A Cesar Chavez Celebration kicked off Thursday during University Union (UU) Hour with a live band, inspiring speeches and a student march from Dexter Lawn to the UU.
Chavez was a Mexican-American who is best known as a Latino civil rights activist. He also played a major role in the American labor movement, in which he promoted aggressive but nonviolent tactics.
“He is a source of inspiration,” English junior Selene Roman said. “He did a lot with little resources. If he can do it, so can we.”
Roman, along with other members of Movimiento Estudiantil Xicano de Aztlan (MEXA) — a political group that focuses on social issues— marched from Dexter Lawn to the UU Plaza to commemorate Chavez’s march from Delano, Calif., slightly north of Bakersfield, Calif., to Sacramento in support of worker’s rights.
The marchers arrived chanting “Si, se puede” (Spanish for “Yes, it is possible”) to a band playing traditional songs from the American labor movement.
The live band’s lead singer Graciela Serna Nutter said she marched alongside Chavez when she was only 10 years old, and remembers the importance of the march.
“There’s a few of us around now that were part of the march and its history,” Nutter said. “Remember, honor and celebrate Chavez. It was amazing watching all the people marching up the street. I marched for something.”
During his lifetime, Chavez traveled throughout California and gave speeches in support of workers’ rights. He also wanted Mexican-Americans to register and vote, to give them a voice when it came to political matters.
Chavez attacked social issues within his community. Today, modern languages and literature professor Gloria Velasquez, said she wanted to use this opportunity to speak of the social injustices dealing with the Treyvon Martin shooting in Florida.
“Chavez dedicated his life to the pursuit of social justice. I’ve been at Cal Poly for 26 years, and for those 26 years, I have been trying to get students to think about ‘What can I give back, how can I give back,’” Velasquez said. “It is important to spread awareness of the Martin case, because it is about social justice.”
The celebration spoke not only of current social injustice, but also was a reminder of how a group can create change with nonviolent tactics and little resources.
“Don’t be afraid of those in power that you think are unreachable,” Nutter said. “They are reachable.”
Chavez spoke of change, and worked hard to fight for farmworker rights. According to Nutter, this is something we cannot forget. It was a hard struggle, and those who were a part of it will always be remembered.
“We are celebrating today Chavez’s birth, his legacy and those who continue the work he left behind,” she said. “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed.”