Cesar E. Chavez
A Clear Voice Against Violence
As a community and farm worker organizer early in his career, Cesar E. Chavez studied Gandhi, King and others, building a solid foundation for his nonviolent political/moral position.
When I first met Cesar I was not impressed by either his speaking style or his being a vegetarian. And he was far too religious for me. I did not understand how this humble man with an eighth grade education could plan to lead a revolution believing in and practicing nonviolence.
I was in my twenties and I wanted action… a revolution like Che’s. I wanted to confront those who did violence to our community with a taste of their own violence…
In later years I learned that his position of nonviolence was a wonderful place from which to respect all life - even the lives of those who hate you and what you stand for. On the picket lines Cesar would not let us respond with swear words and name calling to those who would call us by the worst of names. Instead he would make us shout to them in the following manner.
BROTHERS, SISTERS JOIN US … JOIN THE STRIKE … WE DON’T WANT TO HARM YOU… WE MUST ALL WORK TOGETHER FOR A BETTER LIFE FOR ALL FARMWORKERS…
So it was this calling of our enemy brother and sister that made us value their lives as much as we valued our own.
When some of our strikers were killed by agents of the growers Cesar instead lead us in prayer, forgiveness and a re-dedication to our strike, our boycott and our commitment to non-violence.
Cesar Chavez, and co-founder of the UNITED FARM WORKERS UNION Dolores Huerta, were always voices to stand up against violence including the penalty of death. Today Dolores continues to raise her voice against this act of violence.
Cesar’s example turned the minds and hearts of young militants like me and many others from a road filled with revenge to one of forgiveness and reconciliation. At first it was hard to be non-violent but as the years and tests passed, I personally found a new freedom in forgiving and by loving my enemies. It is when you truly embrace non violence that you can find a peace and liberation that can help others to heal and live full lives.
Cesar today would have called Governor Bill Richardson and would have thanked him for abolishing the death penalty in
He, Dolores, the Filipinos and others at the core of this non-violent movement encouraged that we all become strong and dedicated voices in our communities, for non-violence…
And yes we can overcome violence and change our world for the better. We can, and we will abolish the death penalty.
SI SE PUEDE ... YES WE CAN
DREAM A BETTER WORLD.
Written by Magdaleno Leno Rose-Avila
Former United Farm Workers Union Organizer
Founding Executive Director Cesar E. Chavez Foundation
Executive Director Social Justice Fund NW