Becoming a ‘Si Se Puede’ activist

Tony Morris

Hilda Zacarias, councilwoman from the City of Santa Maria, will deliver the 17th annual Leonardo Dorantes Memorial Lecture. The topic of her presentation will be “Head-Start to Harvard and Home Again – The Making of a ‘Si Se Puede’ Activist.”

The Leonardo Dorantes Memorial Lecture was first established in 1991 to honor the memory of Leonardo Dorantes and educate the community in areas of racism and prejudice. Dorantes was an English as a Second Language student at City College who was stabbed and died from a single wound to the heart. Dorantes and a few other friends were going to the movies in downtown Santa Barbara after their night classes when they were chased by two white men. His murder was classified as a hate crime.

Every year, the Dorantes Committee invites speakers to educate individual concerning the issues of racism, ethnicity and diversity in our society.

“Things like that still happen in our community, this is why the Dorantes Committee deliberately brings speakers to broaden the perspective of what is to live in a global community,” said Diane Rodriguez-Kinno, director of Campus Diversity and a committee member.

“This year we invited Hilda Zacarias because she’s a role model for our community,” Rodriguez-Kinno said. “She’s a child of an immigrant dedicated farm workers, a leader in our city politics and became city councilwoman.”

Zacarias said she has dedicated her life to helping non-profit organizations and her main objective is to work with young people.

“My philosophy of life is help people into supporting people’s discovery of their own power,” said Zacarias. “I’m particularly interested in working with young people because I think we have the greatest possibilities with them.”

Zacarias was elected to the Santa Maria City Council, and is currently in her first four-year term. In 1993, Zacarias was the youngest person appointed to the Board of Trustees for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, and served five years.

She graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in business, and has been recognized as a Distinguished Alumna of Allan Hancock Community College. In June 2006, Zacarias received her Masters Degree in political advocacy and leadership from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where she received the prominent Littauer Fellow award upon graduation.

Zacarias will talk about her experiences as a “Si Se Puede activist” and will focus on how to create better communities. She has been part of the audience of The Leonardo Dorantes Lecture for more than seven years.

“I think is important to understand that we have a share in the world that we create, to consider ourselves as people with power who can make a difference whatever the background.” Zacarias said. “Racism and prejudice plays out through oppression. Racism is destructive and continues to destroy communities and many of the possibilities that I try to create.”

Zacarias said she is incredibly delighted to be given the opportunity to be part of the Dorantes Lecture Series.

“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to speak to the leaders of tomorrow, in fact, in many cases the leaders of today,” said Zacarias.

The Memorial Lecture is free and open to all members of City College and the community. It will be held Thursday, Nov. 8 at 12:45 p.m. in the Garvin Theater on West Campus, immediately followed by a reception.