By DONOVAN HARRELL
Eduardo Chavez said authenticity is a key aspect of activism.
Chavez, the grandson of civil rights activist Cesar Chavez and Cuban revolutionary Max Lesnik, gave the keynote address for the Latinx Connect Conference, which took place online from Oct. 14 to 16.
The conference, hosted by the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, featured more than 60 programs covering a variety of topics related to Latinx history, arts, culture and more.
Gina Garcia, associate professor in the School of Education and author of “Becoming Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Opportunities for Colleges and Universities,” emceed the conference and said in her opening remarks that it was created, in part, to facilitate serious conversations about identity.
“The goal of the conference has been to go beyond, ‘celebrating Latinos or Hispanics during Hispanic Heritage Month,’ and instead, have some critical conversations, talk about intersections of identity, talk about the complications of our identity, and talk about what it means to do advocacy and activism work within the community,” Garcia said.
More than 2,300 people from at least 200 colleges, universities and organizations across the country registered for the conference, Garcia said.
During the opening session, “Media as Activism & Advocacy within the Latinx Community” Chavez discussed the origins of his activism and the documentary “Hailing Cesar,” which he directed.
In the documentary, Eduardo Chavez explored Cesar Chavez’s legacy and how he connects to it. Cesar Chavez was a Mexican-American labor leader and civil rights activist who is well-known for his efforts to improve farm workers’ working and living conditions through organizing and negotiating contracts with their employers.
In his opening remarks, Chavez discussed his upbringing in the San Francisco Bay area and his disconnect from his grandfather, Cesar Chavez, despite the impact he had on his community, where murals were painted to honor him and schools were named after him
His grandfather died when he was a year and a half old, Chavez said, and his only memory of him was a photo displayed in his home. But the people around him often brought up his grandfather when they introduced him to others.
“I have vivid memories of being introduced to friends or other people, and who my grandfather was would be one of the first three or four sentences after I was introduced to someone, and that always kind of made the disconnection even stronger,” Chavez said. “Because everybody viewed me as a connection to this great legacy, yet I felt zero connection to that legacy and zero connection to my grandfather's worth, as an activist, as an organizer.”
This feeling of disconnect lasted “a long time,” he added, until his parents laid the foundation for understanding his grandfather’s legacy.
His parents often stressed the importance of “authenticity,” he said.
“My parents always preached this idea of authenticity, when it comes to my identity as a Latinx person, and even on a larger scale, my identity as a Latinx person within the context of activism and social justice,” Chavez said. “My parents always kind of preached to me that authenticity and patience were things (that were) really going to be key pillars in my journey, to feel like I can honor and be worthy of my grandfather's legacy.”
These lessons stuck with him as he grew into an activist and filmmaker, he added.
Following the keynote, Bianca DeJesus, the director of first-year programs in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, moderated a panel discussion.
The panel session featured Jacqueline Mayorga, a TikTok influencer; Jose Aguilar-Hernandez, an associate professor of Ethnic & Women's Studies at Cal Poly Pomona; and Michelle Espino, an associate professor in the higher education, student affairs and international education policy program at the University of Maryland and host of the Latinx Intelligentsia podcast.
Each panelist discussed several topics related to Hispanic and Latinx identity and how various media can be used for activism. To watch the full session, visit the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion’s YouTube channel.
Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at email@example.com or 412-383-9905.
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