César Chávez Day of Celebration
César Chávez was the child of Mexican American migrant laborers. He spent his early years in a succession of migrant camps, attending school only sporadically. He spent two years in the Navy and returned to migrant farm work. In 1962, he began organizing the largely Hispanic farm workers of Arizona and California. A charismatic figure, he used strikes and nationwide boycotts to win union recognition and contracts from California grape and lettuce growers. He brought his union to the AFL-CIO, and in 1972 it became the United Farm Workers of America (UFW).
César Chávez dedicated his life to building a movement of poor working people that extended beyond the fields, and into cities and towns across the nation. He inspired farm laborers and millions of people to commit themselves to social, economic, and civil rights activism. We honor his hard work and dedication to his people every year on March 31st, his birthday.
- César E. Chávez Foundation
Historical Narrative of César Chávez Day of Celebration at EMU
In 2009, then-Latino Advisory Council of Staff and Faculty (LACSF) President, Dr. Sandra M. Gonzales, helped to lead a campus-wide initiative to celebrate the César Chávez Day of Service and Learning after a long absence at Eastern Michigan University (EMU).
At the time, the new annual observation included poetry readings by students from Detroit’s César Chávez Academy Middle School, breakfast or luncheon addresses by prominent keynote speakers, live mariachi music and a procession to the César Chávez Fountain located between McKenny Hall and Welch Hall.
During the 5th Annual César Chávez Day Luncheon, in 2013, Dr. Gonzales returned to EMU to deliver the keynote address. After her talk, she became the first recipient of the Dr. Sandra M. Gonzales Trailblazer Award, recognizing Latino/a leaders who have made significant contributions to the Latinx community on the EMU campus and beyond.
In 2016, the Latino/a Faculty and Staff Association (LFSA) President Dr. Raúl León invited students from César Chávez Academy High School to attend the 8th Annual César Chávez Day Luncheon. LFSA collaborated with EMU Enrollment Management and the Latinx Student Association to provide high school students with a tour of campus and a panel exploring the Latinx student experience at EMU.
Since then, the annual event has grown to include hundreds of students representing more than ten different high schools throughout Southeast and Mid-Michigan as a way to honor the “Service and Learning” in the César Chávez Day of Service and Learning, while helping to prepare underserved student populations for college.