Cesar Chavez Day to be marked in the Southland

Cesar Chavez Day will be observed in the Southland today, when Gloria Molina will serve as a volunteer at a food bank, a celebration will be held at El Camino College's Compton Center and a photo exhibit will open at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Los Angeles County's ninth annual Cesar Chavez Community Service Week will be focused on the U.S. Census, with the goal of increasing participation to ensure that the county receives its fair share of federal funds, Molina said.

County employees have the option of volunteering at select county departments or a community-based organization promoting census outreach, County Chief Executive Officer Bill Fujioka said.

Molina will package and distribute food boxes provided by the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank at My Friend's Church in West Whittier, where census workers will also be present to assist the public with census form questions.

El Camino College's Compton Center's Cesar Chavez Day celebration includes a lecture by political science professor Paul M. Flor on the history of Chavez and the farm workers' movement, entertainment by a Norteno musical group and Mexican food.

The photo exhibit "Cesar Chavez: A Spiritual Man of Family, Peace and Action" will open at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

The exhibit features several images of Chavez taken by Victor Aleman, who worked with Chavez and the United Farm Workers for 10 years, including serving as managing editor of El Malcriado, the union's membership publication, and co-founded Radio Campesina KUFW, the first farm worker radio station.

"More than anything else, Cesar Chavez was a deeply religious man who followed the teachings of Jesus Christ," said Aleman, the editor of Vida Nueva, the Spanish-language newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

"This photo exhibit has less to do with pictures of a great human being and far more to do with capturing the essential Cesar Chavez – as he was in daily life, ever powered and ever fueled by his belief in God, loyalty to his church and openness to people of all religious persuasions."

The exhibit will run through April 30.

State offices, including the Department of Motor Vehicles and Los Angeles Superior Courts, will be closed. Los Angeles city offices will be open, as it observes Cesar Chavez Day on the last Monday in March.

Federal offices and services, including the U.S. Postal Service, will be
open. Banks, Metro bus, subway, train and trash collection services will all
operate on their regular schedules.

Born March 31, 1927, in Yuma, Ariz., Chavez dropped out of school after the eighth grade to help support his family by joining them in the fields as a migrant farm worker, witnessing the many adversities migrant workers faced daily.

Chavez joined the Latino civil rights Community Service Organization in 1952, urging Latinos to register to vote.

In 1962, Chavez joined Dolores Huerta in co-founding the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers.

Chavez, an advocate of nonviolence, is credited with improving work and quality-of-life conditions for immigrant farm workers in central California.

Chavez is especially remembered for spearheading a grape boycott in 1965 that went nationwide in 1968 and lasted until 1978, resulting in higher wages for farm workers and focusing national attention on their plight.

Chavez died in 1993 at age 66. Then-Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation in 2000 creating the state holiday.

In his proclamation declaring today Cesar Chavez Day, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said that "Cesar Chavez was an exceptional human being with a vision of justice for all citizens of this great nation.

"His selfless dream for social equality and his profound patience and understanding in achieving his noble goals are admirable. His incredible legacy and his extraordinary contributions to our society continue to change lives and inspire."

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