Born in 1927, Cesar Chavez saw injustice toward migrant farm workers early on and resisted it. Along with Dolores Huerta, he founded the National Farm Workers Association, which in 1962 became known as United Farm Workers (UFW). Until his death in 1993, Cesar worked with farmers for social and economic justice, trying to find services, respect and equality for farm workers and their families. On March 31, eight states, as well as cities and counties throughout the nation, will celebrate Cesar Chavez Day. To commemorate the day, and the great social activist it honors, Dr. Angelou speaks to some of Cesar's friends and family about his legacy.
Cesar's son, Paul Chavez, is the chairman of the Cesar Chavez Foundation and president of the National Farm Workers Service Center. He says that while his father wasn't a typical dad, he made room for his children in his work. "We were able to spend time with him, with the larger backdrop of social justice," Paul explains. "He made sure the movement was big enough to include his family." Paul says that experience is something he wants to pass on to his own family. "We make it a point to take [our children] along with us, to have them understand we all have an obligation to be of service to our community, to help others."
Musicians Abel Sanchez and Jorge Santana were working with the Chavez family on a project when they became inspired to write "Song for Cesar," an intense piece that marries Abel's lyrics to Jorge's passionate music. Abel says the lyrics came from the connection he felt with the family at that time: "I was really moved by the works of the family and the foundation. The lyric just came through me." Jorge says the music came from the deepest center of his soul, and he is moved by the family's acceptance of their work. "It gives me a lot of joy to know that the Chavez family has found it worthy to use in their center," he says. "I couldn't think of a better reward or award than the family accepting the piece we composed."
Dolores Huerta, who worked closely with Cesar, sees great progress from where they began over 40 years ago. "In terms of the farm workers, people do not denigrate them as much as they did," she says. "Our movement has brought respect to the idea that these people do this sacred work of feeding everybody." She continues to work with farm workers, helping them come together and decide as a community what issues they need to fight for. "The great thing is that we have victories we can point to, laws we were able to pass," Dolores says. "People can identify with that and realize, 'I can do that also.' It takes all of us coming together to make things happen."
Today, the Chavez family continues to work for awareness and social justice for farm workers through the Cesar Chavez Foundation. Many family members work within the foundation, including Cesar's granddaughter Julie Chavez Rodriguez, who does outreach with schools across the nation. "[We work] to ensure that [students] really understand the rich history, and can also find meaning and relevancy in their daily lives," Julie says.