March 23, 2007

Honoring Cesar Chavez by carrying out his ideals

Focus On Community
By Patty Chavez

Cesar E. Chavez was one of the greatest leaders of our times. He knew how to organize people for a cause and did so with passion for justice, truth and people.

Chavez tirelessly dedicated his life to championing the rights of farm laborers and all workers. He worked to attain social justice and protect workers from poisonous chemicals, poor housing, discrimination, low wages and inferior education. With his faith, humility and strength, he led a peaceful fight for action and change.

In 1994, President Clinton posthumously awarded Cesar E. Chavez with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. In his remarks, President Clinton said, “The farm workers who labored in the fields and yearned for respect and self-sufficiency pinned their hopes on this remarkable man who, with faith and discipline, soft spoken humility and amazing inner strength, led a very courageous life.”

People were motivated by his very being — he wanted betterment for all. Chavez once said that if you have people together who believe in something very strongly things happen. I believe it to be true.

We have many local community groups who advocate and motivate . . . but there are some who should take lessons from Cesar E. Chavez’s moral ways. Some of these groups espouse to be about civil rights but really only work on smearing whoever treads on their turf. These groups play on peoples fears, convincing them the community will be destroyed by any change.

These local groups aren’t very pro-active or looking for the benefit of all people. They hide under the veil of being a representative for the community, but what they are is a mouth piece for myopic NIMBY issues.

Sadly, they spend too much energy on the negative, fighting little wars, like about the height of buildings and Home Depots. Now, I must add that in regard to a new Home Depot in Chula Vista, I agree the City could have procured a business that is more reflective of the community, such as Vallartas Market, Northgate Gonzalez Market, or 99 Ranch Market instead of another Home Depot — but that was several steps ago. Where was the advocacy then? Where were these groups when leaders needed backing to highlight a better alternative? At least now there is a business who signed on to make a positive use of a dilapidated building and who will bring more jobs to the area. The advocacy now should be about making sure jobs are available to our local residents with good wages and health plans.

It is time to advocate for opportunities that will benefit our community, present and future. We need more and better jobs. We need more affordable housing. We need to fix our streets and sidewalks. We need to protect our environment. But this takes innovative planning . . . give and take . . . commitment, resources and funds. It can’t happen if we stand still and let opportunities pass us.

There is this idea among some of these groups that a war was won when a “high” rise plan was crushed. The truth is no one won. People lost homes. People lost future homes. Businesses left the region. Instead of negotiating and fighting for the best for our surrounding communities, it ruined possible progress for other areas that needed help.

Cesar E. Chavez did not burn down the fields. The fields feed families and offer jobs to many. The fight was for better wages, a safer environment and more opportunities for workers. The fight was for a betterment of an existing situation, not to tear it all down.

What these groups do not understand is that we have a responsibility not only to our personal communities but for the region around us. We don’t live in a bubble, so we affect each other. Bringing vibrancy and opportunities to one area, can positively affect the whole region. Tear down ideas, and we are left with nothing.

Soon we will have a special day to celebrate the life of Cesar E. Chavez, but we should do more than just celebrate. We should learn by his examples and practice it ourselves.

There will be a Cesar E. Chavez Memorial Parade Saturday, March 31 at 10 - 11:30 a.m.- Newton Ave and Cesar E. Chavez Parkway. Following the parade, there will be a free community celebration at the Cesar E. Chavez Park located at Cesar E. Chavez Parkway and Crosby Road. On April 2nd, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians will host the 9th Annual Cesar E. Chavez Commemorative Breakfast at the San Diego Convention Center. For more information contact the San Diego Cesar E. Chavez Committee at (619) 808-1624 or go to

Email Patty Chavez at Patty.

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