Somehow the tenth anniversary of the celebration of life of César E. Chávez here in Pasadena slipped by quietly.
In 2001 a group of us involved with the newly formed Pasadena Latino Forum got together and decided that it was time to recognize this man of peace and social justice. Our first year ably led by Robert Monzon and Inez Yslas, working side by side with Michael Trujillo, Yuny Parada and myself. I'm sure that there were other people who were involved, but these were the folks I most immediately remember and who were listed in meetings I attended.
While our celebration was brief, it was nonetheless meaningful. Our ceremony took place in the Pasadena City Hall Rotunda, reporter and Pasadena resident Henry Alfaro was our Emcee. It was at that first event that we started the Starts with the Heart Award. Like many of the quotes from Chavez, the idea was simple, true and share with a simple eloquence. "Those who are willing to sacrifice and be of service have very little difficulty with people... They help them; they work with them...That's what love is about. It starts with the heart and radiates out".
By 2006, the event had grown to be a week long. El Centro began to hold a separate event. In that same year Madison Principal, Sandra Macis came up with the idea of a districtwide César E. Chávez Art and Essay contest. It has grown over the years. The initial entries were primarily from Madison, the judges were usually less than 6 in number.
Last week we had over 200 entries and 16 judges. Our students in middle and high school worked with another of Cesar's phrases, "We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community and this nation".
They were asked to "...identify a cultural custom that has been preserved in your family and explain how it strengthens your family and the community".
To quote one of our judges, Brian Biery of the Flintridge Center, "I was amazed and impressed with the cultural diversity of the students who participated in this contest. Certainly we know that our community is made up of a variety of cultural groups, but in their essay these outstanding young people reflected Chavez' vision by describing with love and detail the cultural context from where they come. And so I have learned that the PUSD is far more diverse than I had previously imagined".
You can hear a couple of their writings when they read from their essays at the PUSD board meeting tomorrow night, Tuesday March 27th, sometime shortly after 6:30 p.m. on KLRN.