SATURDAY, MARCH 31: Are you celebrating Cesar Chavez this week?
WARNING: If you care about commeorating the heroic, nonviolent leader of what later became the United Farm Workers in a public way—check around your community, now. Some towns already have honored Chavez earlier in March. Some cities, including San Francisco, are delaying until warmer spring weather in April. Some states officially mark a legal holiday this week (although dates when government offices close vary widely). Many states don’t honor Chavez at all.
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S 2012 DECLARATION: Chavez holiday observances are scattered all over the U.S. map and the calendar, each spring, but the official holiday coincides with Chavez’s March 31, 1927, birthday. Each year, the president issues a fresh proclamation. Here is the 2012 proclamation page in the White House website, where you can read the complete declaration. It says, in part: Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other visionary leaders, Cesar Chavez based his campaign on principles of nonviolence, which he called “the quality of the heart.” Through boycotts, fasts, strikes, and marches that demanded both endurance and imagination, he drew thousands together in support of “La Causa”—a mission to ensure respect, dignity, and fair treatment for farm workers. Alongside Dolores Huerta, he founded the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), an organization tasked with defending and empowering the men and women who feed the world.
MEXICAN POET RAFAEL JESUS GONZALEZ, whose profile in ReadTheSpirit ranks among our most popular stories in 2010, emailed us the English and Spanish texts of the prayer Chavez took to heart in organizing farm workers. We will share that in a moment, but first here are some other Chavez resources we recommend.
RESOURCES FOR LEARNING ABOUT AND HONORING CESAR CHAVEZ
MODEL CURRICULUM ON CESAR CHAVEZ: California’s statewide department of education provides this model curriculum online—which also is recommended by the White House.
WIKIPEDIA BIOGRAPHY OF CESAR CHAVEZ: The Wiki entry provides lots of details about his life and legacy. If you’re an educator, don’t miss the helpful links at the bottom of his Wiki profile.
UNITED FARM WORKERS BIOGRAPHY OF CESAR CHAVEZ: The UFW website provides a short biography that many other publications have referenced.
UPDATE ON CHAVEZ HISTORIC SITES: A major effort continues to document and preserve key historical artifacts and locations associated with Chavez and the farm workers’ movement. In 2011, the so-called Forty Acres site in Delano, California, has been designated a National Historical Landmark. Since last Cesar Chavez Day, much more research and public dialogue has unfolded. You can download a 24-page copy of a federal publication from late 2011 that’s full of interesting information about various Chavez-related sites.
PRINT OUT CESAR CHAVEZ PRAYER FOR WORKERS: The Cesar Chavez Foundation, founded by friends of Chavez after his death, provides lots of information about keeping his legacy for future generations. You’ll also find the foundation’s address at the bottom of this printable English-and-Spanish version of his prayer for workers that you can download in a PDF format by clicking here.
CARE TO READ THE STORY OF CHAVEZ AS PEACEMAKER?
Cesar Chavez is one of the many profiles in our new Blessed Are the Peacemakers book by Daniel Buttry, a global peace trainer for American Baptist Churches.
In his book, Buttry quotes Chavez’s famous line: “The greatest tragedy is not to live and die, as we all must. The greatest tragedy is for a person to live and die without knowing the satisfaction of giving life for others.”
Chavez also said: “Nonviolence has one big demand—the need to be creative, to develop strategy. Gandhi described it as moral jujitsu. Always hit the opposition off balance and keep your principles.”
According to Buttry: “Cesar Chavez transformed fields, dirt roads, picket lines and supermarkets into sacred spaces.”
POET RAFAEL JESUS GONZALEZ RECOMMENDS …
In this time of great challenge for workers around the world—and in the United States as well—Gonzalez recommends that we all honor Chavez by repeating his prayer: (Get a Spanish version via the link above.)
Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
So I will know my people’s plight.
Free me to pray for others;
For you are present in every person.
Help me to take responsibility for my own life;
So that I can be free at last.
Grant me courage to serve others;
For in service there is true life.
Give me honesty and patience;
So that I can work with other workers.
Bring forth song and celebration;
So that the spirit will be alive among us.
Let the spirit flourish and grow;
So we will never tire of the struggle.
Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.
Help us love even those who hate us;
So we can change the world.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.