By Ari Bird

“Mija, in this family, we don’t have family picnics; we have family pickets,” recalled activist Christine Chávez, granddaughter of César Chávez.

Chávez, the featured speaker at the annual Resource Center for Nonviolence dinner and program last Sunday at the First Congregational Church, spoke of her experience growing up in a politically active and very influential Latino family. Chávez told endearing stories of wearing the United Farm Workers logo — the Aztec black eagle pin — in every school picture, as well as picketing alongside immigrant workers.

In her speech, Chávez focused on the importance of maintaining the progress of immigrant rights that her grandfather was so influential in advocating.

César Chávez, a Mexican-American farm worker, was a labor leader and civil rights activist who co-founded the United Farm Workers, a labor union established in 1962. An ethical vegan, he also supported animal rights and denounced cockfights, bullfights, and rodeos. In addition, Chávez stood up for the gay community and was a fervent peace activist, influenced by nonviolent leaders like Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Christine Chávez continues her grandfather’s legacy as an active participant in the labor movement and both a civil and animal rights advocate. She currently works as the district director for Democratic State Senator Gloria Romero, the highest-ranked woman in the California legislature.

Chávez was engaging and compassionate as she delivered her speech at the event, which helped bring local supporters to the program and raise money for Santa Cruz’s Resource Center for Nonviolence.

Megan G. Kennedy, co-coordinator for the immigrants rights program at the Resource Center and a graduate student at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, said that the event served as a great opportunity to support the Resource Center and honor the people who serve and work to better Santa Cruz.

“[The program] brought different members of the community together,” Kennedy said. “I thought it was very valuable.”

Among those in attendence was Dick Vittitow, a local who said there was a whole dinner table set up for people from his neighborhood alone.

“I came out because the Resource Center is such a big part of our community,” Vittitow said.

Since the Resource Center was founded in 1976, they have held the dinner almost annually. This year, the event focused on the Santa Cruz Community Soccer League, or La Liga de la Comunidad. The league stresses nonviolent behavior on the playing field and gives at-risk community members the chance to participate in a recreational sport for free.

“A lot of these kids and adults choose soccer instead of violence and other activities,” explained Marciano Cruz, who created the Santa Cruz Community Soccer League 18 years ago.

All proceeds from the dinner will be donated to the Santa Cruz Community Soccer League, as well as other Resource Center programs.