Fresno State alumna Dr. Lea Ybarra will keynote the university’s 19th annual Cesar E. Chavez celebration, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 24 in the Peace Garden on campus.

Ybarra, who recently retired from Johns Hopkins University, is a former Fresno State associate provost and was a longtime supporter of the United Farm Workers. Her student activism in the 60’s laid the foundation for many Latino programs today.

She speaks at 1 p.m. before the traditional garlanding ceremony at the monument that memorializes the late farmworker leader. The ceremony will be led by Dr. Sudarshan Kapoor, Fresno State emeritus professor of social work and friend of Chavez, along with the University’s First Lady, Mary Castro.

The free, public celebration commemorates the March 31 birthday of the UFW Union founder that is now a state holiday. Since the campus will be closed that day in observance of the holiday, which falls during spring break, the campus celebration is held a week in advance.

Other activities will include flag presentations, declamations and entertainment featuring the Fresno State Mariachi and Los Danzantes de Aztlan, the Fresno State Mexican folkloric dance company.

Student activity booths will be on site and free tacos will be available to students who complete a passbook by visiting the booths.

The appearance by Ybarra is a homecoming. She spent two years as a student at Fresno State in the 1960s before transferring to University of California, Berkeley where she earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in sociology.

Ybarra has been a community activist since her student years and continues her involvement with organizations such as the United Farm Workers of America and the Latino Veterans Memorial.

She recalls that her two student years in the 1960’s provided “the beginning of my political awareness and activism” spurred in large part by the famous 25-day UFW march from Delano to Sacramento led by Cesar Chavez in March,1966 with a stop planned for Fresno State. Luis Valdez, founder of El Teatro Campesino, was one of two UFW speakers who visited campus to drum up support when the march passed through.

“There was a lot of controversy surrounding his visit but I and other Chicano students decided to support him when he came on campus,” Ybarra recalls. “When I heard him speak about the issues facing farmworkers and our community in general, and the role that we as students needed to play in the struggle for fairness and equity, I realized I could no longer be on the sidelines. We, as students, began to understand that the farmworkers movement was part of the larger Chicano movement.”

Ybarra has made hundreds of presentations throughout the world and is a recipient of numerous awards including Hispanic Educator of the Year, Hispanic Women Making History, Johns Hopkins Diversity Leadership Award, Rosa Parks Award for Community Service, Business Professional Woman of the Year and the Promete Award from Spain.

Her publications include the book and film “Americanos: Latino Life in the U.S. with Edward James Olmos,” and “Vietnam Veteranos: Chicanos Recall the War.”

Research project include “Project Excel: Preparing Young Women for the 21st Century” and “The Educational and Occupational Aspirations and Attainment of Young Hispanic Female Workers.”

Tuesday’s event is presented by the Cesar Chavez Committee, which is made up of employees, student organizations and other support programs at Fresno State.

Saturday, (March 21) several Fresno State students from the Chavez committee visited the National Chavez Center at La Paz in Keene and viewed its museum, Chavez’ Gravesite in Memorial Gardens and walked some meditation paths.

Other campus observances include the Chavez Conference for Literacy and Educational Policy (May 1 and 2), the Cesar E. Chavez Blood Drive by College Assistance Migrant Program in the Free Speech Area (March 23 and 24) and the Cesar E. Chavez art/photo exhibit display through April 3 in the Henry Madden Library (first and second floor lobbies).

For more information, contact Raúl Moreno, University Migrant Services Coordinator, at 559.278.5750.

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