A REPRINT OF MY TRIBUTE TO THE LEGACY OF CESAR CHAVEZ:
As we celebrate Cesar Chavez Day, let us always remember his call for unity, equality, and justice for all Americans: Sí, se puede!
Cesar Chavez is one of the ultimate heroes for a lot of us … founder of the United Farm Workers, keeping the fires of justice alive even when it wasn’t popular or cool or politically correct. Say what you will about him, but he completely walked the talk and showed many of us how to do this without fear of the consequences, that it was always right to do the right thing, that a movement could start with one person.
My parents both went back to school when we were little; this was right at the peak of the Chicano Rights Movement and the heyday of the grape and lettuce boycotts. Therefore, we were privileged enough to see a lot of the protests and store boycotts up close. I even remember our Dad driving the family car into a Safeway parking lot and then right out again to the cheers and shouts of the UFW supporters with their picket signs. As I got older, I remember going on marches, seeing Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta speak on a number of occasions and, quite frankly, started looking for ways to promote my heritage, that Latinos were real people, that we should be a part of the solution and not part of the problem. If someone like Cesar Chavez could do and DID it, then it must be ok for me to try and do the same.
I got to meet him when I was at Sac State – we were planning Cinco de Mayo (surprise surprise) and we wanted to bring Cesar Chavez to speak at the University. So I wrote him the letter and, to my surprise, he said YES and sent his response in writing! I still get excited when I think of that time and, now that I organize events for my living, I think back on how I could have organized that special event better 🙂 To have Cesar Chavez sit down and spend time with us made us feel so important and galvanized us to support him in what would be his final fast for justice. Below you’ll see a copy of the letter to me from Cesar Chavez:
My roommate Lisa and I drove to 40 Acres on the day that he broke the fast and took communion for the first time in weeks. I remember that we were partying the night before and had no sleep but it was awesome to be present at that special Mass in Delano and I know that I came away inspired and motivated to continue to walk the talk as best as I could.
I often wonder what Cesar Chavez would think about the current anti-immigrant climate in the US, and how he would inspire, motivate and galvanize people to put the issue on the front page instead of the back burner. I hope that his spirit of justice will help us prevail in this complex and polarizing issue and to remind the world that it is important to take care of the people who work in the worst of conditions to harvest the food that reaches our table every day. Also looking forward to the day that we celebrate Cesar Chavez as a nation … SI SE PUEDE!