The coming of March 31 would have been the 84th birthday of civil rights activist Cesar E. Chavez.
Chavez was born March 31, 1927 in Yuma, Ariz.
Chavez first experienced the hardships of being a farm worker after his family lost their home in the Great Depression.
Chavez began his career in community rights by joining the Community Service Organization (CSO), a prominent Latino rights group against economic and racial discrimination in urban areas.
Chavez sought to protect farm workers’ rights as laborers in the U.S.
In 1962, Chavez founded what is now known as the United Farm Workers union (UFW).
The UFW’s cause, La Causa, sought to get workers to join labor unions, which provided more wage and rights protection.
In 1965, The UFW successfully unionized the grape workers of the Delano Farms Company in Delano, Calif.
Cesar passed away on April 23, 1993, leaving a legacy and an image of freedom and equality.
On March 10, 2011, the Division of Diversity, Access and Equity (DDAE) hosted the fourth annual Cesar Chavez Keynote Address featuring Senior Correspondent for Public Broadcast System (PBS) News Hour and author Ray Suarez.
An advocate of Public Media, Suarez has worked as host for National Public Radio’s (NPR) “Talk of the Nation.”
Suarez came to UMKC to give his traveling speech on “The Browning of America.”
“The Browning of America” refers to the shift in the traditional American demographic.
“Mr. Suarez’s keynote address [adds] to an increasingly important dialogue on the changing demographics of the United States and the political, intellectual, social and economic impact of a more diverse population,” Deputy Chancellor for DDAE Dr. Karen Dace said.
Suarez began his speech by reflecting on his interview with Chavez.
“[Chavez] was a tireless fighter for the rights of workers, but also a practical man,” Suarez said. “He was a visionary, and at the same time, a pragmatic, unsentimental observer.”
Suarez then began discussing the evolution of America’s minority.
Suarez believes the topic of a changing America is important and demands an examination.
“I’m not sure America has really thought this through and asked themselves the tough questions about the changes that are on the way, the changes reflected in the recently released Census report,” Suarez said.
He continued to stress the importance of the various cultures residing in the U.S., giving a seemingly accurate break down of all the languages spoken by each ethnic demographic living in the U.S.
Suarez relayed the message that this country was founded with the ideals of change, and it would be wise for all Americans to, if not accept the change, then to be aware of its arrival.
Suarez believes by 2045 what is now considered to minority will without a doubt become the majority.
Following his speech, Suarez had a book signing for his books “The Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in America” and “The Old Neighborhood: What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration.”
For more information on Ray Suarez, go to www.pbs.org/newshour/aboutus/bio_suarez.html.