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Honoring Service: Cesar Chavez Day, and How You Can Get Involved

Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) recognizes contributions Cesar Chavez made to California and calls on Californians to give back to their communities.

Cesar Chavez said: “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community... Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

On Thursday, the California State Assembly officially recognized Cesar Chavez Day as March 31—Saturday—and called on all Californians to observe it as a day of service.

Authored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) and more than 60 other leaders, ACR 73 shines light on the contributions that farm worker and activist Cesar Chavez made to California.

“To many Californians, the farmworkers’ struggle is an issue from the past,” said Alejo, whose district includes Gilroy and Watsonville, in a statement about the resolution. “But the challenges of farmworkers did not disappear with the passing of Cesar Chavez. In Cesar’s memory, I call on all Californians to celebrate this day as a day of public service.”

Chavez, who passed away at the age of 66 in 1993, was a pacifist and civil rights activist who received national attention in his fight for migrant and farm workers’ rights.

Born in 1927 in Yuma, Arizona, Chavez grew up helping on his family’s farm. He dealt with prejudice at a young age, as his teachers strictly forbid him from speaking any Spanish—his native language—at school.

He served in the military for two years, before moving to San Jose, where he married his high-school sweetheart. He worked as a farm laborer until 1952, when he became an organizer for the Community Service Organization, a Latino civil rights group.

He left to found his own organization, the National Farm Workers’ Association (later called United Farm Workers), with Dolores Huerta. The organization successfully and non-violently protested for, and won, higher wages for grape and lettuce growers, gaining national attention. Throughout his life, he continued to tiredlessly and nonviolently fight for and acheive better conditions for workers.

Although the offiical holiday is Saturday, Cesar Chavez Day will be observd today (Friday) in many areas.

How You Can Get Involved

In the spirit of Chavez, the following are celebrations and volunteer opportunities occurring Friday and Saturday:

  • Veggielution Community Farm in San Jose will host their first ever Cesar Chavez Day Celebration. The day kicks off by helping plant tomatoes, eggplants, and other summer crops. Then enjoy a potluck lunch, a discussion by “A Farmworkers’ Journey author Dr. Ann Lopez, and children’s games and activities.
  • From 1 to 5 p.m. on Friday, volunteer at TerraGnoma’s community garden in Santa Cruz, helping with  and maintaining the site. As a bonus, if you arrive by 12:30 p.m., you’ll be treated to a community potluck, with seasonal food and drink from the garden. 
  • Chavez was a vegan, and strong advocate of animal rights. In honor of his beliefs,  in Mountain View Saturday at 1 p.m., and volunteer to be a foster parent. 
  • Attend one of the many local farmers markets in the area, supporting local farmers from the Bay Area and the Central Valley. A short drive from Campbell, the Santa Teresa Farmers’ Market is taking place this Saturday at Kaiser Permanente San Jose. 
  • If you’re up for making the trek, Los Banos will host its Sixth Annual César Chávez Day march and rally at noon on March 31. Featuring speeches and performances bands from Gilroy and Watsonville, the march will snake through town, paying homage to Chavez.
Steve Bankhead March 31, 2012 at 03:48 PM
I've read that decades ago Cesar had his brother and other UFW members go to the southern border and beat up illegal immigrants trying to cross into the U.S. because he feared they would provide non-union labor, thereby weakening his ability to push contract demands with strikes. Will anyone be busting heads on the border this year to celebrate Cesar's legacy?

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