Sunday, April 4, 2010

An exciting time for former UFW volunteers!

1. Randy Shaw started the ball rolling with his  "Beyond The Fields: Cesar Chavez, The UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century" (2008).  Randy writes: Cesar Chavez always expected the spirit of 'si se puede!' to live on in future generations. Continuing the struggle for justice in the twenty-first century is the best testament to his and the UFW's legacy."

2. Miriam Pawell rolled out: "The Union of Their Dreams: Power, Hope, and Struggle in Cesar Chavez's Farm Worker Movement". (2009)  Miriam states that - to date - most of what has been written about Cesar Chavez is hagiography and the purpose of her book is to provide a reevaluation of Chavez's legacy, and then for the next 200 pages she trashes his leadership abilities.

3. Not to be outdone, writer Richard Rodriguez takes up Pawel's theme with an article in the Wilson Quarterly (2010) stating that Cesar Chavez is a "loser" and characterizes him as a "bully" - and that he spoke like a Mexican.

4. Rising to the occasion, Jeffrey Rubin, professor of history at Boston University, writes in the Christian Science Monitor (March 31,2010) that Cesar Chavez and Hugo Chavez "are more alike than they are different . . . and as journalist Miriam Pawel makes clear, the cause of the UFW demise was Cesar Chavez himself. The charisma and brilliance that enabled Chavez to rally supporters across the US, from students to ministers to suburban housewives, also led him to ignore the on-the-ground needs of running a union and throw out anyone who opposed his top-down authority."  (Wow!!)
Marshall Ganz: "Why David Sometimes Wins: Leadership, Organization, and Strategy In the California Farm Worker Movement" (2009)

Marshall writes: "I am blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in the farm worker movment, to contribute to its development, and now to be possessed of the energy, time, and support to revisit it from a fresh perspective.

Just as my experience as an organizer in Mississippi had given me new eyes through which to see the farm worker world in which I had grown up, so my experience as a scholar gave me new eyes to see the farm worker world in which I worked for 16 years. . .

My (farm worker) experience has equipped me with a deep understanding of the context in which events unfolded, direct information as to what took place, and access to important research resources.

It has infused my work with a deep desire to understand not only what happened, but also why things happened as they did, and thus equip others to learn from this experience.

One lesson I learned is that things don't have to be the way they are, but they don't change themselves. Challenging the status quo takes commitment, courage, imagination, and, above all, dedication to learning." 

5. After a two-year pitched battle with city officials,  Dallas community activists finally convinced the Dallas City Council to approve the naming of a major street "Cesar Chavez Boulevard".  (February 2010)

6. After a three-year rancorous campaign, Portland community activists finally convinced the Portland City Council to name a major street "Cesar Chavez Boulevard". (February 2010)

7. On March 24, LeRoy Chatfield delivered a public tribute to Helen Chavez, wife of Cesar Chavez,  to an audience of more than 600 community leaders, activists, and students in San Diego, CA.  (-  at 7:30 AM !! )

8. President Barack Obama proclaims March 31, 2010 as "Cesar Chavez Day" and "calls upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate service, community, and education programs to honor Cesar Chavez's enduring legacy."

I leave you with this thought: it has been 17 years since the death of Cesar Chavez, can you think of any other US public figure who has generated this amount of activity, debate, loyalty, reverence and name- calling 17 years after their passing?
LeRoy Chatfield. Farmworker Movement Documentation Project,

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