” said Pérez.

For ten days each month in the following three years, Pérez traveled throughout the United States interviewing migrant families and their children, asking them questions, capturing their hard work on camera and learning about their hopes for a better future.

“I had a child tell me once, ‘I didn’t know I was allowed to have dreams,'”said Pérez. “For a child to be making statements like this in the land of opportunity was astonishing to me. Our children should be getting an education, not uprooting every season from state to state to work under such brutal conditions,” said Pérez.

Migrant labor is one of many reasons why Latinos are not faring well in education, she believes. High school drop out rates among Latinos continue to worsen and are at an all-time high while college admissions low, but in the migrant community, those numbers are worse.

“Sixty-five percent of migrant children drop out of high school compared to the average Latino student and that is a terrible thing for our community. We are losing future doctors, engineers and lawyers,” said Pérez.

“I think there needs to be a fundamental change in agriculture. We have huge agriculture corporations like Cargill who have annual revenues in the billions and it’s on the backs of many migrant children. There needs to be a federal change,” said Pérez.

The Latino Legislative Caucus is comprised of twenty-seven members: nine Senators and eighteen Assembly Members. It is one of the most influential organizations within the California State Legislature. Its members hold strategic leadership positions and focus primarily on improving the quality of life for working families in California. Currently, due to the changing demographics of California, it is apparent that the issues affecting Latinos in California are issues that affect all Californians.

In 2001, the Latino Caucus saw a need to recognize and honor distinguished Latinos for their contributions and dedication to California and the United States’ economy and cultural life with the annual Latino Spirit Awards. These recipients are outstanding individuals who have greatly contributed to the wonderful music, poetry, literature, journalism, community action, and entertainment of California, the United States, and the world.

For more info please read: