Photo by Darren Wanliss, //Unsplash

The original idea came from the Shasta Beloved Community, says Sarah Casia, one of the organizers of this weekend's César Chávez Day celebration. “They came to us,” she said.  “but we had to think long and hard about what kind of event we could do that would honor Chávez and still be safe (during COVID).”  

Casia works with SEIU Local 2015, a union chapter that represents Shasta County's IHSS providers.  She says community support for the César Chávez Day event has been strong, with multiple organizations, including the Democratic Central Committee of Shasta County, Shasta County Democratic Women’s Club, Shasta County Mutual Aid and KIXE-TV helping with the event. The group's efforts led to Sunday’s planned celebrationa drive-through donation event that will showcase Latino culture while supporting farm workers.

“César Chávez was an American labor leader known for organizing farm workers here in California,”  Casia says, adding that the group planned their March 28th event to honor Chavez’s legacy of non-violence, and his support for labor unions and Latino rights.

Chávez, a Mexican-American, dedicated his life to what he referred to as la causa, or the cause.  By organizing and negotiating with agricultural employers, he worked to improve the lives and working conditions of farm workers. He used his life savings to found the labor union now called United Farm Workers of America.  His organizing led to the passing of California's Labor Relations Act in 1975, giving all farm workers the right to unionize.  

Drive-through participants at Sunday's event will receive a goody bag with information about César Chávez and a raffle ticket which can be filled out for entry into a free drawing. From 1:302:30 they'll also enjoy dancing by Tonantzin, a ballet folklórico group from Tehama County,  performing a traditional Mexican dance style that mixes folk dance with ballet movements. Churríficos, a local food truck selling churros and related treats, will be on-site, with all proceeds benefiting the César Chávez Day event.

Connecting with the local farm workers they intend to support has been the hardest part of the process, Casia said. The group originally planned to work with a national campaign but decided instead to focus on establishing connections with local farm workers.  They now have a plan in place to provide donations but the process of connecting was a real challenge, Casia said, due partly to the dangers migrant farm workers face from ICE.  Her role as a labor organizer may have also created challenges in establishing connections with big farms, Casia said, although her work is focused on long-term care workers, not agriculture.  

While some farm workers would rather stay in the shadows than risk being identified, she said, she hopes the César Chávez Day donations help them to feel supported and welcomed in the community. And this may be the first of many annual events.  “We do hope that this will be an annual event in Shasta County and we hope to expand it to Tehama and Glenn, where our union is active and we know that there are more farm workers,” Casia said.

César Chávez Day is Wednesday, March 31st, but the César Chávez Day Drive-Through Donation Drop Off will be held Sunday, March 28th, from 13 pm at 323 Park Marina Circle in Redding.  Donated funds will help purchase items needed for farm workers. Checks can be made out to Shasta County Citizens Advocating Respect (SCAAR). Material donations including hoodies, reflective vests, boots, beanies, ball caps, gloves, socks, bandannas, neck coolers, water containers, lunch bags, energy bars, jerky, and other healthy snacks, masks, hand sanitizer, and other hygiene items can also be donated.

3.27 9:04 pm This story was updated to indicate that financial gifts can be donated during the drive-through event.
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