Alice Barnes has demonstrated how one person’s commitment to social justice can affect many Americans. For decades her energetic and unstinting efforts have affected change through her work with the United Farmworkers’ Union, the American Indian Movement, and the Feminist Movement, among others. Her efforts have earned her the praise and admiration of such notable figures as Gloria Steinem, Governor Jerry Brown, Cesar Chavez, and Dennis Banks. In the words of Cesar Chavez, “…She is just always there, in good times and bad, giving of herself to farmworkers and the farmworkers’ cause. She is a beautiful example, for all generations, of what it means to share life with others.”
After 25 years as an elementary school teacher, Barnes spent the bulk of 30 years as a full-time activist for social justice. She is noted particularly for her involvement with the United Farmworkers Union. She helped wherever there was a need, organizing boycotts, walking in picket lines, furnishing meals for strikers and their supporters, and gathering signatures for petitions. In 1980 she courageously helped form a food cooperative for farm laborers in San Diego’s North County, despite hostile opposition. Her work in the American Indian Movement included marching in “The Longest Walk”(1977), which protested proposed legislation that would abrogate treaties with Native Americans. At least once during the march she spontaneously organized food and housing for 300 of the marchers. She was 70 years old.
Throughout the years, Barnes has joined actions in support of the ERA, spoken out against nuclear power, and helped form the San Diego chapter of the Gray Panthers. Among her many honors: Unity Plaque presented by the United Domestic Workers, Nia Cultural Organization, and the Campaign for Economic Democracy; a poem for her 70th birthday written by Dennis Banks; and a special organizer’s pin from the UFW. Alice Barnes once said, “I believe in putting my money, my efforts, and my time where my mouth is. When I sense something is wrong, I want to go out and do something about it. I love being where the action is; it’s my reason for living. I’d much rather be out fighting than sitting at home.”