March 24, 2009
Every year at this time, Jacque Rhodes, Calvin assistant dean of multicultural student development, is surprised afresh at how few people recognize the name Cesar Chavez. “This man made such a tremendous contribution to our country and how we look at labor and unions, and he’s hardly known,” said Rhodes of the farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist who founded the United Farm Workers of America.
Rhodes and the students leaders of Calvin’s multicultural student advisory board (MSAB) have planned a full round of activities to celebrate Cesar Chavez Day on March 31—and to perhaps raise Chavez’s “Q rating” a little: “I really think he should be as prominent a figure as Martin Luther King,” Rhodes said.
Free cake and buttons
First on the roster of events is the complimentary birthday cake served up by MSAB from 10:30 a.m. through 3 p.m. in the fireplace area of the Hekman Library. The students will also pass out Cesar Chavez buttons and informational flyers about his life. The cake honors Chavez’ birthday, which coincides with his annual day. “We do this every year,” Rhodes said.
The celebration will continue at 3:30 p.m. as Blair Babcock, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent speaks on “Inside Immigration: the Struggle to Become a Citizen“ in Hiemenga Hall 332. "He’s actually going to talk about immigration law and just talk about the complexity … ,” said Rhodes. “ I think people in general have kind of a misinformed idea that it’s as simple as getting your driver’s license—that you walk into an agency and take a test and ‘Voila!,’ you’re a citizen. They have no conception that it’s a process that can, in some cases, take years.”
Hearing from peers
Tuesday evening, MSAB wioll be showing the provocatively titled A Day Without a Mexican, which Rhodes explained, is a “mockumentary.” The film, to be shown at 7:30 p.m. in the Robert L. Bytwerk Video Theater, depicts what would happen if, suddenly, there were no Mexicans working in the state of California. The documentary carries an important message, Rhodes said, adding: “I think we do our best learning when we’re uncomfortable.”
On Wednesday, April 1, a student panel will offer further perspective on the immigrant experience. Titled "The Impact of Immigration: A Multifaceted Perspective," the panel will take place at 5 p.m. in the Commons Lecture Hall.
"I think it’s really important for students to hear from their peers," Rhodes said. "It makes a greater impact on them when they can put a face on a story.” All Cesar Chavez Day events are free and open to the public.
~by Myrna Anderson, communications and marketing