Cesar Chavez Celebration

 Uncategorized
Mar 102004
 
Authors: Nicole Davis

At age 6, Rich Salas did not spend his summers at the swimming

pool or in day care. Instead, he worked alongside his family in

fields across the country, picking apples, potatoes, cherries and

rows of sugar beets that stretched across fields more than a

quarter-mile long.

“Everyone that has been in the migrant fields has a story to

tell,” he said. “It gives you character. You learn that you have

what it takes to survive.”

Now, he wants to tell the story of one very influential migrant

worker, Cesar Chavez, to CSU students and Fort Collins community

members.

Five years ago, Salas, who is assistant director of El Centro, a

CSU advocacy office that serves Hispanic and Latino students, and

Lupe Salazar, El Centro’s director, started the Cesar Chavez

Celebration at CSU.

This year, several organizations and volunteers across campus

have joined ranks with El Centro to put on numerous events during

the month of March dedicated to Chavez, a man who fought for the

rights of migrant workers and whose ideas are still influential

today, Salas said.

“I think it’s important for students, for everyone, to learn

about the contributions that he made in helping to empower

underrepresented groups and for them to learn that they are people

too. They do have rights,” Salas said.

Working alongside Salas are organizations such as the

Association for Student Activities Programming, the Ram Leadership

Team and the Residence Hall Association, as well as countless

volunteers.

The celebration, which is entitled “A tribute: Social Justice-

Our Responsibility,” kicked off March 3 with a clothing drive that

will continue through the rest of the month.

Many migrant workers are in desperate need of suitable work

clothes, said Mims Harris, co-chair of the Cesar Chavez

committee.

“When they come to work in the field they don’t have adequate

facilities to do laundry and there is not enough time because they

work from sunrise to sunset,” she said. “They also don’t come with

a lot in the first place and they are often constantly exposed to

pesticides, so good clothes are a necessity.”

All collected clothes will be distributed to migrant workers

through the Sunrise Community Health Center in Greeley. Boxes will

be placed in all residence halls as well as various other places

including the Lory Student Center, said Alicia Leonardi, the

cultural and community programming chair for Associated Student

Activity Programming.

Members of Lambda Theta Nu, a CSU Latino/Hispanic sorority, will

also be helping with the collection and sorting of clothes because

they feel that the Cesar Chavez celebration is an essential

educational event.

“We’re predominantly Latino … so our focus is on the Latino

community,” said Lila Medeiros, community service chair for the

sorority. “This event is important because it makes people aware of

other cultures.”

Last year’s clothing drive, which only lasted for one week,

brought in enough clothes to fill two garages. Because this year’s

drive will last for a month, ASAP is expecting to collect a high

volume of clothes, said Megan Lewis, the ASAP assistant director

for administration.

All clothes collected will be sorted on Tuesdays and Wednesdays

in the ASAP office, and anyone interested can stop by to help.

ASAP is also helping to fund a free showing of the play “Papi,

Me and Cesar Chavez” at the Lory Student Center Theatre March 31,

which depicts the life of Chavez and the impact he had.

Other events planned for the Cesar Chavez celebration include an

exhibition featuring photographs of farm workers to be shown in the

LSC Art Lounge beginning March 29 and a participatory exhibit in

the LSC Sunken Lounge, which will include music, presentations and

videos, Harris said. Both of these events are focused on educating

about Cesar Chavez and furthering his cause.

Chavez, who died in 1993, is widely recognized as a leader in

human rights. He worked to improve working conditions for migrant

workers and helped them unionize, which Salas said has not only

allowed the U.S. agricultural industry to prosper, but has also

created greater equality for people of Latino and Hispanic

descent.

In fact, Salas saw Chavez speak at CSU more than 20 years

ago.

“(Chavez) was a small man in stature but very powerful in

intellect,” he said. “He was able to express himself and the

passion that he had was clear.”

Now Salas and his cohorts are working to extend that passion to

others in the Fort Collins community.

“We need more Cesar Chavezes out there,” he said. “By his

experience we can continue to fight for and address things that are

unjust.”

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