A few months ago, I was tagged in one of those recurrent meme questions on Facebook:

“If you could spend the day with anyone in history, who would you choose?”

Choosing only one answer was impossible, but one of the first three names that flew from my fingertips was the iconic Cesar Chavez. Alongside Dr. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Ghandi.

Cesar Chavez was a visionary. Social justice heroism personified. A civil rights champion who dedicated his entire life to a segment of society that was in desperate need of an MLK-esque voice to lead the charge.

Weathering relentless false accusations of being a communist and/or traitor to his country, the Yuma, Ariz.-born leader illuminated injustices being carried out in the dark. He brought hope to the hopeless. He was a voice for the voiceless.

As founder of the United Farm Workers Union, Chavez rightfully demanded labor rights, fair wages and better working conditions for farmworkers. Regardless of their birthplace.

Yes, criticism has always been levied at Chavez for appearing to fight more for legal farmworkers than the undocumented ones. But at the end of the day, Chavez always sought to bring humanity to the dehumanizing treatment of all hardworking people throughout the farmworker communities.

And last Friday, California, Colorado and Texas rightfully observed “Cesar Chavez Day” as state holidays on what would have been his 90th birthday.

And yet, I became sad.

As an African-American, I’ve always wondered what impact MLK would have had had we been fortunate enough to still have him among the living. I believe that even today, at the age of 88, his prescient outlook on the poverty-stricken populace would have continued to evolve and pay fruitful dividends. And not just for African-Americans.

Same with Chavez. When Cesar Chavez died in his sleep at the home of a family friend on April 23, 1993, little did we know that his passing would create a similar void in the social justice vortex.

Chavez was willing to fight for the little guy using every arrow in his quiver. And it made me think how beneficial it would be to have Cesar Chavez’s vigor available to us in 2017.

People are nervous. The rise of Donald Trump has made openly expressing anti-immigrant rhetoric socially semi-acceptable.

Technological advancement, free trade and clean energy have decimated the white working class in multiple declining industries. As a result, immigration has become the misguided torchbearer for those, like Trump, who seek to push the nativist narrative.

The scapegoat? Mexican immigrants. Instead of the white working class seeking additional education and/or a change in careers, some have unfairly branded a portion of the Hispanic population as the focal point of their fire.

That’s what saddens me. Could you imagine Chavez’s skill set put to use in a modern-day struggle? Could you imagine his powerful voice emanating from a microphone on Trump’s building of “the wall,” live on CNN?

But I wondered ... Why hasn’t a new phoenix risen from the activism ashes? Is no one willing to answer the call? Where is his successor?

But then I remembered...

The Dolores Huerta Foundation. South Kern Sol. California Endowment. Central California Environmental Justice Network. Building Healthy Communities-South Kern. Faith in the Valley. And of course... the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

Thousands of wonderful people, may of them right here in Kern County, have voluntarily devoted their lives to continuing the important legacy work of Cesar Chavez, directly or indirectly.

People uniquely qualified to stand on the front lines and fight for those Chavez was called upon by God to protect. People willing to expose discrimination and human rights violations against Hispanics, other POC’s and assorted immigrant groups in America.

“Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures,” as Cesar Chavez once said.

So true. And then ... I became overjoyed.

Cesar Chavez is still with us. His torch has been placed in the hands of those who understand the importance of empowerment. On occasion, into the hands of those same farmworkers that Chavez helped during his years of activism. Coincidentally, the hands of field hands.

Si Se Puede. Y eventualmente sucederá.

Thank you, Cesar. Your life and legacy are in good hands.

Danny Morrison is a radio host at the New 103.9 The Beat, a nonprofit executive director and motivational speaker. His columns appear here every Tuesday; the views expressed are his own. Reach him at californianmorrison@yahoo.com.

(7) comments

Churchillis1
Churchillis1

And so the slide towards less and less media credibility infects even little old Bakersfield media outlets....

Danny Morrison is EMPLOYED by the Cesar Chaves Foundation as they own 103.9 the Beat. This man literally makes money from the same organization he now tries to convince the Bakersfield Californian readership (declining though it is) that the Cesar Chavez Foundation is the modern day reincarnation of Martin Luther King jr. Now, either the Bakersfield Californian is unaware of this fact (in which case someone should be fired immediately for incompetence as Danny himself says he works for 103.9 The Beat at the bottom of his poorly written article and a quick search on Google will tell you who owns The Beat) or they are complicit in masking the motivations of this phony.(in which case someone should REALLY be fired for trashing the credibility of a once-proud news source)

JSmith
JSmith

The real truth is the hard working families that were paying union dues got sick and tired of the UFW misusing their dues for political nonsense that were against their own beliefs. The leaders of the UFW are getting rich off the backs of these hard working people.
99% of the farmers who hire these folks treat them well and respectfully. Labors don't need some union organizer telling them were to work and when to work.

SilviaLopez
SilviaLopez

The previous ALRB Chairman, Gould, who is responsible for overseeing relations between workers, UFW, and employers made big news when he resigned recently, frustrated that less than 1% of workers are unionized and that the UFW “shows no interest in organizing the unorganized”. The UFW is in terrible hands.

AnaRojas
AnaRojas

UFW has lost over 90% of their memberships since they were founded. They now represent less than 1% of farm workers in California.

Jesse Rojas
Jesse Rojas

Chavez’s legacy is in the worst hands possible. Just last week, the United Farm Workers union was slapped with a $1.2 million dollar judgment for cheating its own employees out of wages! And they’re supposed to be the watch dog for worker rights?!

Francisco Cerritos who was fired from the UFW after he organized a UFW employee union told the LA TIMES that:

“It’s shameful that a union that says it protects the human rights of farmworkers has been violating the rights of its own employees,” Cerritos said. “It’s a product of the new management of the UFW. They no longer represent the workers.”

To learn more about the UFW and ALRB corruption visit: www.pickjustice.com

Lamonster
Lamonster

"The rise of Donald Trump has made openly expressing anti-immigrant rhetoric socially semi-acceptable." Apparently it has also made semi-acceptable the semi-honest practice of lumping legal and illegal immigration together under one banner and then semi-truthfully accusing Trump and his ilk of being anti-immigrant. Of course these types of half-truths have always been useful in shaping public opinion. Sad to see this type of semi-professionalism being swallowed whole by much of society.

jtorczon
jtorczon

Well put, Lamonster. These kinds of intellectual dishonesty could very well explain the demise of the UFW and Chavez's legacy, reflecting the dwindling fortunes of the Democratic Party. I like to think that is the result of the party becoming what Fr. Stephen Imbarrato of Priests for Life recently described as the "party of death." The party has sided with evil, as evidenced by the adoption of several intrinsic evils in its platform, and this simply cannot bear good fruits, I'm sorry to say. The likes of Dolores Huerta choosing to serve two masters and putting her party's agenda ahead of the teachings of the Catholic Church means she and the UFW are getting their just desserts.

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