state holiday | Spotlight

CSULA commemorates the legacy of César E. Chávez

Campus to close in celebration of the labor leader and civil rights activist

Historical photo of César E. Chávez (Courtesy of César E. Chávez Foundation).

Recognizing the leadership of American farm worker and activist César E. Chávez, Cal State L.A., and the 22 other CSU campuses, will be closed on Thursday, March 31, to commemorate Chavez’s birthday as a state holiday and a day of service and learning.

A Mexican American, Chávez became the best known Latino civil rights activist, advocating the protection and fair treatment of farm workers. It has been described that “his public-relations approach to unionism and aggressive but nonviolent tactics made the farm workers’ struggle a moral cause with nationwide support.”

After his passing, he became a major historical icon for the Latino community, symbolizing Hispanic power based on community organizing. Remembered for his motto, Sí, se puede (“Yes, it can be done”), his supporters credit his work in promoting social justice for leading to improvements for union laborers.

Nearby Cal State L.A., off the 710 freeway, César E. Chávez Avenue is named in his memory. It runs from Sunset Boulevard, past the 110 Freeway, and through East Los Angeles.

On campus, carrying on the legacy of Chávez, Cal State L.A.’s Office of Community Engagement aims to link academic teaching, learning and community service by engaging students, faculty, and community partners in collaborative relationships that embrace diversity and social justice. Also dedicated to the quest for social justice and equality of opportunity, enlightened civic engagement, and enhancing the quality of life for all Californians is the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State L.A.

(Featured to the left is a video footage of Jaime Relagado, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute at CSULA, sharing about Chávez’s important role in shaping the history of American labor unions.)

Additionally, more than 5,000 CSU students and 39,000 K-12 students have participated in CSU-sponsored programs and activities to highlight the life and contributions of Chávez.

Cal State L.A. continues to be among the highest ranked institutions in California in conferring the most bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees to Hispanics, according to the Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education’s “Top 100” issue.

Cal State L.A. is a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution, with 57.3 percent of the University’s students identifying themselves as Hispanic. The University established the nation’s first Chicano Studies department in 1968.

CSULA alums include Félix Gutiérrez, journalist, educator and former senior vice president, Newseum; Bryan Urias, vice president, Board of Directors, Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District (Division 5); Rosario Marin, former U.S. Treasurer; Carlos Mencia, comedian; Edward James Olmos, actor and filmmaker; Frank Romero, artist and muralist; and Lucille Roybal-Allard, U.S. Congress, 34th district.

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