César Chávez, considered one of the most important Latino leaders in U.S. history, advocated for reclaiming the dignity of people who were historically marginalized. Founder of the National Farm Workers Association, which later became United Farm Workers, Chávez became a symbol for the labor movement for Latinos, activists and people who believed in what he accomplished — building a union for farmworkers.

For the 11th year, colleges Nine and Ten and El Centro: Chican@/Latin@ Resource Center, will celebrate the life and mission of the famous civil rights leader as well as the diversity of the Santa Cruz Latin@ community. The event will take place on May 20 at 7 p.m. at colleges Nine and Ten Multi-purpose Room.
“There’s a struggle that we face on a daily basis,” Flores said about the Latin@ community both on and off campus. “If we feel like we’re a part of a community, we are more able to make a change.”

Flores hopes the convocation leaves guests feeling a sense of ownership about creating social change.

“The general sense guests usually get is empowerment,” Flores said. “Hopefully they’ll feel responsibility too — that way, they can also empower the community. “

The convocation features a different guest speaker each year. This year, the guest speaker is businessman, activist and Harvard doctorate candidate César Cruz.

Yari Suarez, a member of El Centro’s planning committee for the convocation, said Cruz is following closely in Chávez’s footsteps by way of an Oakland-based program called “Homies Empowerment.”

“[Cruz] focuses on helping people who were in gangs — instead of being rivals, he brings them together,” Suarez said. “His mission is that the students will communicate with each other instead of fighting in the streets.”

Jose Flores, the student program coordinator for El Centro, is hoping that through the convocation guests will learn from Cruz that the most important aspect of service is communication.

“He saw the need for dialogue,” Flores said. “He realized these young people all should be able to sit down at a table and talk about things.”

Flores, along with the other members of the planning committee, said the event serves a very important purpose — to build on César Chávez’s accomplishments while also perpetuating his love of community and communication.

“It’s an event that’s put on to have a remembrance of not only who [Chávez] was but the work he did,” Flores said. “He was very community-based, and always wanted to bring people together.”