GV Celebrates Ceasar Chavez
On a snowy Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 Grand Valley State University students and faculty, including President Thomas Haas, gathered in front of Zumberge Library to honor the memory and work of César Chávez through a silent march.
The march is part of the César E. Chávez celebration organized by GVSU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs to bring awareness about the impact of Chávez’s role in social justice.
The march began outside of the library and circled around campus, ending inside the Kirkhof Center’s Grand River Room.
Allison Roman, the assistant director of OMA, said the celebration has been at GVSU since 2000, with the university hosting past events like guest speakers and lectures on history, language and other topics geared towards Chávez.
Roman said the office chose to honor Chávez with the various events because, “he is an American hero.”
Chávez, who was born in 1927 and passed away in 1993, is remembered for using a nonviolent manner to bring attention to the plight of farmworkers, among other noteworthy achievements.
“He formed the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers,” Roman said. “He led marches and went on several boycotts.”
The march, led by members of OMA and Haas, was outlined with signs printed with facts about Chávez’s life and social justice work.
“We hope that today’s event will be able to educate students, faculty and staff to the issues that face Latinos specifically in education,” Roman said.
At the conclusion of the march, participants were invited to Kirkhof where guest speaker Mark Kamimura-Jimenez, director of the Graduate Student Success Center at the University of Michigan, spoke to the audience about Chávez’s life and legacy.
During his lecture, Kamimura-Jimenez shared some of his life experiences growing up in California and his own struggles with the education system. Kamimura-Jimenez also spoke to the crowd about the education pipeline and challenges Latinos face when it come to schooling.
“Less than one percent of Latinos will receive a doctorate degree,” Kamimura-Jimenez said. “(About) 0.3 percent for females and 0.4 percent for males.”
Along with the silent march, other events are also planned to honor Chávez while informing students and other participants of his life and accomplishments.
“There will be a community event put on by the Committee to Honor César E. Chávez Thursday, March 21,” Roman said. “It will begin with a social justice march and follow with a community gathering.” The march will begin in Grandville at 11 a.m. with the gathering at noon in Grand Rapids, according to the event’s webpage.
With the various events, Roman said the ultimate goal is to educate the participants about Chávez and his influence.
“Our goal is to continue to work of César E. Chávez by bringing awareness to the issues that still impact Latinos,” she said. “(We) will continue to be a tradition to recognize the life and legacy of César E. Chávez.”