Mary got paid as a waitress. When the hard work would no longer allow her to stand, she stood up for everybody else. She didn’t get paid, but you and I stand enriched because of her.
My dear friend Mary died a hard death of complications from cancer early Friday morning at Renown Medical Center. She was 66.
Mary lived through every Los Angeles police abuse you may have seen dramatized in the films “Mi Familia” or “L.A. Confidential.” Not to mention the reality TV version starring Rodney King.
Her dad, an Aztec from Mexico named Manuel Obregón Valencia, was honored as man of the year in Norwalk, Calif., in 1954, the first non-white so honored.
“She marched with César Chávez in the 1960s to better the lives of migrant farm laborers. As a Fullerton College student during the Vietnam War, she participated in anti-war protests,” wrote ex-Tribunite Deidre Pike in 2002.
Mary was “instrumental in helping the Nevada Alliance for Workers Rights (AWR) get a translator into agricultural areas to talk to non-
English-speaking farm and ranch workers. She worked for increased diversity in the city of Reno’s hiring process. When Sparks police started ticketing casual laborers on Galletti Way, the indignant Wilson was ready to do whatever she could to instigate change. She’s on the boards of AWR, Washoe Legal Services and the ACLU. She’s political action chair of the Reno-Sparks NAACP and serves on the advocacy committee for the League of United Latin American Citizens,” Pike reported.
Mary was also instrumental in establishing the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.
“Mary doesn’t get paid to do this,” the late AWR founder Tom Stoneburner told Pike.
“ ‘She has an activist fire in her.’
“He recalls not being able to talk Wilson out of picketing Renown/Washoe Medical Center with nurses who held a 24-hour strike ...
“ ‘She’s out there on the line with the nurses in the cold — and her health is terrible,’ Stoneburner says. “ ‘It’s a major hurdle just to get out there.’ ”
Such was Mary. When she asked me to stand in for her as political action chair of the Reno-Sparks NAACP, I was both humbled and honored.
Mary chose to continue serving even after her death. She willed her body to the UNR School of Medicine.
You may read more about this hard life well lived in Dr. Pike’s Reno News & Review profile which will be linked to the web edition of this column at NevadaLabor.com. A memorial service will be announced later.
“The obstacles ahead in the struggle for equality are high, but not insurmountable,” Mary wrote in 2001.
“We have come a long way since Jim Crow ruled the South. Unfortunately, deeply entrenched discrimination and racial violence still exist. The sense of moral urgency that fueled the civil rights era is just as imperative today.”
Congressional candidates of every stripe will participate in the first debate of the special election from 2 to 5 p.m. on Flag Day, Tuesday, at the Sierra View Library inside Reno Town Mall, South Virginia at Peckham. Info: Independent candidate Earl Ammerman, 843-9099.
On Wednesday, you need to be in two places at once. At 7 p.m., State Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, will discuss the recent legislative session at Washoe Democrats’ HQ, 1465 Terminal Way. Info: Marcy Kupfersmith 323-VOTE.
At the same time, Nevada historian Guy Rocha will host two free short films sponsored by the Industrial Workers of the World Union: “Might Makes Right: The Rise & Fall of the Comstock Miners’ Unions” and “Goldfield-New World Order: Failure of a Dream.” Showings happen every third Wednesday at the Studio on Fourth, 432 E. Fourth St. in Reno. Info: Chris Wedge 750-2214.
Next Sunday, June 19, the annual Juneteenth celebration starts at 11:00 a.m. at Wingfield Park on the river in Reno. The event celebrates June 19, 1865, when slaves in Texas were first informed of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation almost three years after it was issued. Info: Elaine McGraw Brannon, 354-2985.
In memoriam II
Operating Engineers Local 3/AFL-CIO Business Representative Mike Ayers, 59, died on May 27 after battling kidney cancer. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Monday at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Elko.
In memoriam III
Media supersalesman Dave “Fasto” Casto left for the big broadcast studio in the sky on March 27 in Phoenix, Ariz. He represented venerable rock station KCBN 1230-AM in the late 1970s and went on to found KZMK-FM in southeastern Arizona. Former local colleagues are working on more information. Stay tuned.
You will find the latest regional rerun schedule of the new Barbwire TV series linked to the web edition of this column at NevadaLabor.com. Next installments run at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. today, and 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. on Monday on Reno-Sparks-Washoe Charter cable 216 and Carson-Dayton 226. You may also view them 24/7 online.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 42-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and first vice-president of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.