Café con César E. Chávez Center works to explore social justice through music

By Christian Contreras and Emily Montano, April 11, 2023

Café con César E. Chávez Center for Higher Education’s topic this month was social justice explored through music. At these events, Chicanx/Latinx students meet once a month to discuss their experiences in a welcoming, safe environment. 

CECCHE is committed to boosting the awareness, engagement and ethnic pride of Chicanx/Latinx students at Cal Poly Pomona. The event’s theme was chosen by Yaritza Gonzalez, a social justice leader at CECCHE, who spent a month gathering research to create a presentation for the event. She explained how she came up with the concept.

“Topics that we’ve discussed in the past include machismo, environmental racism — different, important things like that,” said Gonzalez. “I think we as students try our best to incorporate what we’re studying and what we’re passionate about in the work that we do here and figuring out ways to make it purposeful.”

The organization prides itself on hosting events like these where privacy is protected and there are no restrictions on discussion topics. This is done in hopes of creating a safe space for newcomers who are welcomed and encouraged to join. 

Members of CECCHE explained protesting and music go hand in hand to create a movement that works together and leaves an impact.

As a music industry studies student, Gonzalez values music because of the reach it has and the awareness it brings to particular issues.

Among many of the songs included in the presentation some were: “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar, “Somos Más Americanos” by Los Tigres del Norte, “No Es Mi Presidente” by Taina Asili and “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday.

Christian Contreras | The Poly Post

Gonzalez knew her song choices would surprise the students because she, too, didn’t realize some songs told significant stories until she read the lyrics.

“There were a couple of songs that I came across that I never realized were protest songs or like social justice type songs,” said Gonzalez.  

Karen Flores, business administration accounting student, was was unfamiliar with many of the songs but was happy to have heard them at the event. 

“Some of the songs that she (Gonzales) picked I have not heard, but the little pieces that she played were good motivation and makes you realize that there’s other problems out there for people to hear,” said Flores.

In the presentation, exploring social justice through music was described as finding music that includes initiatives to eliminate racism, racial inequality, and all other systems that devalue the dignity and humanity of every individual. 

Hailee Wheat, computer science student, explained the importance of exploring social justice through music. 

“I think a lot of people don’t know about the impact that music has subliminally, just listening to it, not really interpreting it the first time, it definitely gives the listener a taste of political propaganda even if they are not aware of it, but it opens an invitation to a bigger discussion overall especially with universal music,” said Wheat. 

For minority students, CECCHE offers resources both online and in their office on campus (Building 95) where they can feel safe and comfortable to express themselves. All students are able to go and access the outreach, retention and cultural benefits the organization provides. 

“I feel like it (CECCHE) allows me to fully achieve my academic goals as well as personal goals, it adds a level of security and since I’m a commuter it feels nice having a place I’m comfortable with to study,” said Wheat.

As a social justice leader at CECCHE, building a community on campus is important to Gonzalez.

“Bringing people together and giving them a place where they feel safe and comfortable and can just like have fun and then also doing it here through the center, it adds purpose I feel,” said Gonzalez. “It’s more than just ‘community building’ it’s ‘community building with a purpose’ so I like that.”

For more information on future CECCHE events students can go onto The César E. Chávez Center for Higher Education website or for additional questions email 

Feature image by Christian Contreras

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