Michael Johnston, a former boycott volunteer, will be among the hundreds of marchers stretching down César E. Chávez Boulevard, to help celebrate the work of the late farm worker rights and labor leader during the 11th Annual César E. Chávez Social Justice March and “Community Gathering” on Thursday, March 31, 2011. The annual March along Grandville Avenue (César E. Chávez Blvd.) will begin at 11:00 AM at the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, 1204 Grandville Avenue SW, Grand Rapids, and end at the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, 1630 Godfrey Avenue SW, in Wyoming.
The “Community Gathering”, a student directed program, follows the March at 12:00 PM at the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church. This year’s lead sponsors are AT&T, Fifth Third Bank and State Farm Insurance.
Johnston will be honored along with about a dozen other local "boicoteros" (the nickname given to boycott volunteers) at this year's celebration of César E. Chávez Day in Grand Rapids.
“Boicoteros” were the thousands of volunteers who worked non-stop at getting the public to boycott non-UFW (United Farm Workers) grapes, lettuce and Gallo wines. They became part of the largest, most organized social movement boycott in history. As guests of honor, the "boicoteros" will lead the local march down César E. Chávez Boulevard and be featured in a short eight minute video by Emmy Award-winning local video film maker Dan Salas. The "boicoteros" are being feted for the powerful role they played in helping César and the farm workers union build "la causa," the social justice movement of millions around the world to bring dignity and justice to the lives of farm workers, the nation's poorest workers.
In recalling his boycotting days with César’s UFW, Johnston still remembers the woman with the pistol aiming it point blank at his face during one of many boycott events. “I guess she didn't like the sign I was holding asking people to support César," the retired Kenowa Hills High School teacher remembers ruefully. “I met him only once in the two years I worked for him, here and in California, but his powerful message, his humble life and the fire-in-his soul changed my life."
“People like Michael Johnston are what this march is all about,” said Lupe Ramos-Montigny, Chairperson of the Committee to Honor César E. Chávez. “He exemplifies why we must continue to improve the quality of life for every West Michigan citizen by following the examples set by César E. Chávez.”
Chávez founded the United Farm Workers (UFW) in 1962 to protect and serve farm workers, whose poverty and disenfranchisement he had shared. For more than three decades, Chavez led the United Farm Workers (UFW) in achieving dignity, respect, fair wages, medical coverage, pension benefits and humane living conditions as well as other rights and protections for hundreds of thousands of farm workers all over the world.
Co-chairs of this year’s event include Lupe Ramos-Montigny, Omar Cuevas, and Tomas Guillen.
Lead sponsors include:
2011 Aguila Sponsor: AT&T
2011 Diamond Sponsors:
• State Farm Insurance
• Fifth Third Bank
The event is free and open to the public. For more details, individuals can contact Lupe Ramos-Montigny, Committee Chairperson at 616-443-5922, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grand Rapids Community College, established in 1914, offers opportunities for over 32,000 students annually in degree courses, certification and training programs, workshops and personal enrichment classes. GRCC holds classes on the downtown Grand Rapids campus as well as several additional locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.