On March 16, the Grand Rapids community came together to honor the life and legacy of César E. Chávez, who was a labor leader and civil rights activist in the early 1960s. The community participated in a social justice march, a community gathering, and a unity luncheon.
The event started with the social justice march on César E. Chávez Avenue, previously Grandville Avenue, for the first time since its renaming was announced in February of 2022. Community members walked from the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan to The Potter’s House Chapel, where a community gathering was held.
“I think it’s great for our community to come together and have unity and celebrate the legacy of César Chávez and the work that he did and the contributions that he made to the lives of many people,” said Charles Lepper, President of Grand Rapids Community College.
Hundreds of community members filled the chapel and listened to speeches from Lupe Ramos-Montigny, chairperson of the Committee to Honor César E. Chávez, Detroit attorney Melvin Butch Hollowell and others. GRCC’s Madrigal Singers and Abel E. Muñoz, a senior from Bangor High School, delivered musical performances at the event.
“They fought for justice, but not just for justice’s sake. We want justice. We want equality. We demand it.” said Hollowell during his speech. “We need to work with our great members of Congress. We have to tell Congress to act now to secure the rights and lives of 800,000 young Latino dreamers in this country to become full citizens.”
César E. Chávez was a labor leader and civil rights activist who created the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers of America. He created organizations and led strikes for the protection of Latino rights around the 1960s and 1970s.