César Chávez Lecture Series

Photo Credit: César Chávez talks to striking Salinas Valley farm workers at a rally in 1979. Paul Sakuma, Associated Press, March 7, 1979

Beginning in 2008, the Division of Diversity and Inclusion annually hosts the César Chávez Lecture Series to honor the accomplishments of César Chávez, organizer of the Chicano Movement in the United States and founder of the United Farm Workers, and to raise awareness of the continual struggle for civil rights including humane working conditions, dignity, equality and access to opportunity for all. Mr. Chávez successfully used nonviolent tactics to organize farm workers against unfair labor practices and unhealthy working conditions that continue today as farm workers are exposed to harmful pesticides, dangerous equipment, hazardous “housing”, and unfair wages.

By bringing thought leaders from various fields to campus through this lecture series, UMKC students, staff, faculty and the Kansas City community may be inspired to continue the legacy of Cesar Chavez’s tireless, nonviolent leadership in ways they feel passionate so that more of us live with dignity and experience equal civil rights.

Christine Chavez-Still-Speaker2017: Christine Chávez

Christine Chávez has a made a lifetime commitment to civil rights, the labor movement, and community organizing. Christine works for the United States Department of Agriculture. She serves as the Farmworker Coordinator. Prior to that she served as the United Farm Workers’ political director where she raised public awareness to protect the civil rights of farm workers and the larger immigrant community.

Latina Magazine recently named Christine as one of their top Latinas for her longtime involvement with civil rights issues; particularly, her work on marriage equality. She has been recognized by the Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force for leadership on helping to end discrimination.

View photos of the 10th Annual César Chávez lecture here.

View the keynote address for the 10th Annual César Chávez lecture here.
Maria-Teresa-Kumar-Still-Speaker2016: María Teresa Kumar

Lauded as one the most influential American Latinos under 40 and as among the top Latinas in Government and Politics, Maria Teresa (Petersen) Kumar is the founding President & CEO of Voto Latino, a leading national civic engagement organization targeting acculturated American Latino youth.

View video of the 9th Annual César Chávez lecture here.
Baldemar Velasquez2015: Baldemar Velasquez

Baldemar Velasquez – An American labor union activist, he co-founded and is president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (AFL-CIO). He was named a MacArthur Fellow in 1989 and was awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle in 1994, the highest honor Mexico can bestow on a non-citizen.

Edward James Olmos2014: Edward James Olmos

Edward James Olmos – The multi-talented actor, producer, director and community activist spent many years in theatrical roles and continues to do so. In April 1999, Olmos launched a nationwide multimedia project called “Americanos: Latino Life in the United States,” a celebration of Latino culture through photography, film, music and the printed word to inspire Latino pride, and to build bridges among Latinos and others. Olmos is a US Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, and a national spokesperson for organizations such as the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.
Maria Hinojosa2013: Maria Hinojosa

Maria Hinojosa – An award winning journalist, she is the anchor and executive producer of Latino USA on National Public Radio, a public radio show devoted to Latino issues. She is also the founder, president and CEO of Futuro Media Group, which produces the show.
Roberto Rodriguez 2012: Roberto Rodriguez

Roberto Rodriguez – Assistant professor at the Mexican American and Raza Studies Department at the University of Arizona. Rodriguez teaches on the history of maiz (the foundation for Mexican American Studies), Chicano Culture and the Chicano Movement and the history of red-brown journalism. He is a longtime-award-winning journalist.
Ray Suarez2011: Ray Suarez

Ray Suarez – Washington, D.C.-based host of Al Jazeera America’s Inside story as well as an author of three books: Latino Americans: The 500 Year Legacy That Shaped a Nation, The Old Neighborhood: What WE Lost in the Great Suburban Migration: 1966-1999, and The Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in America.
Roberto Lovato2010: Roberto Lovato

Roberto Lovato – Writer and commentator with “New America Media” and strategy consultant and co-founder of Presente.org, an online Latino advocacy organization. Roberto has written and spoken extensively about a number of critical issues including climate change, national politics, immigration, Latin American politics, national security, and race and race relations.
Barbara Martinez Jitner2009: Barbara Martinez Jitner

Barbara Martinez Jitner – Human rights activist, writer and director, Martinez Jitner was a filmmaker, producer and the first Latina woman nominated for both an Emmy and a Golden Globe.
Julie Chavez Rodriguez2008: Julie Chavez Rodriguez

Julie Chavez Rodriguez – Granddaughter of Cesar E. Chavez, she serves as the deputy director of public engagement and has served as the White House’s primary liaison to the Latino community and on immigration-related issues.