César Chávez on the cover of Time Magazine 1969
Cesar Chavez Day, Social Justice

Why César Chávez Day Needs to be Remembered

César Chávez on the cover of Time Magazine 1969
César Chávez on the cover of Time Magazine 1969

César Chávez was an Arizonian, WWII Veteran, a father, husband, organizer, and a leader.

Chávez’ legacy as a leader among farm workers’ unions is honored Friday, March 31st, on what would have been his 90th birthday. On this day, the UFW martyrs also need to be remembered. These were men and women from Yemen, Mexico, and the United States. They were Jewish, Muslim, Catholic and Protestant.

The Spanish phrase: “Si Se Puede” (Yes, You Can) was coined by César Chávez during a 1972 fast in which the Mexican-American farm worker rights advocate protested a signed Arizona bill that denied farm workers the right to strike and boycott during harvest seasons.

From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength.-

César Chávez

In 2012 former Secretary of Labor, Hilda L. Solis hosted the Induction of the Pioneers of the Farm Worker Movement into the Labor Hall of Honor and the naming of the César E. Chávez Memorial Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

Thanks to César Chávez and the UFW the actions led to these accomplishments:

  • The abolishment of the short-handled hoe that crippled generations of farm workers.
  • Unemployment, disability and workers’ compensation benefits for farm workers;
  •  Establishment of labor contracts with employers that require rest periods,
  •  Toilets in the fields.
  •  Clean drinking water, hand washing facilities,
  •  Protective clothing against pesticide exposure.
  •  Banning pesticide spraying while workers are in the fields.
  •  Outlawing DDT and other dangerous pesticides.
  •  Eliminating farm labor contractors and guaranteeing farm workers seniority rights and job security.
  •  Creation of a pension plan for retired farm workers; a credit union.
  •  and comprehensive union health benefits for farm workers and their families.

Not many people know of the men and women who participated in and fought for the establishment of the UFW. They were inducted into the Labor Hall of Fame:

Nan Freeman: an 18-year old college freshman from Wakefield, Massachusetts who gave her life while picketing with striking farm workers in central Florida in the middle of the night because of her love for justice. In Cesar’s words, Nan was Kadosha in the Hebrew tradition, a “holy person” to be forever honored.

Rufino Contreras: a 27-year-old husband, father of two and a dedicated union activist who was shot to death in the Imperial Valley lettuce field for demanding a more just share of what he himself produced during the 1979 vegetable industry strike

Nagi Daifallah: a young Muslim immigrant from South Yemen who was killed during the 1973 grape strike after he gave himself completely to the union to escape the trap of powerlessness. Nagi immigrated to this country to escape poverty, only to rediscover it in California’s rich fields and vineyards. He learned English, could communicate well, served as a translator for UFW organizers and became active with the union.

Juan De La Cruz: a 60-year old immigrant from Mexico, a gentle man who knew firsthand the benefits of a UFW contract. He was also a grape striker and an original union member recruited by Cesar in the early ‘60s. Juan died two days after Nagi’s killing when shots rang out on a vineyard picket line and Juan shielded his wife, Maximina, with his body.

Rene Lopez was only 21 when he came home and proudly told his mother, “Here is my first union card. Now I am important. Now I am a man.” A short time later, grower goons gunned Rene down just after he voted in a union election at Sikkema Dairy near Fresno, which he and his co-workers were striking. Rene was young, but, as Cesar observed, “he had already felt the call to social justice.”

César Chávez has a special connection to my county, Ventura, because he lived in Oxnard as a child and returned as an adult to organize protests and boycotts to secure better wages and working conditions for farm workers.

This is my mom at last year’s march:

Chavez march oxnard
Mom at C.C March, Oxnard 2016

Here are some old posts: Remembering Cesar Chavez and My Mother

A March Down Memory Lane

There is no such thing as defeat in non-violence.

I hope you commemorate the day with serving others, doing random acts of kindness, or teaching others about Chávez’ legacy.

And, if you’re interested, this year the César Chávez March is on April 2, 2017. This is a nationwide list of the #Resist #WeFeedYou #CesarChavez celebration march.

Inspiration, Social Justice

Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes

MLK Jr. Quote on Racism, Truth, Love
MLK Jr. Quote on Racism, Truth, Love

In the midst of hateful name-calling, bullying, and divisive words from the POTUS these past months, we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. a man who walked the walk of peace, stood up to oppression and injustice, and died much too soon.

Celebrate this day by demonstrating compassion, be kind, share peace. Wherever there is an injustice, use your words to speak up, to write an email, or to sign a petition for justice.

Be of service to others, refuse to give up hope, and work to make our community and nation stronger.

Martin Luther King, Jr. quote on his dream
#WeNeedDIverseBooks, Social Justice

Thoughts on Ferguson and Recommended Resources

flickr.com
flickr.com

“People know about the Klan and the overt racism, but the killing of one’s soul little by little, day after day, is a lot worse than someone coming in your house and lynching you” Samuel L. Jackson

Jackson’s statement succinctly states how racism affects people.

Imagine how this feels, being bombarded with these messages from toddlerhood to adult. I can tell you, firsthand, it stirs up shame, embarrassment, anger, fear, and conflict. 

Now imagine that your children go through the same kind of racism, much more covertly these days as well as overtly, and you can see how one could feel negatively about themselves and those who are racist. 

My son, who just returned from college in Colorado to California last month, experienced stares, glares, and questioning looks when he and his friend stopped at gas stations and in towns through Utah. No tattoos on arms, neck, face, no ‘gang attire,’ just ordinary college kids who are six feet two, with light brown skin.

One of their friends, in another car, had to stop on the side of the road to let his car engine cool. A car passed by, the occupants yelled “Go back to Mexico.” He’s not from Mexico, he’s from Oregon. 

This scene didn’t bother my son too much, he said, because he sees these remarks as ignorant. “Their behavior says more about them as human beings, than about me.” 

This was not the worse example, just the latest.

We need to counteract racism at every level. 

We need, as parents, neighbors, communities, church members, schools, to do our part in eradicating racism, if we are to live in a better world. 

The article below is from Jason Low, of Lee and Low Publishers. He gives some valuable resources, to discuss and think about. 

the open book

The following is a note from our Publisher, Jason Low, published in this month’s e-newsletter:

image from BirdIt’s been a hard few weeks for those of us following the news out of Ferguson, Missouri. While the exact details of Michael Brown’s death remain unknown, we can already see how this latest incident fits into a larger narrative in this country in which people of color are routinely discriminated against and subject to violence based on the color of their skin. Healing and change cannot begin until we as a country acknowledge the role racism plays not just in events like Michael Brown’s death, but in the everyday lived experiences of the 37% of America that is not white.

From a distance, it can seem like our book-filled corner of the world doesn’t have much to do with Michael Brown’s death, but we know better. The need for more diverse books…

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Maya Angelou, Mexican History, poetry, Poetry Month, poets, Sandra Cisneros, Social Justice, Strength

Poetry on Wednesdays-Political Poetry

Poetry and Politics-JFK quote. alvaradofrazier.com
Poetry and Politics-JFK quote. alvaradofrazier.com

Remember high school English classes?

That was my first introduction to poetry. Old poets. Lot’s of ‘thee’s and thou’s,” and too much Old English stuff.

I was a studious person, more logical than emotional, so many poems went over my head.

That was until I went to college, in the mid ’70’s. It was an eyeopener when I read the profound words of contemporary poets Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni, who spoke of racism and the strength of women.

I found only two Chicano/Mexican American poets, both male: Alurista and the political activist, Rudulfo “Corky” Gonzales.

Yo Soy Joaquin, I am Joaquin, gripped me from the beginning.

This bilingual poem, published in 1967, summarized Mexican and Mexican American history, from the exploitation of the natives through colonial times, to the present. The poem served as a nationalist ideology for political activism, using the historical events of the 19th Century social rebel, Joaquin Murrieta.

The poem was groundbreaking, revitalizing, and began a social movement. Since it is several pages long, here’s an excerpt from the middle of the poem:

I am Joaquin. 
I rode with Pancho Villa, 
crude and warm, a tornado at full strength, 
nourished and inspired by the passion and the fire of all his earthy people. 
I am Emiliano Zapata. 
“This land, this earth is OURS.” 
The villages, the mountains, the streams 
belong to Zapatistas. 
Our life or yours is the only trade for soft brown earth and maize. 
All of which is our reward, 
a creed that formed a constitution 
for all who dare live free! 
“This land is ours . . . 
Father, I give it back to you. 
Mexico must be free. . . .” 
I ride with revolutionists 
against myself. 
I am the Rurales, 
coarse and brutal, 
I am the mountian Indian, 
superior over all. 
The thundering hoof beats are my horses. The chattering machine guns 
are death to all of me: 
Yaqui 
Tarahumara 
Chamala 
Zapotec 
Mestizo 
Español. 
I have been the bloody revolution, 
The victor, 
The vanquished. 

 

You can read the entire epic poem here. 

In the 80’s and ’90’s, I fell in love with poems and novels by Sandra Cisneros. My love affair with Ms. Cisneros’ work is well documented on my blog. For me, her poems in “Wicked, Wicked Ways” and “Loose Woman,” spanned the politics of women.

Ms. Cisneros is my ‘she-ro.’  My favorite poem is “You Bring Out the Mexican In Me.”

It’s also fairly long, so I’ll print one of her short poems:

Black Lace Bra Kind of Woman

 

Watchale! She’s a black lace bra

kind of woman, the kind who serves

up suicide with every kamikazi

poured into neon blue of evening

A tease and a twirl. I’ve seen that

two-step girl in action. I’ve gambled bad

odds and sat shotgun as she rambled

her ’59 Pontiac between the blurred

lines dividing sense from senselessness

Ruin your clothes, she will.

Get you home after hours

driving her ’59 seventy five on 35

like there is no tomorrow.

Woman zydeco-ing into her own decade.

Thirty years pleated behind her like

the wail of a San Antonio accordion.

And now the good times are coming. Girl,

I tell you, the good times are here.

From LOOSE WOMAN, 1994 pg. 78

 

Until next week, thanks for reading.