January 6, 2012 (East County) -- Estela De Los Rios, social justice advocate from El Cajon, has been selected to receive the Ashley Walker Social Justice Award from the San Diego Human Relations Commission. She has championed battles to end human trafficking, hate crimes, and discrimination in our region.
“The Commission is very impressed by her work, commitment, courage and dedication,” a press release issued by the organization states. The third annual award will be presented at the 24th annual Martin Luther King All People’s Breakfast held on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, January 16, 2012 at Hilton on the Bay. (Tickets: http://www.equalitysandiego.org/all-peoples-program)
PURPOSE OF THE AWARD - The City of San Diego Human Relations Commission has established an annual award honoring a former Human Relations Commission Executive Director and long time community activist, Ashley L. Walker. This award recognizes and honors an individual, group, business, or community-based organization for their work in promoting peace, social justice, and human and civil rights in the community.
ESTELA DE LOS RIOS –De Los Rios grew up during the Cesar Chavez movement picking grapes in the Central Valley. She also drew inspiration from Martin Luther King and Emilliano Zapata. "I am going to fight for civil rights when I go to college," she told a high school teacher.
Today, the East County resident serves as Executive Director at CSA San Diego County, fighting for social justice including such causes as opposing human trafficking and discrimination in housing. In the past year, she has emerged as a vocal advocate speaking out against the rising number of hate crimes in the community. She worked with 52-faith and community leaders to forge a coalition known as United for a Hate Free San Diego. In 2008, the group held its first summit, gathering first-hand testimony from children and adults victimized by violence and hate crimes.
Originally from Mexico, she did not know any English when she came to the United States. Now she holds a B.S. in Sociology from SDSU. In 1982, she moved to San Diego and became more involved in helping others. Being an activist for 30 years, Ms. De Los Rios firmly believes in respect, dignity and human rights for all people, regardless of their racial background, language, national origin, religious practice, sexual orientation, gender, age or disability.
Recently she became a target of hate crimes herself when her office was broken into, hate graffiti written on her office, and a death threat was made.
She helped organize a hate crimes summit in the East County. A hate crime is defined as a crime-based on the victim's real or perceived race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or age. Those who engage in hate-motivated behaviors denigrate our democratic way of life. Southern Poverty Law Center is the primary national organization which tracks hate crimes and hate groups. Hate crimes are increasing nationally, and several hate groups are active in the East County.
De Los Rios was named a Newsmaker of the Year in 2008 by East County Magazine.
Danell Scarborough, Ed.D, Executive Director
City of San Diego Human Relations Commission
Citizens' Review Board on Police Practices