Gabriela Castaneda
Gabriela Castaneda, Ed.D., director of Latinx achievement, reflects on César Chávez's contributions to the American labor movement and his dedication to social justice and equality.

Celebrating the Life and Legacy of César Chávez

As the country commemorates César Chávez Day, a federal and state holiday, the Chapman University community takes a moment to remember the Mexican American labor leader for his contributions to the American labor movement and his dedication to social justice and equality.

Chávez was a first-generation American whose family lost their farm during the Great Depression and became migrant farmworkers. After completing his formal education after eighth grade, Chávez worked the fields full time to help support his family. Farm life in the mid-20th century was noted for hardships and injustices. Chávez began his career in community organizing in 1952 when he was recruited and trained by Fred Ross, a legendary community organizer.

Working tirelessly for the rights of farmworkers and immigrants, Chávez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962 in collaboration with Dolores Huerta, which became the first successful farm workers union in the United States. Moreover, Chávez was a champion for nonviolent social change, education and consumer rights.

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed,” said Chàvez. “You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.”

César Chávez Day provides a time to reflect on Chávez’s efforts to promote social justice and to renew a commitment to his ideals of nonviolence and unity. His legacy continues to inspire people to work toward creating a more equitable society for all.

Chapman honors César Chávez Day by observance on Friday, March 24, and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will host a reception to celebrate Chávez’s legacy in Latinx and Hispanic communities. The reception will be held at the Cross-Cultural Center on Friday, March 31, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Stephany Cuevas, assistant professor at Attallah College of Educational Studies, will discuss César Chávez during the event.

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