Published : Monday, January 8, 2018 | 6:22 AM
Two local women who made headlines for their social activism — one decades past, and the other quite recently — were honored Friday by the Pasadena-based political think-tank Progressive Discussion Group.
Dolores Hickambottom, who has fought the progressive fight for more than a half-century, received the Lifetime Progressive Achievement Award. Patricia Guzman, Madison Elementary School teacher and United Teachers of Pasadena site representative there, accepted the 2017 Progressive of the Year award.
Hickambottom was introspective.
“I have no qualities that make me stand out, but I may have a special purpose of being where I was meant to be at a given time,” she said. I am grateful for the opportunity to be of service in small ways.”
Hickambottom discovered her passion for activism at a young age and would go on to spend over 50 years fighting for causes she believed in.
“Growing up in the south in New Orleans I was a witness to the ills of racial discrimination. And throughout my life in Altadena and in Pasadena I’ve had the privilege of working with those who had the courage to fight social injustice and working with others of goodwill,” said Hickambottom.
According to Hickambottom, her foundation for activism in Pasadena began when her children entered elementary school.
“The PTA was the beginning of my social activism, if you will, having four children in the schools,” said Hickambottom.
Many in the community will remember her earlier efforts in helping to elect Pasadena’s first female Mayor, Loretta Thompson-Glickman, who was also African-American.
Hickambottom went on to serve as Mayor Thompson-Glickman’s field representative and later served on the staffs of State Senators Walter Stiern, Richard Polanco and Jack Scott.
Hickambottom stood with League of Women Voters, Pasadena area women’s caucus, NAACP Pasadena branch, and helped support efforts to integrate the Pasadena public schools, among other accolades.
“I will accept the award, on behalf of the many others whose efforts, courage and commitment have been dedicated to our community,” said Hickambottom.
Madison Elementary second grade teacher Patricia Guzman received the 2017 Progressive of the Year award for her “principled stand” against teachers union-busting and administrative indifference to the Madison community, according to a press release by the Progressive Discussion Group.
The 30-year veteran of the Pasadena Unified School District made headlines in 2015 when she was removed from her classroom for six month period administrative leave
following an accusation of child abuse by then-newly installed principal Juan Ruelas.
Ruelas’ tenure at Madison was scarred by controversy.
Almost immediately following his arrival at Madison in 2015, Ruelas reportedly clashed with several teachers and staff members and the union’s representative at the school, resulting in an exodus of at least nine teachers and staff members who “put in for voluntary transfers.”
Over the last two years, protests over Ruelas’s leadership at Madison Elementary School were at the fore of many Pasadena Board of Education meetings. Some vocal teachers, parents and faculty accused him of acting harshly and playing favorites.
Pushback from Ruelas supporters began to grow throughout much of late 2016 and into 2017. Many — including Ruelas himself — presumed he would return to Madison in September, 2017 as principal, but he was reassigned.
Guzman, who led many of the actions against Ruelas, has since returned to teach at Madison Elementary.
“It was like a mini-holocaust and people are still suffering,” said Guzman. “I’m a survivor and I’m still recovering. We still have a lot of work to do.”
Previous Progressive of the Year honorees were Peter Dreier in 2015 and Pablo Alvarado in 2016. The first Progressive Discussion Group Lifetime Achievement award was given in 2017 to the Rev. Inman Moore, the Progressive Discussion Group founder.
The Progressive Discussion Group is a Pasadena-based political thought incubator that meets the first and third Fridays of every month.
The meeting runs from 9 to 10 a.m. at DuPar’s Restaurant and Bakery, located at 214 S. Lake Avenue in Pasadena.
Meetings are open to anyone wanting to attend. DuPar’s issues separate checks to attendees, so you can have coffee, breakfast, or just thoughtful discussion of progressive issues.
For more information, contact Dale L. Gronemeier at firstname.lastname@example.org or (323) 254-6700.