Tomorrow is a holiday in the State of California. While some of us may have the day off, work will be at the top of our minds as we honor Latino labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar E. Chavez, who was born on March 31, 1927.
Chavez is an inspirational figure to so many — especially here in California, where he co-founded the organization that would become the United Farm Workers (UFW). But what inspired him to transition from farm worker to labor organizer?
Using archival footage, oral history interviews and more, the documentary “Organize! The Lessons of the Community Service Organization” looks at the pivotal grassroots effort launched in the 1940’s that empowered a generation of Mexican-Americans, including Chavez. Poor immigrants were able to move into the mainstream of American society through voter registration drives, lawsuits and legislative campaigns. Over 50 years later, the leaders of the movement reflect on the impact.
Take this opportunity to host your own Cesar Chavez Day celebration by watching the documentary. You might also want to browse around the Cesar Chavez learning resources put together by the California Departement of Education.
The experiences of Mexican Americans just got a higher profile with Governor Jerry Brown’s naming yesterday of California’s next Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, poetry professor at UC Riverside and author of 28 books.
The son of migrant farm workers and the first in his family to attend college, the 63-year old Herrera holds the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair in the Department of Creative Writing at UC Riverside and is known for chronicling the bittersweet lives, travails and contributions of Mexican Americans.
Herrera has published numerous volumes of poetry, prose, theater, children’s books and young adult novels, among them “Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems” (University of Arizona, 2008), which received the PEN/Beyond Margins Award, the International Latino Award in poetry, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has been elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets, and has received the Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry, fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council, and the UC Berkeley Regent’s Fellowship. Other honors include the Breadloaf Fellowship in Poetry, the Stanford Chicano Fellows Fellowship, the Ezra Jack Keats Award, the Hungry Mind Award of Distinction and the Focal Award.