Activists Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, and Dolores Huerta, founder and president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF), met on stage Tuesday morning at the 2023 TIME100 Summit to talk about the challenges of political activism in a polarized climate. “We really do as larger organizations and movements work together,” Ellis said. “We didn’t have a choice when we were all under attack, and we still continue to be under attack.”
The discussion, moderated by CNN’s senior political correspondent Abby Phillip, was appropriately titled, “How to Build a Movement,” which is something Ellis and Huerta are no strangers to.
As the head of GLAAD, formerly the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Ellis has been a leading political voice on LGBTQ issues at a time when 450 anti-LGBTQ bills in the U.S. have been introduced so far this year. “30% of Americans say they know someone who’s trans,” she said. “That 70% information gap is being filled right now with anti-trans rhetoric, versus the representation and the inclusion that we need in Hollywood and in advertising.”
For her part, Huerta is a renowned labor activist whose work led to the establishment of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) labor union in the 1960s that secured significant rights for migrant workers. With DHF, Huerta continues to promote community-based organizing as a catalyst for change, particularly in marginalized communities.
At the summit, Huerta talked about the current assault on the rights of women and LGBTQ people. “I think that we have to really think of organizing as something that’s absolutely crucial if we’re going to save our democracy,” she said. “All of us have a responsibility that we reach out to our neighbors, that we reach out to our friends and that we talk to them about these issues.”
That has become all the more important as social media companies fail to protect young and queer people from online harassment, Huerta said. “When [social media] first started, it was a great organizing [tool] and it allowed people in our community to meet each other without risking their lives,” she added. “It has turned and been weaponized against us as a community.”
But as concerns around social media mount, Huerta emphasized the importance of unions and education. She called for more diverse civic studies in schools, not to mention living wages, universal healthcare, and child care as “things we need to fight for.” The message was something TIME attendees at the Lincoln Center in New York were on board with—at Huerta’s request, they rose from their seats and chanted, “We’ve got the power,” “People power!”
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