During the month of April, America lost two of its greatest civil rights heroes, Cesar Chavez 4/93 and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 4/68, common men with an uncommon and at times unpopular vision of justice and equality for our country and for the destiny of all mankind.
Both, men of color, fought with an uncommon faith to coach, mentor and prod this country into living up to and extending its constitutional ideals that all men, even those mankind of color, were Created Equal and Endowed with Inalienable Rights. Both men took on the status quo of timidity among their own people and coached, mentored and prodded their own race to step out of the bowels of timidity and into the light of knowledge and faith that their race could stand up to the status of and to the demands of full citizenship. However, most Americans are not conscious of the similarities in the lives of these two natural leaders of and for a destiny of equality for all regardless of the color of a person’s skin, the texture of their hair, or the distinct features of their face.
All Americans must aspire to stand together in support of these ideals propagated by these real American heroes with their shared principles — equality, justice, and dignity for all especially during the month of April in honor of their deaths.
There are some parallels in the struggles these two men lived on their journey in creating their unique destinies. Their Karmas unfolded by a cascade of challenges each of these men faced in the struggles of their daily lives against discrimination, indignities and humiliations.
Both were men of color that grew up and lived during the dark ages of repression, discrimination and a type of dark unsavory Jim Crow Justice that stripped a man of his dignity and self worth which was pervasive against each of their races, socio-economic classes and cultures. Second, they were both jailed for challenging laws, cultures and brutal men of wealth that enforced and sponsored laws of second-class citizenship by the force of violence. Third, both me had a vision and a strategy for delivering justice to the oppressed by following the non-violent philosophical wisdom of Jesus, Ghandi and Thoreau.
King chose to partner with churches, civil rights organizations, labor and liberal college students with ideals of Justice and Equality from the North.
King played a leadership role in the successful creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference [SCLC]. King’s efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. There, King expanded his visionary values to include the vision of a colorblind society, and established his reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history. King was assassinated in Memphis because he was representing the organizing rights of poor workers.
Chavez chose to build a union that incorporated the strategies of social movements and allied itself with the churches, students, and organized labor. The successful creation of the United Farm Workers changed the nature of labor organizing in the Southwest and contributed significantly to the birth of Latino politics in the U.S. and established Chavez’s reputation as one of the greatest organizers and leaders in American history.
King taught us that men should not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. His dream was deeply rooted in the American dream over which this country fought an internal war. King taught us to non-violently walk the path of peace and go forward with courage facing a vicious enemy of contrary culture opposed to equality and justice for all.
Cesar taught us that all organizations have problems, that all organizations are imperfect. But, if you wait for the perfect organization, perhaps nothing will get done. Building popular organizations builds people’s power, unity and democracy. Chavez’ legacy to popular struggles, to Chicano/Mexicano self-determination and to unionizing for the immigrant workers is beyond measure. He is present in all of our work supporting the poor and the workingman. We all need to celebrate April 2011 in memory of Cesar Chavez’ contributions to building a more democratic society for working people and a more perfect union for all.
The spirit of Cesar Chavez lives on in the struggles of unions and government workers to maintain and protect one of the two traditional routes to the middle class, labor union, for future workers over the decades. The spirit of Chavez lives on in the struggle for union rights and justice in the fields and cities of Wisconsin where Union Rights are once again under attack by the same evil forces of extreme wealth that would keep a poor man down.
The spirit of Martin Luther King lives on in the struggles of teachers and public schools children across the country to maintain another traditional route to the middle class, public schools, available over the decades to Ethnic Europeans and now under attack and threat by an unconscionable class of extremely wealthy individuals and their puppets.
As a tribute to the achievements of Cesar Chavez; Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert Kennedy, visited Cesar in jail. The connection of these 3 spirits of Justice and Equality were joined again in the prayers of these two women at the prison site of Cesar Chavez’s incarceration.
One difference that is notable, Martin Luther King was assassinated under a cloud of very nasty and mean spirited white noise that provided a backdrop and cultural motivation for Kings assassination. Twenty-five years later much of the vocal vicious atmosphere that surrounded the breakdown of Jim Crow Culture that provided a cultural motivation for King’s murder had abated, Cesar Chavez could now died quietly in his bed. Unfortunately, the outrageous propaganda of extreme wealth in our country is once again raising the decibels as perhaps a hateful and poisonous cover for someone without a conscience to act again in accordance with a culture of hate. Let us remember the lives of these two great American heroes and leaders by revisiting their lives, struggles and dreams in our thought and prayers for a more equal and more just America without hate and violence.