WMU News

Governor, labor organizers speak at Chavez Day observance

March 25, 2005

KALAMAZOO--Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm and two former farm labor activists will headline Western Michigan University's 2005 celebration of Cesar E. Chavez Day from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, March 31, in the South Ballroom of the Bernhard Center on the WMU campus.

The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Those wishing to attend are encouraged to arrive early to ensure having a seat. John H. Dominquez, director of migrant/bilingual education and binational programs for the Van Buren Intermediate School District, will introduce Granholm as well as serve as emcee along with WMU graduate student Andera Juarez.

On Dec. 3, 2003, Granholm signed legislation establishing March 31 as Cesar E. Chavez Day in Michigan. This will be the second year that the life and ideals of the noted civil rights and labor leader are officially celebrated across the state. Chavez was born March 31, 1927, and died April 23, 1993. For more than 30 years, he was a leader in the nonviolent struggle to improve civil rights and working conditions for migrant farm laborers. In addition, he founded what is now the United Farm Workers of America, the nation's first successful farm workers union.

WMU's Cesar Chavez Day observance will feature remarks by Michael and Felipa Schwartz of Grand Rapids, Mich. The Schwartzes will share some of their reflections on living and working with Chavez when they were active in the farm labor movement during the 1970s.

The two served as volunteers in the Detroit area for the grape boycott in 1973 and met in jail after being arrested with 80 others in front of an A&P store. After marrying, they joined the United Farm Workers boycott staff full time in Oakland and Macomb counties, spent time in California working on that state's proposed Agricultural Labor Relations Act, and then joined the staff of the Robert F. Kennedy Farmworker Medical Plan, returning to Michigan in 1979.

Among the program's other speakers will be state Rep. Alexander Lipsey of Kalamazoo; Kalamazoo Mayor Robert Jones; WMU Provost Linda Delene; and Juan Muniz, chairman of the Southwest Michigan Cesar Chavez Day Committee. Also, Kalamazoo's St. Joseph Church Spanish Choir will perform and two area high school students will read essays they wrote on Chavez.

For more information about Cesar Chavez Day, call Miguel Ramirez, assistant director of WMU's Division of Multicultural Affairs, at (269) 387-4420.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 269 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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