Mission Residents Celebrate the Life of Cesar Chavez

On Saturday morning at the corner of 19th and Linda Streets, two Mission worlds went about their mornings and for a brief moment collided – happily.

Outside the Mission Pool and Playground Park, a handful of young women in stylish spandex and bright sneakers struggled over sit-ups and complicated Pilate poses in an outdoor fitness class. And directly in front of them, a stream of low-riders drove slowly down 19th street, bobbing up and down while blasting songs from Bay Area rap legends Too Short and Mac Dre. As the low-riders continued down 19th to Lexington, onlookers brunching at Radish exchanged bewildered glances and then applauded the Impalas as they sprang towards the sky.

The procession of cars was part of San Francisco’s annual Cesar Chavez Parade and Festival, which was coordinated by the Cesar Chavez Holiday Committee. The event was organized to celebrate the life and activism of Chavez, the labor and civil rights leader who, alongside Dolores Huerta, co-founded the United Farm Workers Union and famously boycotted the grape industry, leading a 300-mile march from Delano to Sacramento, California.

More than a dozen cars  parked on Harrrison after the parade.

More than a dozen cars parked on Harrrison after the parade.

The parade assembled at 19th and Guerrero, continued down Mission Street towards 24th and ended with a street fair between Bryant Street and Treat Avenue. There, it was greeted with a large crowd, many wearing black tee shirts inscribed with the slogan “Viva Cesar Chavez!” in bold white print.

“One of my dad’s heroes is Cesar Chavez, so I always grew up learning about social movements and how it’s important to represent where you come from and represent your people,” said Flor Khan, a graduate student studying at Equity and Social Justice at SF State. “I’m really involved in the community so I’m here representing my people, my culture, my heritage.”

As the festivities kicked off, parade-goers gathered around the low-riders, snapped photos on their phones, and chanted “si se puede!” as the cars deafeningly revved their engines. A man in a red impala with gold-painted rims turned up the bass, bumping Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre. He opened the door for an older man in a black fedora, mustache, and black sunglasses, his right hand studded with gold rings.  A Chihuahua in a pink sweater quietly rested in his arms. He revved the engine one more time, and then took off. Behind him, two women riding in a blue convertible Chevrolet gleefully took selfies as the car rolled down the street. The parade had officially begun.

But aside from festivities, the event was also a time for participants to reflect on the changes that have taken place in the neighborhood.

“I want to talk about something that’s happening that goes beyond this celebration,” said District 9 Supervisor David Campos in a speech to the crowd, looking casual in a white button-down and khakis. “There is a crisis in our neighborhood. There is a housing crisis. People are being evicted out of the Mission, we have an increase of almost 300 percent of Ellis Act evictions and what we’re fighting for is the soul of the city.”

Carlos Gonzalez, a Mission born-and-bred muralist, said he attended the event to honor the legacy of Cesar Chavez and to “keep the struggle alive. There’s a big culture clash here,” he said. “It’s about race, class and it’s about dignity. Are we going to survive? That’s why we’re here today. To make a stand. 24th Street is the last stand. We’re here to save it. We’re not going to sell out.”

Outside of the Mission, too, the activism of Chavez and the United Farmworkers Union is being honored. Recently, the well-known Mexican director and actor Diego Luna released the film “Cesar Chavez,” which is about the life of the American labor leader and his efforts to unionize thousands of farm workers in California. The film, which has been widely praised, recalls a moment in history that many parade-goers said is critical to recall.

“My husband was a farmworker, and his father was a farmworker,” said Holiday Committee volunteer Cindy Arreguin. “My son once said, ‘it’s very important for Chavez’s legacy to live on in San Francisco. It’s important for brown kids to have a hero. It’s as important as breathing.’”

 

 

 

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23 Comments

  1. San Francisco

    Carlos Gonzalez sounds like a real tolerant guy, Im sure his murals are “estupendo”.

    • Russo

      Only if your idea of tolerance is doing or saying nothing when someone is trying to force you from your home.

      • John

        Russo, you have a strange definition of the word “tolerance”.

        There is no virtue in showing tolerance towards things and people and opinions that you like and agree with.

        Tolerance only counts as a virtue and a quality when you show it towards those who disagree with you, who are different from you, and who express opinions contrary to yours.

  2. ThatGuy

    David Campos never ceases to amaze… he just *had* to use a celebration to promote his ongoing fear mongering agenda.

    Please, go away.

  3. poor.ass.millionaire

    Oh FFS Crapos, give it a rest, you pandering POS. Shees!

    • Russo

      Don’t shoot the messenger. He’s just stating the facts.

    • dcrf

      Pandering?

      Wow, It’s almost as if he’s trying to represent the worries about gentrification that so many residents in his district have. A politician trying to please the majority of his constituents? Amazing and unheard of! (despite what you may think, real estate speculators and transplant yuppies still aren’t the majority in the mission…yet)

      • ThatGuy

        It does *NOT* represent the majority of the districts constituents.

        Also, look at the raw data: this is NOT an epidemic. Its political hype driven by those who can gain politically (with a few) and a few vocal “victims”

      • John

        So are you suggesting that Campos will change or dilute his beliefs, values and statements when he runs for state office because his constituency for that district is much more moderate and centrist than the extremist left faction that he thinks exists in the Mission?

  4. marcos

    Cesar Chavez is remembered today because he organized the supposedly unorganizable. The Mission is crawling with organizers yet Mission residents remain perhaps the least organized in the City. Disorganization is why the developers ran roughshod over our neighborhood. For all of the identity politics thrown around, it does not seem to be working. As progressive politics shifted from a broad based anti-corruption focus that won elections in the early 2000s to the narrow focus on identity politics, the lot of people of color in the Mission has deteriorated.

    In order to change course to prevent the displacement of people of color in the Mission, we will need to abandon the leadership that has been promoting that failed approach. We tried it their way and have met with failure.

    • marcos

      Initially, it seemed reasonable that those who are on the receiving end of systemic oppression should be the best positioned to lead themselves and the rest of us out of it.

      That might still be the case, but given the paucity of success by the identitarians, their insistence upon leading and their inability to execute–note the lack of supervisorial candidates–it is time to figure out why that did not work and to adapt with new approaches.

      • John

        Or perhaps the idea is flawed that if you fail that you are somehow “oppressed”, and that someone else is clearly to blame for that failure.

        And that that class of people whom you blame for your failure should then be systematically disadvantaged by public policies designed to punish their success and instead reward failure.

        It is not clear to me that a majority of american voters take your view, and election results routinely confirm that, even those closer to home.

        • marcos

          The evidence of race and class based discrimination is clear for all to see. The only question remaining on the table is how to proceed based on a historical record of failure.

        • John

          Most of the evidence I see of race and class discrimination these days is against those whom you accuse of that.

        • marcos

          Nobody cares what a solipsist sees.

        • marcos

          Your opinion is a minority opinion, you cannot force it on everyone else.

    • ThatGuy

      Marcos, I’ve not only concluded you’re not very bright but that you’re a racist.

    • marcos

      Yes, like most white people. If we continue to enable the identitiarians by assuming that what they do will help the communities they speak for, then those communities will continue to disappear from our midst.

      It is one thing to be a white person to hold residual racism and quite another to get paid to enable the systemic application of racism in the form of the displacement of the community one advocates for.

      Cesar Chavez organized and won. Like many LGBT who are unworthy heirs to Stonewall and Compton’s, today’s self appointed representatives of the dwindling Mission Latino community are likewise unworthy heirs of Chavez because they refuse to organize the grassroots to win like Chavez did.

  5. marcos

    Ed Lee stipulates to the fact that ongoing discrimination is a historical reality, even he admits that the debate is on next steps. Your position is a very slim minority.

    • John

      I’ve seen no evidence for that assertion, although a mayor of a place like this will probably pay lip service to alleged discrimination if only because an unhealthy number of voters buy that myth and expect preciously political correct utterance from a leader.

      • marcos

        Yes, the Asian Law Caucus where Ed Lee worked back when he had some shame disavowed any history of racial discrimination which is why its real name is the All Ethnicities Law Caucus..

  6. NFS

    Lydia,

    It has come to my attention that despite Mission Local’s broad disclaimer, you have referenced in commentary, my first name. And done so publicly.

    You could not have done this had you not referenced my comments from the back end to determine my identity.

    http://missionlocal.org/2014/04/eviction-protest-marches-to-vanguards-doors/

    I would have found it more advisable had you contacted me directly should you wish an interview (which would have been most boring, I assure you). Indeed you could have contacted me directly via Missionlocal’s database. And I would have replied. But you chose not to do so.

    Although I am not entirely adverse to going public with my opinions on this site, I find it troubling that you have chosen to do so as the Editor of Missionlocal.org without my consent.

    This calls into question your journalistic integrity; and I have the print screen documentation to prove it.

    So now that you have made it clear as to whom I am via first name I shall choose to do so publicly via middle and family name:

    Sincerely,
    NFS = Neil Forrest Simonsen

Comments are closed.