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East Bay honors Cesar Chavez

By Jia-Rui Chong, Daily Planet staff
Saturday March 30, 2002

Si, se puede! 

The United Farm Workers’ chant – Yes, it can be done! – rang out over the waterfront Friday as schoolchildren, teachers, local officials, musicians and Berkeley residents celebrated Cesar Chavez Commemoration Day. 

The Chavez Circle of Service Partnership, a group of East Bay organizations that encourage community service as a means of honoring the legacy of the labor and environmental activist, organized the event to coincide with Friday’s state holiday. 

In the main presentation, students from Thousand Oaks School, Rosa Parks School, Cragmont School and the East Bay Conservation Corps Charter School honored Chavez’s virtues of non-violence, determination, courage and hope.  

But it was also a learning day for the children: volunteers from the Lawrence Hall of Science also showed them how to tell time by the sun, important in telling farmers when to plant and harvest before they had today’s technology. 

Mayor Shirley Dean read an official proclamation that made March 29, 2002 Cesar Chavez Commemoration Day and praised Chavez’s work for better wages, living conditions, health care and the environment. 

“Each of you can have that kind of voice,” Dean said to the students. 

Superintendent Michele Lawrence, Councilmember Linda Maio and Cesar’s nephew Frederico Chavez also addressed the audience, praising the UFW founder for his inspirational fight for justice. 

Fourth-grade teacher Tim Howeth said that EBCC Charter School’s emphasis on “service-learning,” in which classroom learning is paired with community service, made it particularly important to participate in honoring a man who made his ideas a reality. 


“It’s important for kids to see who served in the past and made an impact on the lives of others,” Howeth said. 

Indeed, Frederico Chavez hoped that his uncle left a larger legacy than just another holiday. 

Thanking the crowd on behalf of the family, Frederico went on to say that he hoped the day would teach things to help children maximize their potential. 

“I hope that this can be about more than just giving state employees a day off,” said Frederico. 

Salvador Murillo, a Berkeley resident who worked with Cesar in the early ‘70s, agreed. 

“The No. 1 priority has to be getting your education. It’s not like you name a street and forget about it,” said Murillo. 

Murillo helped establish Cesar Chavez Park and is proud of Chavez’s connections to Berkeley. 

“He loved Berkeley. When things were tight, he came here for retreat, to renew his energy,” he said. 

One of Cesar’s favorite places would be an appropriate site for a major memorial, said Santiago Casal, who organized the commemoration for the Chavez Circle. 

“Berkeley is one of those communities in which struggles for social justice are very conspicuous. There are always protests around there and there is tremendous sympathy for the civil rights leader,” said Casal. 

This celebration was part of a larger effort to create a memorial for Chavez in Berkeley, said Casal, since there are no significant memorials to Latinos in the United States. Casal estimated hopefully that a memorial can be a reality in three years with a budget of $75,000. 

At their last meeting, City Council approved the installation of a temporary solar calendar, which could become part of a permanent memorial.  

But Councilmember Kriss Worthington hoped that more could be done by the Berkeley city government to honor Chavez. He had harsh words for politicians who he felt were doing only lip service to Chavez’s memory. 

“If people really cared about Cesar Chavez, they should hire and appoint Latinos,” Worthington said.