Guest blog: César Chávez, jail time and migrant justice today
The drinking faucet was attached to an overflowing toilet in the middle of the cell. There were no beds. Some of us slept on metal tables; some sat on the sticky floors. I was with a group of teachers arrested nearly a decade ago for demonstrating at the California State Capitol. We were protesting legislators who had blocked the budget, denying students the learning opportunities that all children deserve.
Lockup, even in a county jail, is a place no one wants to be. But from suffragist Alice Paul to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., to César Chávez, jail is a common experience for those who fight for justice in America.
César Chávez, born on March 31, knew that fight well. He wrote, “God did not promise us that the world would be humane and just. He gives us the gift of life and allows us to choose the way we will use our limited time on earth.” He also said, “When we are really honest with ourselves we must admit our lives are all that really belong to us.” So it is how we use our lives that determines what kind of human beings we are.
Migrant Justice, based in Vermont, is organizing farmworkers to improve and advance their fundamental human rights. Its cutting-edge human rights organizing and the concrete victories it has been able to achieve through its approach have become a national model. Migrant Justice carries on the work of César Chávez, earning the immigrant-led organization NEA’s human and civil rights award.