Opinion: Is it possible that 1 + 1 could equal 3?

by Santiago Casal

There is an old saying that sometimes “the whole is more than the sum of its parts.”
That is certainly true for the added value brought on by the 30-year alliance between César Chávez and Dolores Huerta, labor and civil rights leaders and environmental activists. For this reason, Berkeley’s César Chávez Commemoration Committee decided last year to honor Dolores Huerta as well, resulting in our new name: the César Chávez / Dolores Huerta Commemoration Committee.

Earlier this month, both the School Board and City Council unanimously passed separate resolutions that reflect the name change and that reinforce the idea that in lieu of a holiday, schools will engage students in community service learning. As part of this understanding, the District re-agreed: (a) to direct principals and teachers to incorporate curricula and resources into their lesson plans; and (b) to encourage each school to hold school wide activities to honor Chávez and Huerta.

The resolutions also reaffirmed the dates of the Commemorative Period (from the first day of spring to April 23) highlighting our community’s appreciation of the contributions that Dolores and César have made to the lives of working people. These dates correspond with the traditional beginning of the planting season (Spring Equinox) and extend through the birth dates of César (March 31) and Dolores (April 10). The period ends on April 23 – Earth Day and the anniversary of the death of César.

This year during the commemorative period, Berkeley’s Committee is launching a number of events, activities, and learning resources. For access and more info, go to ecologycenter.org/chavez. The highlights include:

  • ESSAY CONTEST for grades 3 – 12. The theme of this year’s contest relates to the alliance between Chávez and Huerta and how that alliance changed history. Later this year, contest winners will be honored by the School Board and City Council.
  • SPOKEN WORD WORKSHOPS (March 19-20). Students at Berkeley High and Youth Spirit Artworks are being offered training sessions with coaches in which they will write Spoken Word. As part of these training sessions, students are being encouraged to take inspiration from the stories of César Chávez and Dolores Huerta. The creations of these students will be published along with a film of the youth presenting their work.
  • FILM SCREENING: FOOD CHAIN$, from the producers of Food Inc. and Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser, and Eva Longoria, national spokesperson for Padres Contra el Cancer (April 8 at U.C. Berkeley). The film asks the question, what can local stores do to increase wages for farm workers, ensure safe working conditions, and prevent forced labor? (To see the trailer, go to foodchainsfilm.com/)
  • Circulation of a recently updated and bilingual booklet for students grades 3-6; plus bookmarks for all BUSD students; and a resource guide on Huerta for teachers to inform them about the legacies of Chávez & Huerta.
  • Roll out of a new website and Facebook page.
  • A presence in the Chávez Day Parade & Festival in San Francisco on Saturday, April 18 (cesarchavezday.org)
  • Support for the 40th anniversary of BAHIA, the celebrated bilingual preschool and K-5 afterschool, now set for Saturday, April 25 at César Chávez Park.
  • Development of a Chávez / Huerta Service Learning Internship for college age students.

The Chávez / Huerta Committee has also assumed the responsibility for planning Latino Heritage Month in Berkeley (Sept 15 to Oct 15). Planning for that will commence in May. Last year, in September 2014, the Committee hosted Dolores Huerta as she and Fred Ross, Jr., who led a “Teach In” for teachers at Berkeley High and then an unforgettable community celebration in the BHS Little Theater. Dolores is now the Director of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which aims at passing the torch of organizing to the next generation. For more info, go to doloreshuerta.org.

Finally, as part of this annual celebration, the Committee asks all citizens – and you, dear readers – to honor Chávez and Huerta as champions of community building. As you do, please take the opportunity to visit the Chávez Memorial Solar Calendar at César Chávez Park (Berkeley Marina). You may also want to consider volunteering for the community in a way you haven’t before.