This year marks the 50th Anniversary of César Chávez’s nearly month-long fast to protest the use of dangerous pesticides in the farmworker communities near Delano, Calif. Chavez’s “fast for life” was one of the most courageous acts of solidarity and non-violence in a decade buffeted by war, conflict, and brutality. The power of Chávez’s fast rested in its simplicity: he chose to suffer to shed light on the suffering of others.
This year, at the request of United Farmworkers union co-founder Dolores Huerta and in honor of César Chávez’s example of solidarity in 1968, Hispanic Federation staff will take part in a 24-hour fast starting the afternoon of July 3rd to express our support for the 2,400 children that have been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border as a result of the policies implemented by President Trump. We do this as an organization committed to civil rights and because these policies do deep and lasting damage to our families and our communities. But our fast is also a way of remembering when we — or our parents or grandparents — were those desperate families looking to make a life in the United States. A way of remembering when we, in short,were once them.
The power of Chávez’s fast rested in its simplicity: he chose to suffer to shed light on the suffering of others.
We knowingly undertake this fast on the eve of Independence Day. We do so because we are deeply concerned about the direction of our nation. The history of the United States, from that momentous 4th of July in 1776 until today, has been the history of a conflict over the meaning and scope of freedom. The Founding Fathers laid out an ambitious vision for the new nation grounded in, among many other things, the inalienability of rights; rights that are universal and respect no national borders.
For more than two centuries our commitment to these rights has made our nation a beacon of hope for the oppressed of the world. Sadly, the idea of America and the policies that have brought that idea to life, are now under siege. Our nation’s current White House occupants have turned away from our values and principles. They have demonized the immigrant, punished the refugee, shut their eyes and closed their ears to the pleas of the asylum-seeker. The nation that once defended the inviolability of human rights now violates them with impunity.
We knowingly undertake this fast on the eve of Independence Day. We do so because we are deeply concerned about the direction of our nation.
To this desecration of our civic creed we say: enough is enough! America is better than this. Americans are better than this.
We fast in solidarity with those on whom President Trump and his administration have turned their backs.
We fast to demand an end to policies that shatter families.
We fast to demand that Congress enact meaningful and humane immigration reform.
Most hopefully, we fast to demand that America reaffirm its commitment to the besieged and persecuted of the world.