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.

2021: Yanira Merino

Yanira Merino, will join us virtually on Thursday, April 8th, 2021 at 6 p.m. for an online discussion, moderated by Chris Hernandez. Registration is required and admittance is free!

Register for the Lecture Here!

Yanira Merino is the National President of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, which represents the interests of approximately 2 million Latino(a) trade unionists throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. Ms. Merino is a veteran labor and immigration rights leader and advocate. On August 2018 during LCLAA’s 22 Convention, held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, she was elected as president of this organization that aims at providing a voice for Latino working families nationally by coordinating labor policy on immigration, as well as other issues that are critical to Latin Americans across the United States.

Merino was born in El Salvador and migrated to the U.S. in the 1990’s, at the time of an ongoing war in her home country. When she arrived to the U.S., she joined the labor movement in order to protest poverty wages, wage theft, discrimination and unsafe working conditions at a shrimp factory where she worked at in Los Angeles. Ms. Merino and co-workers organized and led efforts to change these unfair practices. She has since worked in numerous organizing campaigns, mmigration efforts as well as solidarity work with Central America.

In 2000 she began serving as the National Immigration Coordinator for the Laborer’s International Union of North America (LiUNA).

Yanira Merino’s election to the national presidency of LCLAA represented a turning point for the organization, as she became the first woman, and first formerly undocumented immigrant to lead LCLAA. Her advocacy and passion regarding immigration issues have played a key role during crucial times for our Latino community. Merino has been committed to the protection of immigrant rights, promoting comprehensive and humane immigration reform, as well as advocating for the rights of working people of Latin American descent.

Merino’s determination and tenacity for advancing living and working conditions for Latino and immigrant workers have been indispensable for the work LCLAA does and for its pledge to guaranteeing social and economic justice for all working people.

Moderator: Chris Hernandez

Chris Hernandez serves as chief spokesman for the City of Kansas City, Missouri. He is director of the City Communications Office, supervising a talented staff of communicators who provide integrated and strategic communications support to city departments and programs. The office handles media relations, social media, the city’s website and community engagement, while also producing original video programming and graphic design services. Chris also anchors "The Weekly Report” on the city's cable channel.

Chris was previously known as “that guy on the news” during more than 20 years as a television news journalist. He was a political reporter and analyst, covering human interest stories and disasters as well. Chris worked in cities as diverse as Amarillo, Texas, and Chicago, Illinois.

Chris volunteers with and serves as a board member for several local non-profit agencies. His passion for story-telling, adventures, community engagement and innovation make him a favorite emcee and speaker at banquets, awards ceremonies and business conferences.


2020: Deanna Munoz

Dianna is the CEO/President (Founder) - Latino Arts Foundation.

Deanna has supported the arts all her life, herself wanting to be an artist, but due to events in her life she unfortunately was never able to fulfill her dream. Now, for the last 10+ years, she has been working hard and with no funding to create a no cost space for the arts and community engagement for our aspiring artists who otherwise would not be able to attend or afford such programming. Latino Arts Foundation is a nonprofit organization created to bring forth the fiercely authentic voice of the underrepresented artists through their diverse stories, cultures and beliefs creating an artist based space OF their community FOR their community.

Latino Arts Foundation envisions a community that values artists from diverse cultural backgrounds. Our organization fosters artistic passion and builds capacity within Kansas City’s creative sector. Our programs work to honor cultural identity and heal historic inequities. Components of Latino Arts Foundation are the Art Mentorship programs, Latino Arts festival, Latinx Community Roundtable, Nuestra Voz - Rise Up event, Community Vision Boarding.

The Latino Arts Foundation is a space where it does not matter your race, your genre or how accomplished you are as an artist, all are welcome.

Date: April 23rd
Start time: 6:00 - 7:20 PM
Location: Student Union Theater

Cost – Free: Registration is Required
2019: José Olivarez

JOSÉ OLIVAREZ is the son of Mexican immigrants and the author of the book of poems, Citizen Illegal, a finalist for the prestigious PEN/Jean Stein Book Award. In 2018, he was awarded the first annual Author and Artist in Justice Award from the Phillips Brooks House Association.

Along with Felicia Chavez and Willie Perdomo, he is co-editing the forthcoming anthology, The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNEXT. He is the co-host of the poetry podcast, The Poetry Gods and a recipient of fellowships from CantoMundo, Poets House, the Bronx Council on the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, & the Conversation Literary Festival.

José is a master teaching artist. in 2017-2018, he was the Lead Teaching Artist for the Teen Lab Program at the Art Institute in Chicago, IL. In the past, he has led writing workshops & diversity trainings for institutions such as: Lincoln Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
Studio Museum of Harlem, The Adirondack Center for Writing, Inside Out Literary Arts, & many more community organizations & universities. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Paris Review, Chicago Magazine & elsewhere.

José Olivarez will join us on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at 6 p.m. at the UMKC Student Union Theater. This event is free and open to the public, but registration is highly encouraged.
2018: José Galvez

Since the late 1960s, Tuscon, Arizona native José Galvez has used black and white photography to document Latinx life and culture. A newspaper photographer for over twenty years, Galvez was a member of a team of reporters and photographers at the Los Angeles Times who won a Pulitzer Prize in Community Service for a series on the Latino experience in Southern California.

View photos of the 11th Annual César Chávez lecture here.

Panelist Biographies

Dr. Sandra Enríquez: Professor Sandra Enríquez is a social historian of modern United States history with particular research and teaching interests in Chicanx and Latinx history, urban history, borderlands, social movements, and public history. She is currently working on a manuscript project tentatively titled ¡El Barrio No Se Vende!: Urban Redevelopment and Community-Controlled Preservation in El Paso, Texas, which examines grassroots preservation efforts to keep Mexican American neighborhoods from the bulldozer. Dr. Enríquez is the Director of the Public History Emphasis and supervises the Public History internship program. She is also an affiliated faculty member in the Latinx and Latin American Studies Program.

Dr. Joseph R. Hartman: Joseph R. Hartman has lectured and published widely on modern/contemporary Latinx and Latin American art, architecture, and experience. Hartman’s first book, The Dictator’s Dreamscape: Building Machado’s Cuba (The University of Pittsburgh Press, forthcoming), reconsiders Cuban visual culture within broader histories of nation-building, globalization, and U.S. hegemony in the Western hemisphere.

Dr. Theresa Torres: Dr. Theresa Torres is Associate Professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in the Department of Sociology and the Latinx and Latin American Studies Program. She is in her 12th year at the university. Her areas of expertise are Latina Latino Studies, immigration, race and ethnic relations, and Latinx religion and spirituality. She published The Paradox of Latina Religious Leadership in the Catholic Church: Las Guadalupanas of Kansas City, Palgrave MacMillon Publishing, 2013. She is working on her second book on Latina Leaders: Transformational Resistant Leadership. In additional Dr. Torres is completing a study of Latinxs in Kansas City, KS in collaboration with her colleague, Clara Irazabal-Zurita and graduate student, Ignacio Cisneros-Ramirez. She is also continuing her service to the community serving Guadalupe Centers as they plan for their celebration of 100 years in 2019.
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.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.