Editor: See Cesar Chavez.
A little while ago I was asked if I would be willing to co-emcee a celebration of Helen Chavez’s life and it was one of those requests that make you go “Who, me? Cesar’s sweet Helen? You kiddin’ me? Well, uh, hey, by golly gee. Yessiree.” Talking about being honored. Whoo! Whee!
I mean, how could I not leap upon the opportunity to share a stage with a woman who took care of a man I loved, enabling him to stretch his wings as he heeded Gandhi and Martin’s call, understanding innately at deep soulful levels the “Why” of it all – as she, too, could not resist the call to change a world.
Oh, the imagery. There she stands, taking Cesar’s hands, gazing into his eyes with a look that says in all it’s glare: “I got it covered, baby. You get yourself out there. You go on and fly! I, even in the times when we’re far apart, will always be close by.”
I see them as teens, telling each other of their hopes and dreams, she by his side, fully aware that this budding man with little means, stooped over in the fields, from the break of day until the end of the day, would someday put an end to such days and bring about better days – and they became as one over a short time and, in response to the social inequities of their time, they taught the campesinos to read and write and try citizenship on for size.
And Cesar begins to organize the union while Helen toils in the fields, picking whatever needed to be picked as there was rent to be paid and food to be bought as freedom fighters do not live by ideals alone. Oh, that could be a phrase in their love song.
I see her in the trenches, in a jail cell, making a shame of law enforcer’s’ claims of ‘”protecting and serving” as they do neither very well and she steadfastly stands against the other un-pleasantries that mar the paths of those who dare to confront a world that resists their struggles for dignity.
I see her explaining to her children that their dad loves them dearly but he just can’t make it to the game because, since Cesar is his name, he has to deal with some pressing issues around: boycotts and seniority and job security and fair pay; folks’ bodies breaking down from inhaling DDT and stooping with short handled hoes everyday; women being harassed sexually and union members struggling to keep from striking out violently as they’re beaten down emotionally and physically day after day.
I see Helen like the black Aztec Eagle in the center of the UFW flag, still blowing strong in the wind, still awakening pride in the hearts and souls of struggling people who oft times seem to be alive only to confront the evil inherent in the dark situations that darken their lives.
I see Helen still standing at the forefront of a people’s aspirations like the white circle that highlights the eagle; the liquid that runs through her veins matches the rich blood red background that surrounds the eagle, symbolizing the hard work and sacrifices that characterize a union member’s life.
Oh, the images in Helen Chavez’s life are pictures of a people overcoming societies’ inequities in a spirit of peace and love. If there is any such thing then she must surely be a gift from above.
Being in this wonderful woman’s presence on her special day is an honor of a lifetime for me, an honor I’d like to share with anyone else who would like to celebrate with her in just a few days on March 26. The event that will benefit the Cesar Chavez Service Clubs like the one at Point Loma High.
If you’re interested in taking part please contact Linda LeGerrette via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor: Here’s a link to a post on Cesar Chavez from 2009.