31 Mar We Still Believe “Sí, Se Puede!”
By Marsha Mitchell | Director of Communications
No one could have foreseen in March of 2020 just how unrelenting this battle against COVID would be. The global pandemic has made racial and wealth disparities worse for Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities across the nation and the globe. Headlines like “Communities of Color Devastated by COVID-19” became way too familiar. The data immediately started to show how vulnerable minority communities are. As frontline workers risked their lives to keep the country and the economy open, global billionaires total wealth increased more over the past 24 months than in the 15 years before the pandemic.
Cesar Chavez knew firsthand the struggles of the nation’s poorest and most powerless workers, who labored to put food on the nation’s tables while often going hungry themselves. Minimum wage laws did not cover farmworkers; many made as little as 40 cents an hour. Often their homes consisted of tents, and some lived out of their cars and trucks. They, like those experiencing houselessness today, had no electricity, running water, or bathrooms. A lasting part of his legacy is that Cesar Chavez elevated people’s sense of their own power. As a result, farmworkers discovered they could demand dignity and better wages.
“Communities of color have long fought for equitable access to healthcare, education, criminal justice reforms, housing, jobs, and other resources that have been denied due to systemic racism.,” said Alberto Retana, President & CEO of Community Coalition. “And just like this iconic leader who organized the people to bring about change, we need the people to understand their power. We still need to believe, “Si, Se Puede!”
9 Things You May Not Know About Cesar Chavez
- Chávez was born in 1927 in Yuma, Ariz., with his family living in an adobe home built by his grandfather.
- Chávez’ family lost their farm due to back taxes and had to become migrant farm workers to make a living.
- He attended 38 different schools before 8th grade.
- After moving to California, Chávez’ family lived in a underresourced neighborhood, Salsipuedes. Ironically, this town’s name translates as “escape if you can.”
- Chávez turned down a prestigious job from President John F. Kennedy; Chávez preferred to keep working with his union.
- He fasted for 36 days at age 61 to protest pesticides.
- He was a vegetarian. “I became a vegetarian after realizing that animals feel afraid, cold, hungry and unhappy like we do,” Chavez once said.
- After his 1993 death, Chávez was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
- He inspired Obama’s “Yes, we can” phrase for President’s Obama’s 2008 election campaign.
Twenty-nine years after his passing, Cesar Chavez’s name and legacy continue to grow. Many young people born and raised since his passing are left to learn from those who were there, so they in turn can pass the proverbial baton to the generations that follow