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A Statement from the Cesar Chavez Foundation

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Over the past year, incidents of racial injustice including the murder of George Floyd and countless others have left many saddened, frustrated and oftentimes feeling hopeless. While this guilty verdict will not bring back George Floyd’s life, we hope it sets a precedent of accountability that is a step towards a more just society. There is much work that still needs to be done to ensure an equitable society for all regardless of race, color or creed. Racism has no place in this country and the Cesar Chavez Foundation condemns the racist system that took George Floyd’s life. We offer our deepest condolences to the Floyd family.

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National Fair Housing Month: An Interview with Chief Operating Officer Manuel Bernal

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In honor of National Fair Housing Month, we sat down with Chavez Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer Manuel Bernal to learn more about the Chavez Foundation’s role in access to fair and affordable housing.

What is fair housing?

It is illegal to discriminate in the sale or rental of housing, including against individuals seeking a mortgage or housing assistance, or in other housing-related activities. The Fair Housing Act prohibits this discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.

How are fair housing and affordable housing interconnected? 

The Fair Housing Act applies to everyone, market rate and affordable housing. However, because public funds—at various levels of government—drive the development of affordable housing, the scrutiny placed on affordable housing developers and operators tends to be much more stringent; and tenants have many more sympathetic avenues to listen to their concerns.  In fact, a substantial function for all affordable housing developers and operators is “Compliance.”   While the Compliance function has many sub-functions, a prominent sub-function is compliance to local, state and Federal Fair Housing laws.

How does affordable housing help to strengthen families and communities?

The driving concept behind affordable housing is that for some families the market costs of renting or owning their shelter exceeds their ability to pay—usually taking 33% of their income; an affordability gap exists.  Affordable housing fills that gap by either providing rental or ownership subsidies, or reducing the production and/or operating costs so that families can afford the shelter.  By filling the affordability gap, in various ways, affordable housing strengthens families by (1) not having to have multiple jobs to afford the rent or mortgage, thus increasing family time, (2) allowing them to redirect their remaining resources to other essential items like food and healthcare and (3) allowing them to save money to invest in themselves—like education for themselves and their children, purchasing a home, opening up a business, etc.  

Affordable housing not only strengthens families but strengthens communities as well. Affordable housing fosters diversity in communities by allowing families to live where otherwise they would not be able to afford.  In turn, diversity fosters understanding among people that otherwise would not interact.   Also, affordable housing is an economic development tool for communities.  It brings tax revenue and disposable income spending.  Finally, affordable housing is a long-term asset for communities.  Affordable housing will positively impact communities for the useful life of the development, which tends to be at least 50 years.

What are some long-term solutions to fair and affordable housing?

Fair Housing is an on-going battle against discriminatory practices by those who control housing finance, development and operations. When people’s mindsets are at play, it is hard to imagine that, at a practical level, Fair Housing for all will ever be achieved.  You cannot put a number to that.  Which only means that we as a society must find the means, energy and tools to continue this on-going battle.  

Similarly, resolving affordable housing seems equally daunting.  But since the affordable housing problem is primarily a numbers game (e.g. the gap between the cost of housing and what people can afford to pay), and not a mindset change, at least in theory affordable housing seems easier to solve.  Resources would have to be invested in reducing the cost of housing AND increasing the incomes of families.  You can put a number to that.

What happens when communities don’t have access to fair and affordable housing?

Housing is a basic need.  When adequate housing is not available, the ills that plague societies manifest themselves in varying degrees.  Just look around to identify our socials ills, and many can be traced to the lack of affordable housing.

When thinking of solutions to fair and affordable housing, what role does the Chavez Foundation play?

Housing discrimination and the lack of affordable housing have become gigantic and complex problems.  While it is impossible for CCF to solve these problems on our own, we can make contributions.  Our Housing and Economic Development team have been entrusted with leveraging $5 billion for underserved communities over the next 7 years.  That investment will create thousands of affordable housing units, and thus make a substantial contribution to the supply of affordable housing in this country.  In addition, CCF is committed to operating its affordable housing portfolio through its property management team.  This will ensure consistent compliance on all our units for all our families to all local, state and Federal fair housing laws.  

How does housing inequality connect to Cesar’s legacy?

Fair and affordable housing have a strong connection to Cesar’s legacy.  Fair and affordable housing speaks to:  addressing a basic human need; treating people with respect and dignity; leveling the playing field and giving families a chance at success;  addressing the larger needs of families, in addition to workplace needs; helping communities thrive.

The Cesar Chavez Foundation builds and manages quality, affordable, multi-generational housing with amenities including Si Se Puede Learning Centers and Si Se Puede Senior Centers. Click here to learn more about the Chavez Foundation’s Housing and Economic Development Fund.

Manuel Bernal’s nearly 30-year career in community development began as a Management Analyst for the City of Los Angeles Housing Department underwriting loans with HOME and CDBG funds. He later served as an Underwriter of equity investments at the National Equity Fund and was a co-founder and first Executive Director of the East L.A. Community Corporation. Manuel first joined the Chavez Foundation in 1999 and served until 2011 as Executive Vice President for Housing and Economic Development, and served on Chavez Foundations Board of Directors from 2011 to 2017. Prior to his current position, Manuel was the Director of Multi-family Housing for the City of Los Angeles.

Image: Las Palmas de Sal Gonzales, the Housing and Economic Development Fund’s newest energy efficient property for low income families and seniors in Fresno, Calif.

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First Lady visits Forty Acres on Cesar Chavez’s birthday

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Dr. Jill Biden honoring a man who spent his life serving others as 1,000s of farm workers are vaccinated where the union began in Delano—250 more workers getting shots on Cesar Chavez’s March 31 birthday

Delano, Calif.—Dr. Jill Biden honors a man who dedicated his life to serving others by spending Cesar Chavez’s birthday, Wednesday, March 31, at the historic “Forty Acres” property where the union began outside Delano and where thousands of farm workers are being vaccinated against COVID-19. Dr. Biden will participate as another 250 workers get vaccinated on Wednesday. Vaccination clinics there have administered about 1,100 shots each weekend over the previous three weeks in March through a partnership between the Cesar Chavez Foundation (which owns and manages the Forty Acres), United Farm Workers, UFW Foundation, Kern County Latino COVID-19 Task Force, Kern County and Kern Medical Center.

The Chavez foundation’s network of Spanish- and English-language radio stations has encouraged farm workers to call the bilingual toll free call centers of UFW Foundation and the Latino COVID-19 task force for appointments to get their shots. They are administered at the Forty Acres by staff from Kern Medical Center that handles check-in and administration.

Vaccinations are open to all farm workers 18 years and older at no charge and regardless of immigration status. No health insurance or doctor’s order is required.

The First Lady will be greeted and meet at the Forty Acres with farm worker movement leaders, farm workers, Chavez family members and staff and volunteers who have been organizing the vaccinations throughout the month of March.

Agricultural workers have turned to the Forty Acres with their problems since the 1960s. The 40-acre grounds include the spacious Reuther Hall where medical personnel set up shop. Workers and other Latinos have regularly visited the Forty Acres during the pandemic for distribution of large quantities of emergency food and face masks.

An adobe-brick former co-op service station at the entrance to the complex is where Cesar Chavez fasted for 25 days to rededicate the UFW to nonviolence and where he was joined by Senator Robert F. Kennedy when the fast ended on March 10, 1968. “It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life,” Chavez said in a statement read for him because he was so weak.

Dr. Biden will visit that structure, which includes a large storeroom displaying photos of the 1965-1970 Delano grape strike and the small restored room where Chavez fasted in 1968. The Forty Acres was dedicated as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 2008.

Dr. Biden will also meet with farm workers. Farm labor issues have evolved over time, but today coalesce around the UFW- and UFW Foundation-sponsored Farm Workforce Modernization Act letting immigrant field laborers earn legal status and a path to citizenship by continuing to work in agriculture, which President Biden strongly backs.

“Just as farm worker issues have evolved through the years—and our movement with them—it is powerful to see historic sites such as Forty Acres evolving with new purposes,” said United Farm Workers President Teresa Romero. “It’s also heartening when people in positions of power take the time to meet with and understand farm workers and the barriers they face. Most urgent for them now is immigration justice and the path forward with the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.”

“We are honored by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden’s visit to the Cesar Chavez Day vaccination event in Delano,” said UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres. “Farm workers have put their lives at risk during the pandemic to feed this nation and they want protection from COVID-19. Through partnerships like the one at the Forty Acres, we’ve been able to provide thousands of farm workers access to vaccines. We will continue to work with the Biden Administration to ensure that life-saving vaccines reach farm workers throughout the country.” 

“For us, the Forty Acres is sacred ground,” said Cesar Chavez Foundation President Paul F. Chavez. “It was the first permanent home for our movement and where my father fasted for 25 days in 1968, calling on all of us to dedicate ourselves to serving others. So what better way to keep my dad’s legacy alive today than by vaccinating farm workers here at the Forty Acres? What more fitting way for Dr. Biden to honor him than by taking part in helping protect farm workers who have suffered so disproportionately from COVID-19?”

Some 63 miles away, southeast of Bakersfield at the Tehachapi Mountain town of Keene, is the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument where Chavez lived and labored his last quarter century, and where he is buried with his wife, Helen. It is the 398th unit of the National Park Service and administered in partnership by the park service and the National Chavez Center, part of the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

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A Legacy of Service Virtual Video Series

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Join the Cesar Chavez Foundation for “A Legacy of Service,” a new virtual series bringing together experts, thought leaders, and activists to learn about the values Cesar Chavez epitomized as a way to inspire others to take action. These pre-recorded conversations are available online and available to everyone.

“A Legacy of Service” premieres here on Cesar Chavez Day, March 31. Join Cesar Chavez Foundation President Paul Chavez and UFW President Teresa Romero in conversation as they discuss Cesar Chavez’s bold vision for a strong farmworkers’ union as well as services that would support that union by building communities up beyond the workplace. Learn about Cesar’s ambitious vision, and how half a century later, the lasting and ongoing effects of his work continue to transcend even his original aim.

Premiering March 31, 2021: Paul Chavez In Conversation with Teresa Romero 

Join us in encouraging our community, friends, and family members to learn more about Cesar Chavez’s legacy. #legacyofservice.

 

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President Biden’s Oval Office displaying Cesar Chavez bust

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Cesar Chavez Foundation sends sculpture to White House from Cesar E. Chavez National Monument

 

Keene, Calif.—A bronze bust of civil rights and farm labor leader Cesar Chavez is on display in President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Oval Office. The 9 by 22” bronze sculpture on a granite pedestal by artist Paul A. Suarez had been on display in the Visitor Center of the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument, the 398th unit of the National Park Service (NPS). This is where Chavez lived and labored his last quarter century and where he is buried alongside his wife, Helen, in the Tehachapi Mountain town of Keene, Calif. southeast of Bakersfield.

 

The President-elect’s transition team requested the artwork for the Oval Office and it was shipped to the White House by the Cesar Chavez Foundation, which through its arm, the National Chavez Center (NCC), helps administer the national monument in a partnership with the park service.

 

“Placing a bust of my father in the Oval Office symbolizes the hopeful new day that is dawning for our nation,” said Paul F. Chavez, Chavez’s middle son and president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation. “That isn’t just because it honors my dad, but more importantly because it represents faith and empowerment for an entire people on whose behalf he fought and sacrificed.”

 

“The most important quality about Cesar Chavez I wanted to convey with this sculpture was his compassion,” affirmed the artist, Paul Suarez. “It was created 25 years ago, relying heavily on research and input from people who were close to him.”

 

The historic Keene property, encompassing 187 acres, is managed collaboratively by the National Chavez Center and National Park Service. It includes three acres NCC donated to the park service to create the national monument when it was dedicated by President Obama during a ceremony in 2012. The Cesar Chavez Foundation and United Farm Workers are also headquartered on the grounds.

 

Suarez, 62, is a native of the west Central Valley farm town of Hanford, Calif. who now resides with his family in Tennessee. Self-taught, he has worked in bronze and stone as well as painted on canvas.

Students from the Salandini Villa Si Se Puede Learning Center present a Cesar Chavez Day play

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Every year students from Si Se Puede Learning Centers across California and the Southwest choose a service learning project in honor of Cesar Chavez Day. Students from Salandini Villa Apartments in Parlier, Calif. chose to reenact a play inspired by Cesar Chavez. They spent months rehearsing their lines and building a set and props in preparation for their big performance. Sadly, due to the coronavirus outbreak all in-person programs were canceled. However, the show must go on! Enjoy an animation version of their production.

 

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Statement from Cesar Chavez Foundation President Paul F. Chavez: “We stand in solidarity…”

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Our hearts are heavy as we offer our sincere condolences to the families and friends of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others whose senseless deaths reflect the systemic racism that has plagued this country for hundreds of years.

 

Black lives matter. It is incumbent upon our society as a whole to acknowledge and address institutional racism in order to enact change that has been missing for far too long.

 

As the Cesar Chavez Foundation carries out its daily work of inspiring and transforming communities, it is important for us to remember the words that Dr. King wrote to Cesar Chavez, “Our separate struggles are really one–a struggle for freedom, for dignity and for humanity.”

 

We stand in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters in the fight for a more equitable and just society.

 

Paul F. Chavez
President
Cesar Chavez Foundation

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World Central Kitchen & Farm Worker Movement Distribute Meals for Farm Worker Families

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Delano, Calif.—More than 1,000 meals were distributed Wednesday in Delano to families suffering amidst the coronavirus pandemic, launching a joint effort by the UFW Foundation and World Central Kitchen, in coordination with the United Farm Workers and Cesar Chavez Foundation, that will expand throughout many farm worker communities in California. The meals passed out at the movement’s Forty Acres property west of Delano were prepared by local restaurants. Meals will be provided at least once a week in Delano and in each of the farm worker communities that will be served through this partnership. Farm worker communities are being notified of the food distribution through the Cesar Chavez Foundation radio networks, La Campesina and Forge.

Since its founding, World Central Kitchen has served more than 17 million meals to those impacted by natural disasters and other crises around the world, including the coronavirus global pandemic.

 

Nate Mook, chief executive officer of World Central Kitchen, said, “Farm workers truly are the backbone of America’s food system … without them, there would be nothing at our grocery stores and farmers markets, no food on our plates. We’re proud to stand beside this community and help uplift them at this vital time, working with and supporting local restaurants to serve not only meals to farm workers and their families, but also dignity and hope for the future.”

 

Diana Tellefson Torres, executive director of the UFW Foundation affirmed, “Farm workers and their families remain some of the most vulnerable during this pandemic even though they are officially defined as essential workers. Our partnership with World Central Kitchen, local restaurants and sister organizations in the farm worker movement provides relief and is a sign of hope for thousands of families that have been especially hard hit.”

 

Teresa Romero, president of the United Farm Workers, stated, “It is an especially tragic irony that too many of the people who produce the food that sustains all of us are in need during the crisis. These meals are also important because too many farm workers who are undocumented receive no benefits such as unemployment insurance and taxpayer checks from relief measures such as the $2.2 trillion stimulus law recently passed by Congress.”

 

Paul Chavez, president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, said, “The Cesar Chavez Foundation is proud to be a partner in this important effort taking place at the historic Forty Acres. Through actions like food distributions, my father’s legacy lives on and continues to inspire and transform our most vulnerable communities during these difficult times.”