People of the Way remain committed to a peculiar allegiance and a distinctive conviction: that all violence, of every sort, is a form of evangelism for the Devil. Those who stand by this claim get no extra cookies nor receive special privilege. Pride is excluded from the armor of faith, and boasting is limited to the promise that loving enemies is the only fruitful way to lasting peace, in imitation of the one who refused the option of a militarized angelic rescue from the crucifier’s grisly work. (cf. Matthew 26:53)
We make this profession of our faith even knowing that we ourselves are not immune from the lust for vengeance. As César Chávez, the great practitioner of nonviolent struggle for justice, said: “I am a violent man learning to be nonviolent.” Indeed, we are given the grace to confess our bloodlust precisely because we stand in merciful submission to the promise of life that is to come.–Ken Sehested
JANUARY 30, ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF MAHATMA GANDHI
Mahatma Gandhi is a strong, unwavering figure whose light has lit many a road. Martin Luther King, Jr and the Civil Rights Movement walked the way that Gandhi led and brought segregation to an end. Cesar Chavez and the migrant farmworkers walked the way that Gandhi led and made Hispanic farmworkers a power to be reckoned with rather than an invisible minority to be exploited. The peace movement around the world has walked the way that Gandhi led and forced the end of the Vietnam War, the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, the fall of the Marcos regime in the Philippines, and the end of nuclear innocence.
Gandhi asked us to critique government and law according to a higher law. Gandhi reminded us to be patient with others, to do no one harm, to pursue truth with passion.
Gandhi demands that our political involvement and our personal responses be based on a spirituality so deep, a spiritual attunement so constant, a spiritual vision so broad that no personal ambition, no selfish gains, no parochial interests corrupt the depth of our commitment nor the openness of our hearts. No seed ever sees the flower, Zen teaches. Those who follow Gandhi, may, like him, never know their successes. But like Gandhi, too, they will never really know defeat.—by Joan Chittister (adapted from A Passion for Life: Fragments of the Face of God; Orbis, Devotional Edition)
“At its fundamental level,” writes Frederick John Dalton in The Moral Vision of Cesar Chavez, “the farm-worker struggle Cesar Chavez led is the struggle of the poor to be recognized as human beings. Cesar Chavez and La Causa bear witeness to the morally perverse situation of oppression in the name of freedom, exploitation in the name of competition, suffering in the name of efficiency, and impoverishment in the name of private property.”
Watch President Obama’s address to the overflow crowd at the newly appointed Cesar Chavez National Monument:
KEENE, Calif. – President Obama’s stop in this remote and sparsely populated San Joaquin Valley town was about as far off the campaign trail as a candidate could be so close to an election. But his message as he dedicated the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument was not without political significance, as he honored the legacy of a civil rights and labor leader whose “si se puede” credo was an inspiration for his own historic campaign four years ago.
Speaking on the 187-acre property that served as both home and operational headquarters for Chavez and his United Farm Workers movement, Obama said Chavez’s tenacity on behalf of a new generation of workers was part of “the story of who we are as Americans,” meriting such a tribute alongside other national monuments like the Statue of Liberty and the Grand Canyon.
“It’s a story of natural wonders and modern marvels, of fierce battles and quiet progress. But it’s also a story of people, of determined, fearless, hopeful people who have always been willing to devote their lives to making this country a little more just and a little more free,” Obama said.
On October 8, on a gorgeous early autumn day in the oak-dappled foothills of California’s Tehachapi Mountains, President Obama formally designated the César E. Chávez National Monument. The designation is the fourth of Obama’s presidency, but the first-ever national monument dedicated to a Latino.
Below, the president with Helen Chávez at her late husband’s gravesite at Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz (Our Lady Queen of Peace), or La Paz, in the town of Keene, California, site of the new national monument.
Official White House photo by Pete Souza
“César Chávez was a true labor and environmental champion whose work helped result in the passage of landmark laws that protect our air, water, land, and—most important—people,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. “His work helped link people’s health and the environment, and his fight for environmental justice is one that the Sierra Club remains committed to today.” …
The United Farm Workers, one of the great American democracy movements, lost a brother, leader, friend this week. Richard Chavez, brother of Cesar Chavez, died at age 81 in Bakersfield, California.
If you know nothing else about him, remember that he designed the black Aztec eagle on a red field that became a symbol of Chicano and farm worker justice around the world.
In June 2011, Richard Chavez stood on the steps of the California state capitol to encourage those who were fasting for farm workers rights [Watch the video.]
He said: “It’s been almost 50 years ago that I came and marched on these steps for the very same thing that we are here for today. It was an Easter Sunday and Dolores and I marched. We marched to talk to then-Governor Brown–another Governor Brown, the father of this governor. Fasting is nothing new to our movement. We have been fasting for years and years. Continue reading “Si Lo Hizo!: Remembering Richard Chavez”
“If you want to remember me, organize.” –Cesar Chavez
Today is the 18th anniversary of Cesar Chavez’ death. In memory and gratitude for his work and the work of all those United Farmworkers I’m posting “Seeds of Hope” that appeared in 1993. Cesar, presente!
A Seed of Hope
by Aaron Gallegos and Rose Marie Berger
Sojourners, July 1993
The eagle on the red and black banner of the United Farm Workers union can be likened to the Aztec deity, Quetzacoatl, the plumed, phoenix-like serpent-god that dies descending into the Earth, only to be born again by ascending to the heavens.
Along with sorrow at his passing, Cesar Chavez’s death on April 23 at the age of 66 brings a similar hope of rebirth for many Latinos and others who were inspired by his life of nonviolent resistance to the oppression of America’s farm workers. Like Martin Luther King Jr., Chavez represented moral leadership for minorities, the poor, and many others seeking liberation. His commitment to nonviolence, his spiritual rootedness, his invitation to community, his fasts, and his unwavering dedication to the voiceless of California’s Central Valley were the crucible in which we learned justice.
Cesar Chavez was raised in a family of migrant farm workers, moving through the apricot and almond orchards of Arizona and California, “following the crops” after his family lost their farm during the Great Depression. Though he attended 65 public schools, Chavez never went beyond the eighth grade–instead he educated himself in public libraries through the writings of Gandhi and John Steinbeck.
Influenced by the newly formed farm worker ministries active in California during the early ’50s, Chavez went to work with Saul Alinsky’s Community Service Organization registering Mexican-American voters. In 1962 he left to form the National Farm Workers Association, the precursor to the United Farm Workers union. Delano, California, became the site of La Huelga, UFW’s famous five-year strike and national grape boycott that began in 1965 when the union joined Filipino grape pickers striking for higher wages. It was this strike and boycott that revealed Chavez as one of the most inspired and creative labor leaders of our time.