ASU West to celebrate Cesar Chavez Day

In Hispanic communities, Cesar Chavez represents far more than a day off school

ASU and many Phoenix schools are preparing to celebrate Cesar Chavez Day on what would have been the Yuma-born labor and civil rights activist's 91st birthday on March 31, 2018. 

The holiday, celebrated officially in California and optionally in Arizona, is meant to recognize Chavez’s selfless dedication to farm worker rights, civil rights, peace and empowerment of the disenfranchised.

The Hispanic Honor Society on the West campus celebrates the holiday with a variety of different events aimed to educate students about Chavez's work and legacy. 

In anticipation of Cesar Chavez Day, the Hispanic Honor Society will be holding its second annual Cesar Chavez Art Week from March 26 to March 29 on Fletcher Lawn.

Given free art supplies, students have the opportunity to reflect on Chavez through art and learn more about the National Farmworker's Movement that he started in 1962.

Luis Guerra, psychology senior and president of the Hispanic Honor Society, said the event is a great way to engage the community at the West campus.

“We have students come out and paint anything related to the movement and Cesar Chavez in an effort to engage them and inform them about what Cesar Chavez did,” Guerra said. 

Guerra said that the art week was very successful in 2017, its first year.

“It really brought people together,” Guerra said. “People are always surprised when they learn more because they didn’t know that there are a lot of intersections between other cultures and movements.”

All of the student-produced art from the art week is put on display for the group’s main Cesar Chavez Day event on March 30.

The event, which will include two to three guest speakers, has historically included United Farm Workers representatives, professors and field workers to give testimonials and discuss issues that persist in society.

Guerra said given the large Hispanic demographic at ASU — almost a quarter of the undergraduate student body —  it is very important to recognize a figure like Chavez. 

“What Cesar Chavez fought for is something that is very important to a large part of the ASU community, and we want to educate people about that,” Guerra said. 

Andrea Groeninger, principal of Cesar Chavez Leadership Academy, a Phoenix elementary school, said celebrating the life and work of Chavez is crucial to the community at their school as well. 

“I think it is very important to the families at our school that we are celebrating and recognizing their culture,” Groeninger said.

Annually, the school teaches about Chavez, has a day off in observance of the holiday and hosts the entire Roosevelt District for Chavez Day, which is planned almost exclusively by students. 

The day starts with an assembly featuring student speeches, readings of Chavez’s speeches, poetry, plays, songs and guest speakers including board members, state representatives and Alejandro Chavez, Cesar Chavez’s grandson. 

The assembly is followed by a parade through the community in which students from all of the schools in the Roosevelt District march to honor Chavez.

Carmen Montoya, Nadia Perez and Sophia Miranda are the eighth graders at Cesar Chavez Leadership Academy who spearheaded the operation. The three students contacted dignitaries, obtained permits from the city and even ordered inflatables for the carnival that takes place after the parade. 

Beyond the opportunity to represent their student body and get involved with both their school and community, the trio said they are proud to celebrate a man that means so much to them and their heritage. 

“I take great honor in the fact that we honor Cesar Chavez, a person who stood up for other people,” Miranda said. “My family never had to work in the field, but if they did, I would have wanted someone to give them a voice like Cesar Chavez did for so many others."


Reach the reporter at goldham@asu.edu and follow @graceoldham123 on Twitter. 

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