Ferris State University will participate in an event to honor 20th century activist Cesar Chavez as part of the 2011 Cesar Chavez Social Justice March and Community Gathering in Grand Rapids on Thursday, March 31.
The 11th annual march will be held from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. beginning at the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, located at 1204 Grandville Ave in Grand Rapids. This will be the second year Ferris has supported the Chavez march. The event is free and open to the public and some transportation will be available to members of the Ferris community.
Even since Chavez’s passing, in 1993, the Mexican-American leader continues to be honored for his dedication to farm worker’s rights, civil rights, environmental justice, equality, peace and non-violence.
“We hope that all participants are inspired to be engaged and take action against any social injustices that may exist in society,” said Michael Wade, assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Student Services. “The event provides awareness of how one person can start a movement, and no matter what your background may be you can do it too.”
This year, approximately 20 Ferris students from Sociology, Communications and Social Work classes will be participants in the Chavez march and related activities. Stephanie Thomson, a previous participant and an assistant professor in the College of Arts, Sciences and Education, said Chavez’s life shows how social change can be accomplished by Americans coming together and working for change.
“I value the opportunity to stand with other Americans and celebrate Chavez. I believe that it is important to remind ourselves of the power that each of us has to make change possible. We have the power to look around us, to see injustice and to take steps for change,” Thomson said.
Wade believes that the march is an opportunity for students to see the importance of Chavez and the impact he had throughout his lifetime. Chavez, along with Dolores Huerta, founded the United Farm Workers Union. The goal of the organization was for all American workers to work in safe and humane conditions and earn a fair wage.
“The event is an eye-opening experience and a great opportunity to see how significant Cesar Chavez is to the Hispanic community and our society as a whole,” Wade said. “There are hundreds of people from all over who show up each year to take part in the activities in Grand Rapids.”
The event falls on Chavez’s birthday every year with support from Grand Rapids Community College. Among the notable Ferris representatives who have supported the march in past years are David Pilgrim, vice president for Diversity and Inclusion; Sandra Alpsach, a professor of Communication; Thomson, an assistant professor in the College of Arts, Sciences and Education; Bonnie Wright, a faculty member in the College of Arts, Sciences and Education; and Anthony Baker, an associate professor of Sociology.