March 30, 2001, marks the first annual Cesar E. Chavez state holiday in California. The holiday is in recognition and appreciation of Chavez' tireless work for equality, justice and dignity for all Americans -- especially the often forgotten men, women and children who toil as agricultural workers.
The Cesar E. Chavez Foundation will commemorate this historic day by celebrating Chavez' life and teachings with several events throughout Los Angeles County (please see attached list of events). Participants in today's celebrations include Helen Chavez and the Chavez family; Governor Gray Davis; members and leaders from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor; Cardinal Roger Mahony; Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert F. Kennedy; actor Martin Sheen; and Yolanda King, the eldest daughter of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Today is a celebration of my father's work and values," said Paul Chavez, Cesar Chavez' son. "He lived his teachings: service to others; the value of education; self-empowerment and perseverance against all odds."
Cesar Chavez is best known as the founder and longtime leader of the United Farm Workers, the first successful farm workers union in American history. For more than 30 years, Chavez led the UFW to secure rights and protections for hundreds of thousands of farm workers. As a result of the efforts of Chavez and the UFW, farm workers have received dignity and respect, better wages, medical coverage, pension benefits and humane living conditions.
But Chavez' work transcended his efforts for farm workers and the UFW. He was an environmentalist before the environmental movement took hold, for years fighting against the dangers of pesticides. He inspired millions of Americans to seek social justice and civil rights for the poor and exploited. He advocated for nonviolent social justice. And ultimately, he forged an extraordinary and diverse national coalition of students, middle-class consumers, trade unionists, religious groups, women and minorities, including Latinos, Filipinos, Jews, Native Americans, African Americans, and gays and lesbians.
Chavez was born on a small farm in Yuma, Arizona in 1927. He spent his youth working with his family in agricultural fields throughout the Southwest. In 1952, he became a community organizer with the Community Service Organization. He passed away in his sleep on April 23, 1993, a few miles from the farm where he was born.
"Cesar Chavez was a common man with an uncommon vision for humanity," said Andres Irlando, Executive Director of the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation. "He proved that each one of us, through determination and hard work, can improve our lives and our communities."
The Cesar E. Chavez Foundation was founded in 1993 by the Chavez family and friends to educate people about the life and work of this great American civil rights leader, and to inspire all, particularly youth, to carry on his values and timeless vision for a better world.