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Dolores Huerta’s personal playlist contains a medley of historic sound bites. Fiery speeches from San Joaquin vineyards. Fervent chants of “¡Si, si se puede!” Ronald Reagan ostentatiously chomping on grapes in defiance of what he deemed the “immoral” farmworkers strike that Huerta championed alongside Cesar Chavez.
But the audio archive of Huerta’s mind keeps several other tracks in heavy rotation. Stravinsky’s “Firebird” suite. Billie Holliday’s “God Bless the Child.” John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Not to mention cumbias, mariachi and flamenco. Boleros from the borderlands, civil rights gospel anthems and Dust Bowl dirges.
“I always say that art touches the heart and the mind and the soul,” Huerta said over dinner last week at a Thai restaurant in Bakersfield, minutes after delivering a pre-election rally-the-faithful speech at Cal State Bakersfield. “It gives you the consciousness that you need and the healing that you need and the energy that you need. Music and art and drama do all of those things.”
Huerta was in the city she ironically and affectionately refers to as “Bakersfield, Alabama,” to give a lecture on “How to Overcome Apathy and Find Your Power.” She’d flown in that night from campaigning in Nevada with John Legend, Elizabeth Warren and Barack Obama. The next day she’d fly to Georgia to campaign with Stacey Abrams, then on to Michigan to canvass voters ahead of last Tuesday’s elections.
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