Chavez celebration captures legacy - The Lookout - LCC's Independent Student Newspaper Since 1959
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Chavez celebration captures legacy

Chavez event

Dancers from Fantasia Ballet Folklorico, a local studio, entertain during the Cesar Chavez Day celebration March 26 in the A&S building at LCC.  Photo by Mallory Stiles

Mallory Stiles

By Mallory Stiles
Editor in Chief

LCC’s annual Cesar Chavez Day Celebration, held Tuesday, March 26, was filled with colorful dancing, great food and a few well-spoken words that perfectly captured the legacy of American labor leader and Civil Rights activist Cesar Chavez.

After a lively meet and greet, Dr. Olga Correa, the director of the Cesar Chavez Center at LCC, welcomed keynote speaker Dr. Estrella Torrez to the podium.

Torrez warmly greeted LCC students and shared a bit about her own heartbreaking experience as a child agricultural laborer. She said, after some education in migrant schooling, she began working at age 12.

"My mom would be on one side of me and my paternal grandmother on the other,” Torrez said. “While we were supposed to cover two rows each, I was given one row to ensure I didn't fall too far behind and, even then, the two matriarchs would work in my row. The days were long and the work was hard."

Now an associate professor at Michigan State University and co-director of an indigenous youth empowerment program, Torrez said she learned what sacrifice meant in those fields as she listened to the broken dreams of her loved ones.

TorresDr. Estrella Torrez, an associate professor at MSU and co-director of an indigenous youth empow-erment program, speaks during the Cesar Chavez Day celebration March 26. Photo by Mallory Stiles

Torrez also spoke about specific male role models in her life who pushed her to fight for better, and furthered her ambition to spark change.

"My uncles, as Mexicans, were also given the worst shifts and the grimiest of jobs,” she said, “but they wouldn't complain out of fear of losing such a good job that didn't require you to move from one state to the next."

However, those very same uncles later became union stewards and fought hard toward equality for all. She said watching such remarkable ripple effects left her with a responsibility she still carries today.

"Knowledge and experience must be shared, and now in my role as a faculty member, community member and community activist, I take this role seriously," she said.

Torrez then educated the crowd on influencers more widely known, emphasizing that the smallest action still has a reaction.

She mentioned the historic Pecan Strike of 1938, the life of American Civil Rights Activist Sylvia Mendez and a Michigan State University protest that took place in 1999 During the protest. students checked out over 5,000 books to reflect the lack of representation experienced by marginalized students.

After her speech, there was a performance by an assortment of dancers of all ages from Fantasia Ballet Folklorico, a local studio. Attendee Dr. Willie Davis said it was his favorite part for sure.

There were also giveaways and closing remarks, but the aura of importance from the earlier conversation never left the room. Torrez had stopped speaking, but one question she asked still echoed:

"I want to ask you,” she said. “What is it that YOU are going to leave the future generation?"

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