César Chávez celebrated by members of the community

Camila Chávez (left), the daughter of Dolores Huerta and niece of César Chávez visits campus to honor her uncle in the 21st annual garlanding ceremony (Khone Saysamongdy/The Collegian).

Aztec dancers ushered in the 21st annual César Chávez Garlanding and Celebration at Fresno State, Wednesday, March 29 as the university celebrated Farmworkers Awareness Week.

The celebration kicked off with performances by the Aztec dancers, and Los Danzantes de Aztlan. During the celebration, approximately 100 students, faculty, staff and community members paid their respects to Chávez by listening to stories about his impact on farmworkers and garlanding his sculpture in the Peace Garden.

Camila Chávez, daughter of civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, and niece of César Chávez, gave the keynote address.

“As you know, thousands of people around the state and country are honoring my uncle, César Chávez,” Camila Chávez said. “It’s telling, that on university campuses across the country, we honor a man who only had an eighth grade education.”

Chávez said schooling did not hold her uncle back from expanding his knowledge and reaching his dream of civil rights and activism for farmworkers.

“He was a self-taught individual,” Chávez said.

She outlined the “values and philosophies” of the farmworkers movement as set forth by Chávez and Huerta: the vow of poverty by living simply; nonviolence even when violence is inflicted upon you; and civic participation by exercising your right to vote.

Antonio Cortes, United Farm Workers (UFW) San Joaquin Valley regional director, said the San Joaquin region of UFW represents more than 4,000 farmworkers each day.

“We must continue with the César Chávez legacy and continue to fight day-by-day to achieve basic rights, to achieve dignity and respect for all farm workers,” Cortes said.

To continue the legacy, he said, farmworkers will continue to work hard and defend the rights of farm workers and their families.

“Now is the time to have a community with more harmony. We can lay together as brothers,” Cortes said. He said this is the time to unite and work together to fight immigration policies put forth by President Donald Trump.

“Never let others decide the future for all Americans,” Cortes said. “Que viva César Chávez,” Cortes said to the crowd. The crowd repeated after him.

Dr. Sudarshan Kapoor, who is a Humanitarian Award winner professor emeritus of social work and one of the founders of the university’s peace garden, spoke of his experience with Chávez.

Kapoor said his personal history with Chávez began when he invited Chávez to Fresno State to hold a seminar for his social work students.

“César was a legendary figure of our time,” Kapoor said. “He was a hero to millions who are inspired and empowered by his exemplary life.”

Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro, who is a Hanford native, said the celebration is personally special for him.

“Like many of you, I come from a family of farmworkers,” Castro said.

When Castro was a student at University of California, Berkeley, he had the opportunity to meet Chávez and have a conversation with him one-on-one.

“I was able to sit with him for what seemed like an hour, and really appreciated the opportunity to learn from him and what he was trying to accomplish as the leader of the United Farm Workers,” Castro said.

The university, Castro said, is here to support every single student.

“Fresno State is a place of opportunity for all students, and César Chávez believed in that for everybody,” Castro said.

At the end of celebration, the attendees were invited to the garlanding ceremony.

Red and white rose garlands each were placed on the statue of Chávez, while red and white freshly cut roses were given out to place on the platform of the statue.

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