TOPEKA — Jacquie Fernandez-Lenati, the great niece of prominent labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, gave a powerful speech Wednesday, April 3, about the importance of Hispanic civic engagement at the eighth annual Hispanic Day at the Capitol.
Hispanic Day at the Capitol is a free-to-the-public event hosted by the Kansas Hispanic and Latino American Affairs Commission as a way to celebrate the additions and accomplishments made possible by the Hispanic and Latino communities in Kansas.
Dolores Huerta was a leader in the Chicano civil rights movement and a co-founder of the United Farm Workers labor union. Her great niece, Fernandez-Lenati, encouraged the audience to “show up” as Hispanic and Latino citizens.
“The power is in the person. It’s not in the title. It’s not in the position — it’s the person,” Fernandez-Lenati said. “I became an activist before I could even read.”
Fernandez-Lenati reinforced the importance of voting and letting Latinx voices be heard.
“You don’t have to run for office to impact change,” Fernandez-Lenati said.
She also encouraged the Hispanic and Latino community to support other minorities, such as the LGBTQ and African American communities.
“When minorities join together, we become the majority,” Fernandez-Lenati said.
Other prominent speakers included Acting Secretary for the Kansas Department of Labor Delia Garcia, Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla and Evergy CEO Terry Bassham.
Richard Martinez, the interim executive director of the Kansas Hispanic and Latino American Affairs Commission, took time to recognize each speaker and reinforced the importance of Fernandez-Lenati’s words.
“You have to be confident and know that you have a place at the table,” Martinez said.
The Kansas Hispanic and Latino American Affairs Commission was established in 1975 in the effort to eliminate official neglect and provide opportunities for Hispanic advancement in Kansas.
“At the end of the day, we have more in common than not,” Fernandez-Lenati said. “We have to shift our thinking to the next level.”
Paige Henderson is a University of Kansas senior from Lenexa majoring in journalism.