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Chavez day event to honor three local residents

March 16, 2010

KALAMAZOO--Southwest Michigan will celebrate the life and work of civil rights leader Cesar E. Chavez with a scholarship fund-raising dinner and program Saturday, March 27, in the Fetzer Center on Western Michigan University's main campus in Kalamazoo.

The event will start at 6:30 p.m. and the cost is $40. Reservations are required by Friday, March 19. The keynote speaker will be Norma Flores Lopez, campaign manager for the Children in the Fields Campaign, an affiliate organization of the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs.

This is the fourth year that WMU's Division of Multicultural Affairs has teamed with the Southwest Michigan Cesar E. Chavez Day Committee and area businesses to sponsor a banquet on or around Chavez' March 31 birthday.

Chavez was a leader for more than 30 years in the nonviolent struggle to improve civil rights and working conditions for migrant farm laborers and co-founded what is now the United Farm Workers of America, the nation's first successful farm workers union.

The 2010 Chavez day event will begin at 6:30 p.m. with entertainment and a reception. The dinner and program will follow at 7 p.m. In addition to the talk by Lopez, the program will include remarks by area dignitaries and the presentation of the committee's annual community service award and scholarship.

This year, the Chavez Day committee will present its Tri-Community Award to Sister Rosemary Tierney of Kalamazoo. Now age 80 and retired, Tierney has worked with the migrant and resident Hispanic community in Kalamazoo for more than 30 years and continues volunteering with the Immigration Assistance Program that she co-founded in 1999.

The Tri-Community Award, named in honor of Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, recognizes individuals in Southwest Michigan who make an outstanding contribution to bringing together all segments of the regional community.

The Southwest Michigan Cesar E. Chavez Day Committee Scholarship will be awarded to Erica Perez, a senior at Covert High School in Covert, Mich, and Dyami Hernandez, a senior at Loy Norrix High School in Kalamazoo. This $1,000, need-based scholarship is available to Michigan college or college-bound students living in Kalamazoo or Van Buren counties.

Lopez, who began working in farm fields at age 12 alongside her parents and siblings, has become an advocate for migrant farmworker children's rights. The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs is a collection of 51 nonprofit and public agencies working in part to remove loopholes in child labor laws that allow children to work at very young ages in the fields.

Its Children in the Fields Campaign seeks to educate the public on that issue and is being supported by $1.4 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Mich. The grant is being used to build grassroots support to combat exploitation of U.S farmworker children in the key states of Michigan, Ohio, California, North Carolina and Texas.

To register for the 2010 Chavez dinner and program, call (269) 760-8138.

For more information, contact Miguel Ramirez in WMU's Division of Multicultural Affairs at miguel.ramirez@wmich.edu or (269) 387-3329.

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

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400