(Orange, CA)— Santiago Canyon College (SCC) will celebrate the life of American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist César Chávez on his birthday, Thursday, March 31. The celebration will take place at Strenger Plaza on the SCC campus, located at 8045 E. Chapman, Orange, CA 92869.
“The significance of César Chávez transcends any one cause or struggle,” said SCC President John Weispfenning, Ph.D. “He was a unique and humble leader, as well as a great humanitarian and communicator who influenced millions of Americans from all walks of life. He was a common man with an uncommon vision, who stood for equality, justice, and dignity for all Americans. His principles remain as relevant and inspiring today as they were when he first began his movement.”
The day’s schedule features:
- 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. César Chávez Awareness Day activities
- 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Performance by Mariachi Los Santos, Santa Ana High School
- 2:00 p.m. Installation of the César Chávez sculpture
Chávez is most notably known for organizing farm workers to receive better working conditions. He first became involved in Community Service Organization in 1952, but resigned in 1962 to devote his energy to creating a farm workers union. In 1962, Chávez founded National Farm Workers Association. Later, this organization would join with the Agricultural Works Organizing Committee to strike against grapes growers in California. These two organizations would unite to become known as United Farm Workers (UFW).
Nonviolent means of protests were stressed while trying to improve conditions for farm workers and raise wages. Chávez looked to emulate the civil rights movement that was happening alongside his own protest. Through boycotts, marches and hunger strikes he was able to improve working conditions and raise wages in California, Texas, Arizona, and Florida. Chávez devoted himself to problems of some of the poorest workers in America for 30 years.
Chávez moved to California as a child with his family in 1939. The following ten years were spent moving around the state to work in the fields. This is where Chávez first witnessed the conditions he would end up devoting his life to changing.
The Chávez sculpture, created by Southern California artist Juan Rosillo, was donated by Toni and Ray Mendoza. Ray first met Chávez while an international representative for the Labors’ International Union of America. The Mendozas recall that Chávez had a presence when he walked into a room and everyone stopped to pay attention. Ray recalls how Chávez maintained his humble lifestyle throughout the years by continuing to live in the same community. To the Mendozas, Chávez was an inspiring person they are glad to have known. They wanted to have this sculpture made to honor Chávez for all his work. The idea came from a walk through another college’s campus that has a row of busts, but no César Chávez bust. The Mendozas came in contact with SCC and found college leaders receptive to the idea of installing this sculpture on campus.
Southern California artist Rosillo has produced sculptures, paintings, drawings, and screen prints for over three decades. Born to an Italian mother in Colombia, Rosillo participated in art shows as a child. He continued to produce art after moving to Southern California in 1983. The Italian, Colombian, and American cultures influence Rosillo’s art. In Neiva, Colombia, Rosillo was first commissioned for his art in 1973. Since then, Rosillo has been published in many books as well as commissioned for numerous art pieces. For more information about Rosillo’s art, visit www.rosillo.com.
Chávez is someone that Rosillo admires and was excited to create this sculpture. He said that some of the political and social advancements that have been made are because of Chávez’s contributions. Rosillo spoke about how engaged he was while creating this sculpture and that his creativity just flowed because of the connection he felt to Chávez. “I think this is one of my best,” said Rosillo.
The César Chávez Awareness Day activities will include booths showcasing college programs including College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), Associated Student Government (ASG), and Inter-Club Council (ICC). CAMP will also have an interactive display to raise awareness of the issues that migrant workers still face. The CAMP display will feature wooden crosses with farm workers’ names and the causes of their deaths due to dangerous working conditions.
The ceremony will feature remarks by Rancho Santiago Community College District Board of Trustees President Claudia C. Alvarez, Santiago Canyon College President John Weispfenning, Ph.D., SCC Professor of Spanish Lourdes Fajardo, College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) Senior Clerk Erica James, CAMP student Yesenia Rodriguez, SCC Associated Student Government Associate Justice Daniel Rebolledo, as well as César L. Chávez, César Chávez’s grandson.
The event is free and open to the public. Parking is free in student lots. For more information, contact CAMP at 714-628-5034.
About Santiago Canyon College
Santiago Canyon College (SCC) serves about 14,000 students each semester. The college prepares students for transfer to four-year institutions and careers, and provides courses for personal and professional development, as well as customized training for business and industry. The college is recognized for its adult education program which keeps the working adult—and senior—in mind by offering flexible schedules, and community locations. Serving the residents of Anaheim Hills, Orange, Tustin, and Villa Park, SCC is one of two comprehensive colleges under the auspices of the Rancho Santiago Community College District. Visit http://www.sccollege.edu to learn more.
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