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March 31 Is Cesar Chavez Day: What You Can Do

A day for public service is the best way Californians can commemorate Cesar Chavez, says Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salinas), who sponsored a resolution commending the contributions Cesar Chavez.

 

The California State Assembly officially recognized Cesar Chavez Day and called on all Californians to observe it as a day of service.

Authored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salinas), ACR 73 highlights the contributions that farm worker leader Cesar Chavez made to California.

“To many Californians, the farm workers’ 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 community organizer  who took the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi's use of non-violence for positive change, and turned it into a movement for migrant farm workers’ rights that gained national attention.

Born in 1927 in Yuma, Arizona, Chavez grew up helping on his family’s farm. He dealt with prejudice at a young age, as teachers strictly forbid Mexican-American children from speaking any Spanish 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 San Jose entity that served a mostly Latino population.

He left to found the National Farm Workers’ Association. It merged into the organization now known as United Farm Workers, allying with Larry ItliongPhilip Vera Cruz and Pete Velasco, leaders of Filipino farm workers' group, the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee which had initiated some of the first strikes in Coachella and Delano.

Chavez found supporters in the Northern California, meeting in Los Altos Hills at . It was that the grape boycott was planned, according to Laura Bajuk, executive director of the Los Altos History Museum. In the late 1960s, with growing visibility and support from presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy —plus the millions of Americans who heeded his call to boycott grapes from the Delano growers — the organization gained national attention and stunningly, contracts from the grape growers. With the support first-time Governor Jerry Brown the UFW successfully won the right to organize in 1975. 

Events

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

  • Veggielution Community Farm in San Jose will host its 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 reportedly a 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, the city of 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.

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