Washington DC – Throughout the month of March, communities across the country have commemorated the life and legacy of civil rights leader Cesar E. Chavez' work through education, celebration, and service projects.
The day of service, recognized around Chavez' birth date of March 31, is a legal holiday in the state of California and an optional holiday in several other cities and states. Community groups, schools, and other organizations use the event to reflect on Chavez' life and carry out service projects in his honor.
“Cesar Chavez sought to improve the lives of our most vulnerable citizens, and service to others is a great way to honor his legacy,” said Robert Velasco, II, Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “On this day and throughout the year, volunteers can have a powerful impact on critical challenges facing our communities and nation.”
Service and education events taking place to commemorate Cesar Chavez include:
- The Cesar Chavez Foundation will be staging events throughout the month of March in several states including a clean-up and restoration project on the grounds of the National Chavez Center in Keene, CA. Additionally, through grants provided by the Corporation for National and Community Service, CCF is supporting grants to organizations in multiple states for ongoing service activities that were initiated on the National Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and will continue on Chavez Day.
- The SAFE (Serving America's Farmworkers Everywhere) AmeriCorps program will be staging events at sites located in Modesto, CA; Visalia, CA; Salisbury, MD; Las Cruces, NM; and Wilson, NC in honor of National Farmworker Awareness Week and Cesar Chavez Day. Activities include education and awareness sessions on pesticide safety and heat stress, free health screenings, information about the life of Cesar Chavez, community entertainment and commemorative remarks. Each year, SAFE AmeriCorps members serve more than 20,000 farmworkers and their families, providing pesticide safety education, collecting food and clothing donations, organizing health fairs, tutoring and mentoring youth, and recruiting other volunteers.
- In Los Angeles, Mayor Villaraigosa's “We Serve LA” service initiative will bring together corporate, non-profit, civic, educational and AmeriCorps national service members to present “Good Food Day-LA”, a day of awareness-raising and education on the issues facing the local food system, and the ways residents can help make Los Angeles part of a healthier regional food system for all. Events will take place at over 40 sites throughout the city.
- Serve Colorado, the Governor's Commission on Community Service, has initiated a statewide effort to promote a Cesar Chavez Month of Service and Learning. The Cesar Chavez Peace and Justice Committee of Denver will also sponsor a community parade in Denver, CO.
- The New Mexico Commission on Volunteerism, in collaboration local AmeriCorps VISTA members and the Recuerda a Cesar Chavez Committee, will stage two days of events in honor of Chavez day. Activities include a day of service and learning at a local community farm, a march and a celebratory event at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
- The Boys & Girls Clubs of Austin, TX will be hosting service-learning and awareness activities to commemorate Chavez Day including several community and school beautification projects, a guest speaker and community art projects for donation to local schools and community centers.
- Chicago Public Schools are partnering with 20 community organizations to host 56 service and learning projects throughout the month of March. Projects will culminate in a day of commemoration that includes music, guided reflection on Chavez' philosophy, a march and remarks.
A first-generation American, Cesar Chavez was born on March 31, 1927, just outside of Yuma, Arizona. The Chavez family became migrant farmworkers traveling throughout California to harvest crops after the family lost their farm during the Great Depression. A Navy veteran, Cesar eventually settled with his family in East San Jose, CA, where he first began working with migrant farm workers. Having experienced the hardships of life as a farm worker firsthand, Chavez worked tirelessly to improve the lives of farmworkers and Latino families. He passed away in his sleep, at the age of 66, on April 23, 1993. "We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community...Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own,” Chavez said.