CECCHE celebrates Cesar Chevez’s legacy

By Alicia Balderrama

The Cesar E. Chevez Center for Higher Education celebrated Cesar Chevez Day with a full week of activities and events centered on community, justice, service and education.

The sixth annual celebration, which took place from March 31 to Thursday, provided four events for Cal Poly Pomona students, faculty and staff.

On Cesar Chevez Day, CECCHE held Farmer for a Day, where students stepped into the shoes of the immigrant farmers Chevez advocated for. Tuesday featured a Silent March in remembrance of Chevez’s dedication to nonviolence. On Wednesday night the center hosted “Cafe con CECCHE” to open a dialogue about how Chevez’s accomplishments are still in effect today. The celebrations came to a close on Thursday with a showing of the 2014 documentary “Cesar Chavez.”

Elizabeth Marquez, a third-year biology student, participated in several of the Cesar Chevez Week events.

“My mom was a farmer back in the day when she lived in Mexico ” and knowing that there are others out there who are experiencing discrimination makes me think, ‘that could be my mom,'” said Elizabeth Marquez.

Elizabeth Marquez believes remembering Chevez’s achievements are essential.

“It is important for [farmers] to be represented and for people to be aware,” said Elizabeth Marquez.

Elizabeth Marquez was one of 80 students who ventured to CPP’s Spadra Farm to participate in Farmer for a Day. The volunteers woke up early in the morning to pick oranges and pull weeds from the vegetable patches.

She noted that she was exhausted after only two hours of work and that it gave her a renewed respect for immigrant farmers who labor in the fields every day.

The most attention-grabbing event of the week was the Silent March. Approximately 20 students marched in silence around the University Quad and University Park during U-Hour, mirroring the silent marches Chevez used in his nonviolent campaigns.

Many in the procession carried photographs, posters and paintings of Chevez, as well as a banner that read, “Leading Our Gente Toward the Future.” Many spectators called out messages of peace and equality, while others joined the march in silent solidarity.

Christian Posada, a second-year engineering manufacturing student and social justice leader, helped to organize the week’s activities.

“[Chevez] walked in silent marches because he didn’t believe in violence, and it really helped bring equality to the immigrant farmers,” said Posada. “In the end he really made a change and helped pass laws to protect the farmworkers.”

Students, under the guidance of CECCHE Coordinator Lorena Marquez, organized all of the Cesar Chevez Week events. She started the weeklong celebration six years ago because she saw a need to raise more awareness of Chevez’s contributions to the Latino/Chicano community, especially because the center was named after him.

“I saw a need for some programming to be centered around Cesar Chevez,” said Lorena Marquez. “I wanted to honor the cultural significance and also the historical significance of why they started the center.”

She said that Chevez’s four main values were community, justice, service and education, so the celebration makes sure to incorporate all of those elements. Students performed service work during the Farmer for a Day, stood for social justice during the Silent March, came together as a community at “Cafe con CECCHE” and learned more about Chevez and his work by discussing the events depicted in the documentary.

Chevez is best known for his efforts to grant farm workers the right to better wages and safer working conditions. He co-founded the United Farm Workers union in 1962 in an effort to organize agricultural laborers, many of them immigrants from Latin America, and gain enough power to negotiate with the growers.

Chevez only utilized nonviolent tactics, including strikes, boycotts, picketing and extensive fasts. His leadership inspired many other labor groups, minorities and students to join in what became known as “La Causa” Spanish for “The Cause,” and even gained the support of many celebrities.

“The hope is that ” people stop and reflect for a moment on who Cesar Chevez is and understand why they had the day off for him,” said Lorena Marquez. “To make those connections is always super important for the work that we do here in the center.”

Cesar Chevez silent march

Jean-Paul Escobar / The Poly Post

Cesar Chevez silent march

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