He was a man with a big heart, a determined mind and a will to tackle what some say was the impossible. The life work of Latino civil rights pioneer Cesar E. Chavez is celebrated with a night of music, tributes and art.
Hollywood celebrities turned out at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles for the 9th annual Educating the Heart Dinner. It pays homage to the man who changed countless lives through acts of peace.
Actor and activist Ed Begley Jr., who wrote and directed a musical on Chavez's life, attended, along with Emmy Award-winning actor Hector Elizondo. He accepted the Cesar E. Chavez Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of fellow actor Ricardo Montalban who died in January. Montalban, well known for his many roles including Mr. Roarke on "Fantasy Island," was a dedicated humanitarian.
Cesar Chavez gave a voice to the underserved in America's farm fields. He co-founded the United Farm Workers Movement (UFW). Through non-violent means of fasts, strikes and rallies he impacted change like higher wages, better living conditions and fewer harmful pesticides. His water-only fasts took a toll on his body. He died in 1993 at the age of 66, miles from his Arizona birthplace.
The chat of "Si Se Puede! - Yes We Can!" which became synonymous with the Obama presidential campaign, is actually rooted in UFW history. It was coined during a 1972 fast by UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta.
In addition to celebrities and politicians, members of the Chavez family attended the dinner, including son Paul who is chairman of the Chavez Foundation and granddaughter Julie Chavez Rodriguez , the foundation's Programs Director. Both appealed for continued promotion of Chavez's legacy of hope, justice and non-violence.
To raise a little extra cash art donated by Luis Genaro Garcia was spotlighted during a silent auction, and there was a little wine for the soul. "Black Eagle Wines" which celebrates justice and farm workers, raised money for UFW organizing projects. The wine grapes are harvested under a contract between the vineyard and the United Farm Workers Union.