We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure.
Today is the birthday of Cesar Chavez (for more background, go here).
Chavez is a man who played a HUGE role in organizing migrant farm workers (mostly in California) in order to have a unified voice against the abusive practices of the farm owners, and served for many years as the President of the United Farm Workers (UFW). Chavez started just like so many others - as a son of farm workers who then became a farm worker himself. He began to get involved in community organizing and quickly saw the need to organize his fellow farm workers.
He also was a man who not only stressed social and economic justice for farm workers, but he also stressed the absolute need for non-violent actions against the bosses rather than using violent means.
Here are some quotes:
You know, if people are not pacifists, it's not their fault. It's because society puts them in that spot. You've got to change it. You don't just change a man - you've got to change his environment as you do it.
...People think non-violence is really weak and non-militant. These are misconceptions that people have because they don't understand what non-violence means. Non-violence takes more guts, if I can put it bluntly, than violence. Most violence acts are accomplished by getting the opponent off guard, and it doesn't take that much character, I think, if one wants to do it.
We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community...Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.
Chavez was a man of principle. He was a man who was willing to embrace the struggle of justice, and embrace non-violent means to get to a point of justice.
If Chavez was still living today, I think he would be a bit disappointed. Disappointed that so many of his fellow migrant workers are still in awful conditions. Disappointed that we have yet to get to a point of just immigration policies. Disappointed that while progress was made, that there is still a long, long way to go.
But regardless of the disappointment, Cesar Chavez is a man who made a difference. He made a difference for thousands of farm workers and more generally, thousands, if not millions, of migrant workers around the country.