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Cesar Chavez March this Sunday in Mission Hills PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia, Sun Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 22 March 2012 04:46

Grandson Shares the Legacy of Civil Rights Leaders

PHOTO COURTESY

Anthony Chavez (holding red flag) stands next to his grandfather, Cesar Chavez. Along with them is Anthony's cousin, Arthur Rodriguez.

Nineteen years after his passing, the legacy of social justice advocated by Cesar Chavez is still relevant today, said Alex Reza of the Cesar Chavez Commemorative Committee/San Fernando Valley, which every year organizes a march in honor of the labor leader. The event takes place this Sunday in Mission Hills.

Reza marched with Chavez, and in memoriam continues to march in his honor along with other long time supporters of the United Farm Workers.

"The values that guided his life are very relevant to today's challenges. His main focus was pride to workers, living wage, health care, a safe work environment, reasonable pension systems, those were the goals he set in the 1960s," Reza said. "We are facing that at a national level."

"Issues of food contamination and pollution are still a major problem, especially where people of color live. All those issues were on the mind of Cesar and are still visible today," Reza added. "Improving those conditions is still viable today and Cesar's legacy helps us keep that focus in mind."

Aztec dancers, students, politicians and special guests, including Chavez' grandson, Anthony Chavez, will gather starting at 11 a.m. this Sunday, March 25, at Brand Park, 15174 Brand Blvd., in Mission Hills.

Growing up in the moment

For Anthony, the son of Socorro and Paul Chavez, Chavez' middle son, the farm worker movement has been a life long experience, not just a yearly event.

From a very young age, "we grew up participating in marches and rallies," remembered the 26-year-old who travels throughout the country visiting schools and talking to young people about the life and work of his famous grandfather.

"We didn't know exactly what we were doing, but we had an idea. We would talk about it at the dinner table," he said of those events on behalf of farm workers, grocery workers and teachers, among others.

To this day, Anthony says he's still learning about the life and legacy of his grandfather.

"I still go to communities and hear stories about my family that I had never heard before," said Anthony, who graduated from California State University, Bakersfield in 2007 with a Comparative Religion degree and a minor in political science.

"I hear stories of how tough it was working in the field and how my grandfather worked to make a better situation."

"My parents always instilled in us that whatever we were doing was to help others that needed the help. That even if we didn't have a lot, we would give something to give back and support others."

PHOTO COURTESY

Anthony Chavez, Cesar Chavez' grandson, is one of the special guests at this Sunday's march in Mission Hills in honor of the labor leader.

The March

From Brand Park, this year's March for Justice, titled "50 Years of Fighting for Justice- La Lucha Sigue," will depart at noon.

This year's theme is based on the fact that 50 years ago, Chavez, Dolores Huerta and others gathered in Fresno for the first meeting of the National Farm Workers Association that would later become the United Farm Workers (UFW), the group that Chavez led until his death in 1993.

Another special guest at the event this year will be Roberto Bustos, one of the original strikers and boycotters in the UFW going back to 1965, as well as one of the main organizers of the 1968 march from Delano to Sacramento that brought national attention to the farm worker movement and Cesar Chavez.

The march will conclude at Ritchie Valens Recreation Center at the corner of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Paxton Street in Pacoima, where a cultural arts festival with entertainment, dances, information booth and a health fair will follow.

The festival will also include "Celebre la Ciencia" (Celebrate Science), a group of exhibits that stimulate interest in science careers among young people. Also on hand will be a physics professor from UCLA who will illustrate principles of physics to children and teenagers.

Every year, as part of the Cesar Chavez celebration, the Commemorative Committee recognizes a community member with the Cesar Chavez Social Justice Award. This year's award will go posthumously to Julie Ruelas, a fomer San Fernando City councilmember, founder of the San Fernando Art and History Museum and professor at Los Angeles Mission College.

The life of Cesar

Chavez was born in Yuma, Arizona to a farm worker family and he, himself, worked in the fields before taking part in World War II and eventually becoming a civil rights and labor leader with the UFW. He passed away at the age of 66 in 1993.

He led boycotts, marches and strikes in favor of better working conditions for farm workers. In 2000, his birthday March 31 became a state holiday, where people are encouraged to volunteer in community service projects.

Despite being an icon to many, Chavez's legacy is still largely unknown to youngsters today, said Reza, another motivation for them to organize the yearly march.

"A lot of our youth do not know the whole range of Cesar's contributions. Some of them know vaguely. They don't really understand he was one of the most important civil rights and labor leaders," he said.

"That his efforts can be applied to today's issues and one of his main contributions was to help us realize that no matter how tough challenges may be or how tough our foes are, if we are committed to non violent change we can make a difference and create a better world the way he did."

Anthony Chavez concurs

People don't always know who Cesar Chavez was and sometimes they don't distinguish the word "farm" and "farm workers," he said.

Often, the "Si Se Puede" phrase that became synonymous with his grandfather is often the starting point for the talks he gives at schools and colleges.

"Everybody knows the words because they've heard them at soccer games or from President Obama, but many don't know these words came from the farm worker movement," he said.

He said events such as this Sunday's march give him an opportunity to provide a "living history" of the work of Chavez and try to personalize it for today's generations.

"I try to encourage kids to make Cesar Chavez day a day to learn and take those ideals and going out and being of service to community like he did," he said. "That community involvement is the real way to make change. That's the attitude and spirit of Si Se Puede."

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Last Updated on Thursday, 22 March 2012 23:59