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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 virtual series bringing together experts, thought leaders, and activists to learn about the values Cesar Chavez epitomized. 

Episode 3 premiering March 25, 2022: Executive Vice President of Housing and Economic Development Fund Alfredo Izmajtovich in conversation with Chief Operating Officer Manuel H. Bernal

Cesar Chavez said migrant farm workers were among the original homeless. He and his family endured miserable farm labor camps and often slept under bridges or trees by roadsides while following California’s migrant trails in the late 1930s and early ‘40s. Cesar made affordable housing for the poor a mission of the National Farm Workers Service Center Inc., now known as the Cesar Chavez Foundation. Chavez Foundation Chief Operations Officer Manuel Bernal and Executive Vice President of Housing and Economic Development (HED) Alfredo Izmajtovich discuss the history of the HED Fund and the long-term effort to build wealth and lasting change by directing economic investment into underserved communities, fostering new initiatives that encourage entrepreneurship, educational development, and community service.

Episode 2: Executive Vice President of Education Dr. Celia Garcia Alvarado in conversation with Riverside County Deputy Superintendent of Schools Dr. Edwin Gomez

Cesar Chavez believed that the needs of the people went beyond their workday and understood that farmworkers lacked access to high-quality education for their children. Today, the Cesar Chavez Foundation’s Education Fund is dedicated to building a just society by educating the hearts and minds of children through culturally responsive, diverse products and services in under-resourced communities. Tune in Monday, September 13, to learn more about the work of the Education Fund and a new program in partnership with the Riverside County Office of Education.

 

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

Cesar Chavez Foundation President Paul Chavez and UFW President Teresa Romero 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.

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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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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.”