Sunday, January 26, 2014

Adelfa Cajello, Latina Civil Rights Attorney Dies at 90

I met Adelfa Callejo more than 20 years ago when I was the secretary of Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Dallas. At that time I was awestruck by the civil rights and community leaders I was meeting as SCLC was fighting to stop the city council of Dallas from appealing a federal judges ruling that would clear the way for a vote on a new configuration for the city's ruling body.

Of course, I met Adelfa through then SCLC regional director Peter Johnson. Adelfa held press conferences with us and was a principally responsible for organizing the Hispanic community as allies in increasing representation of minorities on the city council.

I didn't get to know her or her story very well until many years later. She was no longer the quick, apparently eternally energetic woman I met in the early 90's, but she did indeed possess as regal and viable as she did back then. She relayed to me her improbable journey which made her the first Hispanic female lawyer in Texas; and she told me about her quest to make sure that all children got an education and pursued a dream that included financial independence.

Adelfa Callejo was supremely committed to the uplift of her people, "Callejo’s crusades ranged from protests over the police shooting of a 12-year-old Mexican-American boy in 1973, to city council redistricting in the late 1980s, to private strategizing over harsh immigration policies in Farmers Branch in 2006. As a nine-year-old in Millett, Texas, she translated for her father Felix Botello who went to complain to school authorities about the treatment of Mexican-American children in that south Texas town. The sweep of her influence was such some simply called her La Madrina, the godmother. But she herself liked to call herself a “millionaire militant.”"

Adelfa Callejo's life was full and committed. It's just the kind of life we all should strive to live. It's the kind of life that leaves the world better than it was when you found it.

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