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Breakthrough Project to sponsor walk for Chavez through Lodi

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Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2001 10:00 pm

With the hope of promoting cultural unity, the Lodi Breakthrough Project is sponsoring a walk Saturday to celebrate the life of labor and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez.

"The unity walk is to engage in education of unity and appreciation of diversity," event organizer Art Raab said.

Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers Union, worked much of his life as a migrant laborer in California fields picking fruits and vegetables.

By eighth grade, he quit school to work full-time in the vineyards before joining the Navy in 1944 and serving in World War II.

He returned two years later to the Delano area where he worked again in the fields and participated in his first strike to protest low wages and poor working conditions of migrant workers.

It was an endeavor he continued throughout the San Joaquin Valley until his death in 1993. He was 66.

This year, Chavez supporters are celebrating another victory.

Gov. Gray Davis has signed a bill designating Chavez's birthday as a state holiday beginning in 2001.

Although March 31 is the labor rights activist's birthday, the holiday will be observed today. Saturday's event, a first-ever for Lodi, is a continuation of the Breakthrough Project's "Season of Unity" which began last month with a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.

The group has also been working with the Lodi Unified School District to help educate its students about diversity, Raab said.

Saturday's unity walk will begin at 10:30 a.m. at Heritage School at the corner of Garfield Street and Eden Avenue.

The group will be escorted by police down Garfield Street to Tokay Street, go west on Tokay Street to School Street before continuing north of School Street to and east on Pine Street to Stockton Street.

The walk is set to end just before noon at Hale Park on Stockton Street for a program which includes a speech by Maria Elena Serna on Chavez's legacy.

A free barbecue picnic will also be provided at the park.

Afterward, a GrapeLine bus will transport participants back to Heritage School for a community service project to help clean up the campus, Raab said.

The event is co-sponsored by the county Family Resource and Referral Center and the American Association of University Women, Lodi branch.

Other participants include the Mexican-American Lodi Lions Club and the Breakthrough Club at Lodi High School.

For more information, contact Raab at (209) 368-4718.

Comments about this story? Send mail to the News-Sentinel newsroom.

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