JFK University honors Cesar Chavez at new film screening


Tyler Elmore

Anthony Chavez, grandson of Cesar Chavez, speaks at the JFK University special showing of the new Cesar Chavez Biopic, Cesar Chavez, on March 31, 2014.

Regina Ortanez, Arts & features editor

The grandson of Cesar Chavez came together with John F. Kennedy University to host a private screening of the new film chronicling the life story of the celebrated civil rights leader. Anthony Chavez has been working with JFK University for the past six weeks in helping the school become a Hispanic-serving institute.

As opening night for the film coincided with Cesar Chavez Day, the theater was packed. Among the attendees were several representatives of DVC’s Puente program, the president of both Los Medanos College and Las Positas College, and staff from Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla’s office.

“There’s a great need out here in this part of the Bay Area and it’s great that a place like JFK University wants to step up,” says Chavez during his introduction before the film.

After Chavez’s introduction, the movie started and was met with eager, warm regard from the attendees. Several powerful moments in the film where Cesar Chavez, portrayed by Michael Peña, took on the role as a civil rights leader were met with applause from the audience. The movie also highlighted his wife, Helen’s role in the United Farmer Worker’s Movement as one of the actual leaders constantly on the front lines.

What separated this particular film from others focusing on Cesar Chavez’s life and the work he did with the United Farm Worker’s movement was that it was one of the very few that did not erase the struggles of Filipino farm workers, as historically, their efforts were also integral to the movement.

It also offered the story of Chavez’s life through the somber lens of a struggling father-son story, offering his eldest son’s perspective and the growing distance in their relationship as the work Chavez did with the movement started to take over his life.

DVC student and Spanish major, Asia Davis said she found the movie, “inspiring.”

“I am of African-American descent, but I also speak fluent Spanish,”she said. “I could kind of relate because my culture and the Hispanic culture were similar when it comes to fighting for our rights and civil rights and getting people to come together as a community.”

Ron Turner, field representative for Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, agreed.

“It was excellent. It represents the struggle that all people of color have experienced throughout the history of the United States, especially with the Latin community and the Filipino community,” he said.

“They all share this common goal to make our lives better and through what Cesar Chavez and other great leaders like him did, the future is going to be bright for all of us.”

As a part of the day’s events, JFK University presented a select few of their students with $5,000 in diversity scholarships. JFK University’s president pledged his own personal contribution of $30,000 to diversity scholarships, which was matched by a donation from PG&E, courtesy of Ezra Garrett, PG&E Vice President of Community Relations and Chief Sustainability Officer and Executive Director of the PG&E Corporation Foundation, according to Cathrine Santini, Associate Vice President of Marketing and Communications at JFK University.

“JFK University is committed to enhancing the diversity of our community and in particular, our Hispanic enrollments,” she said.

“Our goal is to be designated a Hispanic-serving institution by 2016, which means 25 percent of our students are Hispanic.”

Chavez being a speaker and activist himself, reiterated how elated he was with the university’s efforts in community service and providing affordable education to more people.

“That’s basically what my Grandpa taught us growing up. He would always remind us that the end of all education should surely be service to others.”

“Cesar Chavez,” opened on March 28, 2014 in theaters across the country.