Chávez was a migrant worker who became an advocate for other agricultural laborers. He fought for social justice and fair treatment for farm workers and co-founded the United Farm Workers union (UFW).
Chávez once said, “Non-violence rests on the reservoir that you have to create in yourself of patience, not of being patient with the problems, but being patient with yourself to do the hard work.” Patience was just one of his many virtues.
In honor of Chávez’s birthday, The Ohio State University’s Alpha Psi Lambda held a three-day celebration at the Frank W. Hale Center.
The commemoration began on Wednesday with the screening of the PBS documentary The Fight in the Fields: César Chávez and the Farm workers’ Struggle? The documentary chronicles Chávez’s life, from his infancy to his role in co-creating the UFW and to his continuing struggle for social justice until his death in 1993.
The documentary also included interviews with Ether Kennedy, Chávez’s family, and others involved in the historic struggle for social justice.
On Thursday, Baldemar Velásquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (FLOC), spoke about the similarities between Chávez and Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader who fought for the rights of African-Americans.
Velásquez said he was fortunate enough to have worked with these two great men.
Velásquez noted that the significant similarity between King and Chávez was their non-violent methods to change things, following in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi, pacifist leader and one of the most important figures in the fight for India’s independence from British colonialism.
Referring to some of the provisions of HR 4437—the House of Representatives bill that has been opposed throughout the country by advocates of civil and immigrant rights—Velásquez said, “The human will to survive and to feed your family is stronger than any wall anybody can build.”
As part of HR 4437, a.k.a. the Sensenbrenner-King bill, the United States is to erect walls of approximately 700 miles in length, separating the U.S. from México.
Velásquez put FLOC on the map in 1978 when he led more than 2,000 workers in the largest agricultural strike in the history of the Midwest. Since then, he has been the recipient of numerous awards for leadership and brokered many deals that ensure better pay and working conditions for farmworkers—including two major honors: one in 1994, when 29 national Latino organizations chose him as the recipient of the Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award. Also in 1994, he also received México’s Aguila Azteca Award—the highest award México can give a non-citizen.
Velásquez was also the recipient on March 31of Adelante’s Chávez Humanitarian Award. Adelante, Inc. is a Latino outreach/resource center based, as is FLOC, in Toledo, Ohio.
On Friday, culminating the three-day celebration, Alpha Psi Lambda invited Professor H. Gerald Campaño of Indiana University to be a keynote speaker. Campaño spoke about his work with migrant children in California. He is the author of Dancing Across Borders: Creating Community in Diverse Classrooms.
Guest speaker Rubén Castilla Herrera was also invited. Herrera has been a Columbus resident and activist for 19 years. He spoke of the Latino community in Central Ohio. He is of Mexican descent and originally from Texas.
These OSU events were co-sponsored by the Latino/a Studies Program, College of Education, Department of Sociology, Department of History, Department of Political Science, College of Social Work, Hispanic Student Services, The Multicultural Center, Office of Minority Affairs, The Source, USG, and UCHO.
For more information about Alpha Psi Lambda Fraternity, Inc., Alpha Chapter, check out http://apl.org.ohio-state.edu/. For more information on César Chávez and his legacy, visit: http://www.Chávezfoundation.org/index.html; for more information on Baldemar Velásquez and FLOC, visit: www.floc.org.