By Hannah Amante
Thursday and Friday marked the biggest events of the third annual Cesar Chavez Week at Cal Poly Pomona, La Marcha and Be a Farm Worker for a Day.
Cesar Chavez Week is planned by students and staff at the Cesar E. Chavez Center for Higher Education.
La Marcha, or The Silent March, which took place on Thursday from noon to 1, honored Chavez’s many efforts to promote nonviolent protests for civil rights.
Fourth-year liberal studies student Christina Aceves, said she felt “empowered” by participating.
“I’m here to commemorate all the things [Chavez] accomplished and how his accomplishments still help us as a Latino community today,” said Aceves.
Several students held up handmade posters with slogans such as the famed “Si, se puede” along with framed portraits of the civil rights leader and the symbol of the United Farm Workers, which Chavez founded .
Before the walk began, Skittles and cans of iced tea were distributed to all the participants, in memory of Trayvon Martin, the African-American teen from Florida who was shot and killed by a white neighborhood watchman last month.
Lorena Marquez, coordinator at the Cesar Chavez Center, explained that students wanted to incorporate the deaths of both Trayvon Martin and Shaima Al Awadi, an Iraqi woman and mother of five who was beaten and killed in her San Diego home last week.
The Center worked with the Muslim Student Association and the Black Student Union “to create more awareness and solidarity about the racial profiling that’s happening,” Marquez said.
“We wanted to lead a march to honor Cesar Chavez, but to also understand the ties to what’s currently happening in the world today. Cesar Chavez was about social justice and human rights, farm workers specifically, but this would be right up what he would take on himself, to make sure that people are not forgotten and that people are treated right.”
The march started in Building 1 and passed through the quad where many Greek organizations were gathered, many of whose members joined the march.
Several bystanders also joined the group, as it made its way to University Park, where there was a moment of silence for Al Awadi and Martin.
Jerry Taylor, professor of landscape architecture at CPP, then gave a brief speech about the importance of community service and environmental social justice, describing key community projects his students had worked on.
Jelani Haider, chairperson for the Muslim Student Association, also talked briefly, thanking the participants.
“We’re here to bridge the gap between our differences and focus on our similarities and that happens through students like you,” Haider said.
On Friday, the Cesar Chavez Center collaborated with the Plant Science Department to host Be a Farm Worker for a Day, where students signed up to work in two-hour shifts starting from 6 a.m. to noon.
Many students stayed the entire three shifts, first harvesting oranges and then pulling weeds from onion rows by the Farm Store.
Miguel Canto, fifth-year communication student and Mr. CPP, said this was his first time participating.
“I wanted to come out here and experience what workers had to experience back then and what workers still experience today,” said Canto.
“I love oranges, and I was out in the fields picking oranges, so that was pretty cool. And I’ve pulled out weeds at home in my yard before, but never to this extent.”
Canto believed the activity was a good way to commemorate Chavez through hands-on experience.
“It’s weird,” Canto said. “I did so many reports on him in elementary school, but I just lost a lot of information until now.”
Courtney Habegger, a fourth-year plant science student, said, “I think it’s a good experience for a lot of people. They learn to appreciate a lot of the work that goes into getting food on their table. Cesar Chavez did a lot to improve standards for workers, but you can’t take the hard work out of work.”
The other events that took place for Cesar Chavez week were Children and Art at the Children’s Center on Monday and The National Cesar E. Chavez Blood Drive Challenge on Tuesday at the Bronco Student Center.
Some events scheduled at the Children’s Center were cancelled because they were said to be not age appropriate for the young children.
The Los Olivos Dining Commons also promoted an array of multicultural vegetarian and vegan options for the entire week. Chavez strongly advocated the health benefits of vegetarianism later in life.
“It’s important for people to understand their history,” said Marquez. “I did not know about Cesar Chavez when I was in high school. It was a history that was not there.
“So I think it’s important that the Cesar Chavez Center here at Cal Poly does what they can to educate all about who he was and who he is to a lot of people still.”
Delanie Dunne / The Poly Post
The Cesar E. Chavez Center for Higher Education hosts “La Marcha”
Courtesy Lorena Marquez
“Be a Farm Worker For a Day” during Cesar Chavez Week
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