William & Mary University celebrated Latinx Heritage Month with a photo exhibition commemorating the life of Cesar Chavez.
The exhibition “Cesar Chavez: Legacy of a Leader” displayed 30 historic black and white photographs from the National Chavez Center archives. The exhibition gave an overview of the life and work of Cesar Chavez, beginning with his early life on an Arizona homestead and highlighting his efforts to unite farm workers through community organizing, labor strikes, marches, and boycotts. Notably, the exhibition focused on the 1965 Delano, California, grape strike, a turning point in the American labor movement.
The Muscarelle Museum of Art’s director of engagement, Steve Prince, and facilities and exhibitions manager, Kevin Gilliam, curated the exhibition. The Center for Student Diversity organized it with the aim of acknowledging and celebrating the achievements and contributions of Latinx students, faculty, and staff to the William & Mary community.
Andres Chavez, the executive director of the National Chavez Center and Cesar Chavez’s grandson, stated, “Partnerships like this are an opportunity for us to re-introduce Cesar Chavez to modern audiences and in modern contexts.” He added that Cesar’s legacy is widespread and nuanced, and they are thrilled to share it with students and scholars from across the United States as they lead up to the centennial of Cesar Chavez’s birth in 2027.
The grand opening of “Cesar Chavez: Legacy of a Leader” was held on September 22 and featured a keynote speech by Arturo Rodriguez, president emeritus of the UFW, who was its president for 25 years after Cesar Chavez’s death.
Eric Romero, director of archives at the National Chavez Center, and Prince conducted a community flag-making event with students at Lafayette High School. The event was based on the historic UFW work of boycotts, strikes, and marches. Members and supporters of the UFW would gather in community spaces to design and produce picket signs, banners, and flags for the movement. According to Romero, “This show is a great opportunity for us to strengthen our outreach programs and begin sharing our organizational archives to find meaningful historical documents that showcase the legacy of Cesar Chavez.”
Looking to learn more about the archives at the National Chavez Center? The National Chavez Center believes in sharing its history by connecting with diverse communities. For more information, please contact Eric Romero at email@example.com.
About William & Mary
The second-oldest institution of higher learning in the country and a cutting-edge research university. Building on more than 300 years of innovation and excellence, William & Mary transcends the boundaries between research and teaching, teaching and learning, learning and living. As a “Public Ivy” — one of only eight in the nation — we offer a world-class education at an exceptional value.
Credit: This news post was originally published by William & Mary.
To honor both Hispanic Heritage Month and Filipino American History Month, Stop AAPI Hate spoke with Marc Grossman, spokesperson for the Cesar Chavez Foundation, on the legacy of cross-racial solidarity between Filipino and Mexican-American farmworkers. In the interview, Grossman shared his personal experiences with Cesar Chavez and the movement, as well as how the Foundation continues to promote and uphold social justice and cross-racial solidarity. Keep reading for their full conversation:
How did you meet César Chavez?
Marc: I came of age, socially and politically, in the 1960s. I did my undergraduate work in American history at the University of California, Irvine. Farm labor history was something I took an interest in. I guess at some point, I figured out that it would be a lot more interesting to be a part of history than to just read about it.
This was during the time of the Delano Grape Strike and Boycott — and so, after class and on weekends, I picketed supermarkets. I’d join car caravans bringing food and clothes to the striking workers in Delano. The first time I met César was at Filipino Hall, where the caravans ended up. But I really got to know him through his eldest son, Fernando; we’ve been close friends since we were both 19- or 20-year-old college students. I knew César the last 24 years of his life, and this is my 54th year with the movement.
What a time to be a part of the labor movement! Can you tell me more about César’s decision to join the Delano Grape Strike? At that point, what was the relationship between Latino and Filipino farmworkers?
Marc: To answer that question, you have to go back to 1962, when César Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Gilbert Padilla, and others started the NFWA — what became the United Farm Workers (UFW). You know, the genesis of their activism was not labor organizing. It was community organizing. And while they understood only a union could overcome abuses in the fields, they were also convinced that when the workers left the job site and returned to their communities, they faced crippling dilemmas having to do with race, language, and ethnicity. This was real discrimination and they believed it would take more than a union to overcome these dilemmas. It would take a movement.
The UFW helped pioneer several labor innovations. The first was solidarity between the races because they knew from studying history that the way growers broke field strikes and crushed unions was by pitting the races against each other. They used Latinos to break the Filipino strikes and Filipinos to break Latino strikes.
So, when Larry Itliong asked César and the UFW to join the picket lines, they didn’t think they had a choice. They insisted that grape strikers of both races share the same picket lines, the same union hall, and the same strike kitchen. That was unequivocal. It’s true — a few members of César’s union — Chicano nationalists — objected to joining the Filipino farmworkers, and asked to put it to a union vote. And César told them he believed in union democracy, but he didn’t think you should vote on whether or not to discriminate. He said, “you can have your vote — and I’ll quit and go join the Filipino union instead.” That was the end of the debate.
That is such a powerful anecdote — especially during a difficult time for race relations in the America of the 1960s. Tell me, what was the origin of the César Chavez Foundation when César Chavez and others created it under a different name, and what is the Chavez Foundation now?
Marc: Since César and his colleagues knew it would take a movement to redress abuses in the community, during the ‘60s César, Larry Itliong and others also founded what today is the Chavez Foundation, to transform communities.
It has built and renovated—and manages—close to 6,000 units of high quality affordable housing for families and seniors over four states—nearly $1 billion invested in disadvantaged communities. It entertains, educates, and encourages community engagement through our Communications Group—nine radio stations in four states with more than one million listeners. It develops future leaders and helps close the achievement gap through educational programs, products, and services. And it runs the National Chavez Center to preserve and educate people about César’s legacy and values.
Does this mean César stopped working with Filipino farmworkers after the strike was over?
Marc: Not at all. From the beginning, the UFW and César Chavez Foundation worked closely with Filipino farmworkers — the manongs. Are you familiar with the term?
No, what does that mean?
Marc: Well, most of the Filipino immigrants from that generation came to the U.S. in their teens and twenties in the 1920s and ‘30s. Since California’s racist anti-miscegenation laws banned inter-racial marriage and Filipino women were not imported, most were denied the right to marry, to have families, and most had no choice but to live as bachelors.
By the end of the five-year-long Delano Grape Strike in 1970, many of these men were in their sixties and seventies. Some did return to work under the protections of UFW contracts, but many were too old for farm labor. They had lived in farm labor camps for decades, were evicted during the strike, and had no decent places to live.
This gave rise to the Paulo Agbayani Retirement Village — the first ever retirement home for Filipino farmworkers built by the farm worker movement on our Forty Acres property in Delano in 1973-74. It was built with all volunteer labor, including many Asian American college students, some who volunteered days, weeks, and months of free labor. There’s a plaque on the wall of the recreation area with names of all of the volunteers who built it. Congresswoman Judy Chu from Los Angeles is on that plaque.
Wow, I had no idea. Tell me more about the village.
Marc: Many of the manongs — many veterans of the Delano Grape Strike — were able to live out the rest of their years in comfort and security. They had a garden where they grew their own vegetables, a recreation room, and an industrial kitchen that served three meals of Filipino cuisine every day. Across the way was the movement’s Rodrigo Toronto Memorial Health Clinic, where they could access health services, and a service center where they could get help with Social Security and other benefits.
The last Filipino brother who lived there died in 1989, but we continue to administer the village, preserve it with historical artifacts and photos, and host visitors there from all over the country and around the world. Many Filipino Americans say they consider this as sacred ground. We have a long-range plan of turning it into a museum of Filipino American history.
This is such an important piece of Filipino American History — and I can’t believe I’m hearing about it for the first time. Let me ask you a final question. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, I wonder if you can share a lesson you learned from César Chavez — something that you think the movement can benefit from moving forward.
Marc: César believed the union had to be more than just an economic institution; it had to champion the causes of other struggling workers and oppressed people. Sometimes, he took unpopular stands. He came out against the Vietnam War when many national labor leaders supported it. He unequivocally embraced LGBTQ rights starting in the ‘70s, long before it was popular. I met Harvey Milk accompanying César as his personal aide to events in San Francisco. His idea of leadership was not following the crowd, but getting out in front of the crowd.
About AAPI Hate
Stop AAPI Hate is a national coalition fighting against racism and racial injustice targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Together, we work with local communities and government stakeholders to document the rise of anti-AAPI hate and dismantle the systems that allow it to persist. To learn more, visit stopaapihate.org.
Credit: This article was originally published by Stop AAPI Hate.
This summer, the National Chavez Center hosted a remarkable event that brought together thousands of passionate individuals. The Cesar Chavez Lowrider and Classic Car Show, held in partnership with the Classic Dreams Car Club, was a testament to the enduring spirit of lowrider and classic car clubs. These clubs have deep-rooted connections with the Latino community and continue to advocate for its well-being.
Car clubs have played a pivotal role in supporting causes dear to the hearts of many within the Latino movement. They were instrumental in the United Farm Worker’s march from Delano to Sacramento, which took place last year in support of Assembly Bill 2183. During this march, the idea for a car show at the NCC took place thanks to a fortunate encounter between Executive Director Andres Chavez and members of Bakersfield car clubs.
Reflecting on that encounter, Andres Chavez spoke to the Bakersfield News-Press, saying, “I was on that march and was really moved personally by their commitment.” This profound connection prompted him to reach out to a gathering of Bakersfield lowrider clubs to gauge their interest in organizing an event at the historic center.
On August 12, thousands of car enthusiasts from across southern California converged at the National Chavez Center to pay tribute to the enduring legacy of Cesar Chavez and the farm worker movement at the inaugural Cesar Chavez Lowrider and Classic Car Show. The event was a vibrant celebration of culture and community, with one of the highlights being the “Sí Se Puede Car Club,” a name deeply rooted in the movement.
The event also provided an opportunity to honor individuals like Martina Contreras, whose unwavering commitment to the cause made her a backbone of the movement. Her contributions were immeasurable, from preparing meals for hundreds to hosting union meetings at her home. Today, her children continue to honor her memory and dedication to La Causa.
The inaugural Cesar Chavez Lowrider and Classic Car Show was a powerful reminder that, as Cesar Chavez famously proclaimed, “Sí Se Puede” – Yes, we can – make a difference and continue the legacy of justice and equality for all.
Images courtesy of Chicano Soul
The 2023 Annual Cesar Chavez Legacy Awards Gala, the Cesar Chavez Foundation honored artist and activist Carlos Almaraz (posthumously), Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Executive Director Angélica Salas, and pioneering Latino political figure Richard Alatorre at the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles on March 23, 2023.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass delivered the keynote address, and California Attorney General Rob Bonta made special remarks.
The annual Cesar Chavez Legacy Awards Gala brings together international, national, and local leaders from every sector of business, government, labor, and education to remember the life and work of Cesar Chavez and honor distinguished individuals for their commitment to social justice and their positive contributions in their respective fields.
To view the event’s program, visit: 2023 Awards Gala Program.