Community, Engagement, Belonging and Access

Granddaughter of civil rights activist Cesar Chavez headlines Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month


CLEMSON — Clemson University joins the nation in celebrating Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month through Oct. 15.

A highlight will be a visit from civil rights activist Christine Chavez, granddaughter of Cesar Chavez, the co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers. She will speak at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, in the Watt Family Innovation Center auditorium. Her visit is one of two planned in the Upstate. Clemson teamed up with Hispanic Alliance to host Chavez at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, at Greenville One.

Chavez is walking in the footsteps of her famous grandfather, who is known as one of the most profound Latino American civil rights activists in U.S. history. His work rallied grassroots energy at a critical time during the 1960s. Chavez demanded safer working conditions and fair wages for migrant workers. Today his granddaughter takes up the banner.

“Christine is a champion for inclusion and bringing communities together to forge peace, unity and equity for everyone,” said Julio Hernandez, senior associate director for Hispanic Outreach in Clemson’s Division of Inclusion and Equity.

Christine Chavez
Christine Chavez

Chavez continues the work of her grandfather in her own voice, serving as an outreach coordinator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resource Conservation Service where she helps farmers from various communities, including Hmong, Latinx, African-American, veterans and LGBTQ, ensuring no one fails to benefit from the groundwork of equality laid by her grandfather.

Chavez reportedly once heard her grandfather say, “We don’t need perfect political systems, we need perfect participation.” She held onto that message and, to this day, actively campaigns and organizes communities of people to get out and vote and participate in the political process by making known the issues affecting them most.

“The legacy of Cesar Chavez and Christine’s perseverance in the cause of social justice highlights a message of hope and an empowered future that our young people desperately need to hear,” said Adela Mendoza, executive director of Hispanic Alliance.

Chavez is expected to share with both audiences how her grandfather’s work inspired her to work for underrepresented people in the United States. A reception with light refreshments will follow her speech in Greenville. Chef German Mendoza will prepare the food using locally sourced produce from Feed and Seed, another Clemson University partner and nonprofit in Greenville that promotes local sustainable farming. Both events are free and open to the public.

“Chavez’s visit reinforces the fact that Clemson is intentional and committed to engaging our Hispanic community,” Hernandez said.

Jerad Green, associate director for multicultural programs in the Harvey and Lucinda Gantt Center at Clemson, said “Between our rebranding of the month’s title to the innovative programs we’re offering, Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month has already generated a lot of buzz throughout campus.”

Green said Clemson’s interest and commitment to deepening its understanding of Hispanic/Latinx communities is the most exciting part.

“Participants will be able to learn about the importance of coalitions for movement building as our keynote Christine Chavez talks through her grandfather’s legacy and how community building was essential in the farmworkers movement,” Green said.

Green said other Clemson events honoring Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month include:

  • Global Awareness Film and Discussion Series, “Voces Inocentes”
    “Voces Inocentes” (English translation: Innocent Voices) is a drama directed by Luis Mandoki detailing the civil war that tore apart El Salvador in the 1980s as seen through the eyes of a young boy. 
    Thursday, Sept. 20: 5-8 p.m., Strom Thurmond building, Self Auditorium
  • El Camino to Clemson
    Clemson University will invite Hispanic/Latinx students and families from local and regional high schools to spend a day at Clemson and discuss the importance of education. Participants will have the opportunity to engage with current Clemson students, faculty and staff while learning about the transition from high school to college.
    Saturday, Sept. 22: 9 a.m.- 2 p.m., Watt Family Innovation Center
  • Hispanic/Latinx Voices in Academia
    The President’s Commission on Latino Affairs presents the Hispanic/Latinx Voices in Academia Conference. The purpose of this conference is to promote the success, leadership, and research of Hispanic and Latinx scholars in higher education. Our goal is to serve as a platform for new and stronger institutional collaborations across the country, particularly in the Southeast.
    Saturday, Oct. 13: 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Watt Family Innovation Center
  • Noche De Gala
    This culminating event for Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month will include live entertainment and authentic food. Recognition awards will be presented to those individuals who have contributed to enhancing the campus climate for Hispanic and Latinx students, faculty, and staff. Tickets for this event can be purchased online or at the door.
    Saturday, Oct. 13: 6-9 p.m., Madren Conference Center Grand Ballroom

More details about Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month events, including registration information, are posted online.

“Each year only gets better!” Green said.

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