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Honoring Cesar Chavez

Originally written on 3/31/17

“Once social change begins it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person that has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.” *Cesar Chavez*

Today is Cesar Chavez’s birthday. He would have been 90 years old today. I wonder how he would be feeling about and resisting current events. I think the quote of his words above give us a glimmer. The legacy of Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers movement lives with us today as an ongoing model of determination and solidarity. Some schools and communities have a holiday to commemorate Cesar Chavez day. I hope children everywhere will be hearing the stories of the farmworkers movement and learning about the efforts of workers, laborers, every day people to claim their right to work safely and with dignity. I also hope that as educators, parents, community organizers and activists, we can begin or continue to build conversations and coalitions that bring to bear the connection and ties between farm workers, coal miners, restaurant workers, child care workers, immigrants present and past. I hope we can identify and gain consensus on the concept that workers everywhere can overcome the divisions and isolation and recognize the commonalities and similarities in our struggles….there is a shared tradition of resistance. There is a shared experience of sweat and toil and determination to survive. There is a shared conviction of the right to safe work conditions and a fair, living wage.

*In my Head Start classroom, many years ago, we had the dramatic play area set up with two areas: a machine shop and a child care center. Some kids worked in the machine shop and others worked in the child care center. One day, I observed this scenario: Tory put on one of the hard hats and went into our machine shop and began turning the handle on a huge vise-grip. Kai, who had been putting “babies” to sleep in the child care area, came into the machine shop and approached Tory, saying, “I know you are working here but your baby is crying and you need to come now.” Tory yelled, “but I am working now!” Kai, responded, “I am working too AND YOUR BABY NEEDS YOU!”*

Questions for consideration:

  • How do we value the importance of all kinds of work?

  • How do we see our shared struggle to: get our work done, value each person’s job, care for the children of workers, and keep everyone safe?

When we are better able to hear and see and connect the struggles of all people, and to act against the marginalization and isolation so prevalent in this society, we will be more able to see the path forward as a united people who can read, who feel pride and who are not afraid anymore. Thank you Cesar Chavez.

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