Using Cesar Chavez’s legacy to push Latino political participation during a season...

Using Cesar Chavez’s legacy to push Latino political participation during a season of anti-immigrant bigotry

Cesar Chavez Foundation's 50th anniversary to highlight efforts to get more Latinos registered and voting


LOS ANGELES, March 14, 2016 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — With the presidential election increasingly degenerating into ugly appeals to prejudice against Latinos and immigrants, the Cesar Chavez Foundation is using its 2016 Legacy Awards Gala honoring the civil rights and farm labor leader on his March 31 birthday to partner with groups encouraging more Latinos to register and vote this year.

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Recipients of this year’s Cesar Chavez Legacy Awards—U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, actor/author Mario Lopez and Voto Latino President & CEO Maria Teresa Kumar—are all leaders in the battle for immigrant rights and Latino empowerment. Senator Feinstein has been a champion of comprehensive immigration reform, having worked closely with the United Farm Workers on its efforts to offer immigrant farm workers relief from abuse. Mario Lopez is a role model whose career reflects his cultural pride and stand against bias. And Maria Teresa Kumar runs the leading nonpartisan organization empowering American Latino millennials by engaging them through civic media.  

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will be the keynote speaker at this year’s milestone celebration—entitled 50 Years of Justice, Opportunity and Change—highlighting Cesar Chavez’s legacy and the continuing influence of his life and work with contemporary Americans.

The Chavez foundation will use the March 31 gala at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles to highlight its message to Latinos across America: Participate in the political process. The Foundation is working with Voto Latino and the Univision Network, which is sponsoring its own “Vote For Your America” initiative by extending their voter participation messages through its educational radio network, its housing communities and its social media channels.

“It is paramount for our youth to have a voice in the political process and voter registration is a critical first step,” said Voto Latino head Maria Teresa Kumar. “Voto Latino has registered more than 250,000 new voters through digital campaigns, pop culture and grassroots efforts to empower Latinos to be agents of change and to shape the country to reflect the values of our community. Voto Latino embraces the same goals as Cesar Chavez and we too aim to educate and motivate people to make a difference in their lives and communities. Si Se Puede!”

“It is fitting that this year’s honorees embody Cesar Chavez’s core values of self-determination and commitment to community—and help us fulfill my father’s legacy by getting more of our people to take part in the civic and political process,” said Paul Chavez, president of the foundation and Cesar Chavez’s son. “The Chavez Foundation helps encourage young Latinos to get involved in the political process because of Cesar Chavez’s central role in inspiring millions of Latinos and other Americans to social and political activism. In his now landmark 1984 address to the Commonwealth Club, Chavez said,

‘The union’s survival—its very existence—sent out a signal to all Hispanics that we were fighting for our dignity, that we were challenging and overcoming injustice, that we were empowering the least educated among us—the poorest among us. The message was clear: if it could happen in the fields, it could happen anywhere—in the cities, in the courts, in the city councils, in the state legislatures. I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, but the coming of our union signaled the start of great changes among Hispanics that are only now beginning to be seen.'”

Chavez’s legacy is especially topical this year that marks key 50-year historic milestones, including the anniversary of the California grape strikers’ 340-mile march from Delano to Sacramento; the 1966 strike by melon pickers in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and their march to the state Capitol in Austin; and the founding of what today is the Cesar Chavez Foundation, which addresses crippling dilemmas Latinos face in the community as well as the workplace.

About the 2016 Honorees

Senator Dianne Feinstein has dedicated her professional life since 1969 to serving the people of California. She was the first woman president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the first woman mayor of San Francisco and the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from California. She has played a leadership role in crafting bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform and helped sponsor the bipartisan AgJobs proposal negotiated by the UFW and the nation’s growers letting immigrant field laborers earn permanent legal status by continuing to work in agriculture.

Maria Teresa Kumar’s political activism has profoundly impacted young voters and the Latino community. Under her leadership, Voto Latino has become a key factor in elections by directly registering more than 250,000 new voters and influencing millions more through viral, celebrity-driven campaigns. She is an Emmy-nominated contributor to MSNBC and a frequent guest on PBS and NPR.

Mario Lopez serves as a role model for young Latinos by showing them that success comes with hard work and self-determination. He has had a long, diverse career as an actor, TV host, Broadway performer and New York Times bestselling author. He currently anchors the popular syndicated show EXTRA.

Past Honorees

Past gala speakers and legacy award honorees include Hillary Clinton, Rosario Dawson, America Ferrera, Dolores Huerta, Eva Longoria, Coretta Scott King, the Kennedy family, Diego Luna, Edward James Olmos, Ed Begley Jr., Carlos Santana, Martin Sheen, Nancy Pelosi, former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and then-Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

Gala Sponsors

The 2016 gala is supported by Frenkel & Company Insurance Services, Frontier Communications, Anheuser-Busch, Chevron, Southern California Edison, General Motors, Greenfield Construction, Kaiser Permanente, Pacific Gas and Electric, ABC7, Citi, Coca-Cola, Hilda Solis, iHeartMedia, Kris Kristofferson, National Equity Fund, the law firm of Shackelford, Bower, McKinley & Norton, Time Warner Cable, Toyota, Trammell Crow, UnitedHealthcare and Yardi Systems.

About the Cesar Chavez Foundation

Founded by the legendary civil rights and farm labor leader, the Cesar Chavez Foundation improves communities in need by focusing on four critical areas: it has built or renovated and manages 5,000 units of high quality affordable housing at 42 communities in four states; it operates Radio Campesina, a nine-station educational radio network with more than 500,000 daily listeners in four states; it provides rigorous academic tutoring for underprivileged students in California and Arizona school districts; and it operates the National Chavez Center, which promotes the legacy of Cesar Chavez. For more information visit

Using Cesar Chavez’s legacy to push Latino political participation during a season of anti-immigrant bigotry