Monthly Archives: March 2020

Celebrating César Chávez Day!

By Gilbert Borrego

photo portrait of Cesar ChavezCésar Chávez was a tireless activist whose devotion to the cause of farm workers contributed to the ongoing fight for workers’ rights today. As a first generation American who toiled as a migrant worker when he was young, he had specific insight into the racist and classist system that farm laborers were forced to endure in the mid-twentieth century. In order to escape this unjust system, he joined the United State Navy before eventually returning to his roots and beginning his journey as a labor organizer in order to address the poverty and inequalities he experienced and observed.

In 1962, he and the iconic Dolores Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). They partnered with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) to organize what turned out to be a five-year strike against California grape growers. This strike led to many workers obtaining a contract from the grape producers which addressed wages and humane working conditions for the workers. When the NFWA and the AWOC joined together to form the United Farm Workers (UFW) in 1972, Chávez had a strong, organized platform to fight for the rights of farm workers everywhere, leading nonviolent strikes, marches, boycotts, and fasting until his death in 1993.

In 1994,  César Chávez posthumously received the country’s highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom, and in 2014, President Barack Obama declared his birthday (March 31st) a federal holiday.



cover of the book The Crusades of Cesar Chavez by Miriam PawelThe Crusades of César Chávez: by Miriam Pawel

“A searching portrait of an iconic figure long shrouded in myth by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of an acclaimed history of Chávez’s movement. César Chávez founded a labor union, launched a movement, and inspired a generation. He rose from migrant worker to national icon, becoming one of the great charismatic leaders of the 20th century. Two decades after his death, Chávez remains the most significant Latino leader in US history. Yet his life story has been told only in hagiography―until now.”

Union of Their Dreams by Miriam Pawel

“A generation of Americans came of age boycotting grapes, swept up in a movement that vanquished California’s most powerful industry and won dignity and contracts for impoverished farm workers. Four decades later, United Farm Workers leader César Chávez’s likeness graces postage stamps, and schools and streets are renamed in his honor. But the real stories behind la causa–both its historic accomplishments and tragic disintegration–have remained buried. Pulitzer-winning journalist Miriam Pawel has changed our understanding of the UFW forever, crafting a powerful, poignant account of a movement and the people who made it. A tour de force of reporting and a spellbinding narrative, The Union of Their Dreams is a major contribution to the history of labor, civil rights, and immigration in modern America.”

An Organizer’s Tale: Speeches by César Chávez

“One of the most important civil rights leaders in American history, César Chávez was a firm believer in the principles of nonviolence, and he effectively employed peaceful tactics to further his cause. Through his efforts, he helped achieve dignity, fair wages, benefits, and humane working conditions for hundreds of thousands of farm workers. This extensive collection of Chávez’s speeches and writings chronicles his progression and development as a leader, and includes previously unpublished material. From speeches to spread the word of the Delano Grape Strike to testimony before the House of Representatives about the hazards of pesticides, Chávez communicated in clear, direct language and motivated people everywhere with an unflagging commitment to his ideals.”

The Fight in the Fields: César Chávez and the Farmworkers Movement by Susan Ferriss and Ricardo Sandoval.

“A “vivid, well-documented account of the farm workers movement” (Philadelphia Inquirer) and its prime mover, César Chávez.”

compilation of images showing Cesar Chavez present and taking part in activist marchesEncyclopedia of César Chávez: The Farm Workers’ Fight for Rights and Justice by Roger Bruns

“This book is a unique, single-volume treatment offering original source material on the life, accomplishments, disappointments, and lasting legacy of one of American history’s most celebrated social reformers―César Chávez.”

Comics and Graphic Novels:

Harvesting Hope: The Story of César Chávez by Kathleen Krull and Yuyi Morales

“César Chávez is known as one of America’s greatest civil rights leaders. When he led a 340-mile peaceful protest march through California, he ignited a cause and improved the lives of thousands of migrant farmworkers. But César wasn’t always a leader. As a boy, he was shy and teased at school. His family slaved in the fields for barely enough money to survive. César knew things had to change, and he thought that–maybe–he could help change them. So he took charge. He spoke up. And an entire country listened.”

cover of the book Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

A Picture Book of César Chávez by David A. Adler, Michael S. Adler, and Marie Olofsdotter

“César Chávez dedicated his life to helping American farmworkers. As a child growing up in California during the Great Depression, he picked produce with his family. César saw firsthand how unfairly workers were treated. As an adult, he organized farmworkers into unions and argued for better pay and fair working conditions. He was jailed for his efforts, but he never stopped urging people to stand up for their rights. Young readers will be inspired by the fascinating life story of this champion of social justice.”

Who was César Chávez? by Dana Meachen Rau and Ted Hammond

“A biography telling the life of labor leader César Chávez and the boycotts that he led to gain fair working conditions for farmworkers. Written in graphic-novel format.”


The Fight in the Fields: César Chávez and the Farmworkers’ Struggle by Ray Telles and Rick Tejada-Flores

“The story of César Chávez, the charismatic founder of the United Farmworkers Union and the movement that he inspired – a movement that touched the hearts of millions of Americans with the grape and lettuce boycotts, a non-violent movement that confronted conservative politicians like Ronald Reagan and the powerful Teamsters Union.”

cover of film about Cesar ChavezCésar Chávez directed by Diego Luna

“The story of the famed civil rights leader and labor organizer torn between his duties as a husband and father and his commitment to securing a living wage for farm workers. Chávez embraced non-violence as he battled greed and prejudice in his struggle to bring dignity to people. He inspired millions of Americans who never worked on a farm to fight for social justice. His triumphant journey is a remarkable testament to the power of one individual’s ability to change the world.”

From Awareness to Action: The Importance of Queer and Trans Migrant Activism

This year the UT Libraries Diversity Action Committee (DAC) is proud to present Dr. Karma Chavez of UT’s Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies as the keynote speaker at our spring event, From Awareness to Action: The Importance of Queer and Trans Migrant Activism. Karma will discuss the immigration activist movement, intersections that complicate immigrant experiences, and the importance of the inclusion of queer and trans activism in the movement. Her talk is entitled “#AbolishICE: The Importance of Queer and Trans Migrant Activism.”

Dr. Chavez’s Description of Her Keynote

“Numerous trans and queer migrant organizations and projects with radical politics have formed in the past few years, and they have become key actors on the national immigration stage. Such groups include the Black LGBTQ+ Immigrants Project (of the Transgender Law Center), Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (of the Center for Transformative Action), and Trans Queer Pueblo.

These groups organize around issues such as reclaiming the anti-police ethos of Stonewall, supporting detained people during and after their incarceration, building liberation for trans Latinx migrants, and challenging the criminalization and marginalization of black queer and trans migrants. Moreover, these and other poor and working class, queer and trans migrants of color within diffuse organizations have been central in pushing the mainstream movement, or that which can be characterized as being dominated by mestiza/o Latinx organizations and points of view, including privileging traditional heteronormative family values, the church, hard work, and a distancing from being “criminal.”

Increasingly, and because of the work of queer and trans migrant activists, the mainstream part of the movement is being pushed beyond its traditionally assimilationist aspirations toward demands for #Not1More deportation, and even to #AbolishICE.”

Intersectionality and Its Effects on Migrants

The race, gender, and sexuality of migrants intersect to influence how they are treated both at the border and after they have established themselves in the United States. The term “intersectionality” was coined by legal scholar and critical race theorist Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989 to describe the ways in which black women experienced both racism as people of color and misogyny as women. In her landmark paper, Crenshaw was specifically addressing court cases in which issues were seen as either racial discrimination or sex discrimination but not both. In the thirty-one years since her article’s publication, discussions of intersectionality have grown to encompass issues of sexuality, economic class, and other ways in which people can be marginalized. In Crenshaw’s own words: “Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects.”

The way in which immigrants are depicted demonstrates the lens through which popular culture prefers to see those seeking to cross the border into the United States. Mainstream immigration activists tend to circulate images that show a certain type of immigrant: a mother trying to protect her children, a man wearing a Christian cross, and other images centering on family and religion. These images resonate with many people because they fit with the cis-centric, heteronormative, essentialist cultural perceptions concerning those who “deserve” aid. They ignore the presence and compounded struggles of queer and trans migrants; rather, they present all immigrants as members of a Christian nuclear family unit composed of a (cis-male) father and (cis-female) mother. This serves to erase the existence and struggles of immigrants who are queer, non-binary, or transgender.

The treatment of LGBTQ+ immigrants has led to the rise of activist movements that seek to address the ways in which these individuals experience both immigration injustice and anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry. These movements seek to resist the assimilationist tendencies of mainstream immigration activism and push for recognition of their own unique status as LGBTQ+ immigrants. One such group, #Not1More Deportationexplains:

In recent years, the terms of the immigration debate have been poisoned and a crisis created as deportations, incarceration, and criminalization of immigrant communities has escalated at unprecedented rates. But at the same time record numbers of people are refusing to be victims and instead are drawing an entirely different picture by taking a stand for themselves, for their families, for our communities, and for all of us.

Likewise, the movement to #AbolishICE has gained momentum over the last few years both online and with elected officials.

Tweet by Ilhan Omar stating: ICE exists to dehumanize, deport, and destroy the lives of Black and brown people. As long as it’s in operation, we can’t restore dignity to the immigration process. #AbolishICE

We hope you will join us next Wednesday to listen to Dr. Chavez talk about her research on these complicated issues! Her keynote address will be followed by a Q&A. We will then have an opt-in activity (in partnership with Diversidad Sin Fronteras Texas) in which participants will have the opportunity to write letters of support and love to asylum-seeking trans women currently in detention.

Activism and Migration Groups (*please note: we have chosen to copy the terminology used by each of these groups to describe the groups with whom they work. For more information see the LGBTQ Encyclopedia on the DAC Blog*)

Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project

One of the programs hosted by the Transgender Law Center, BLMP seeks to support Black LGTQIA+ migrants through “community-building, political education, creating access to direct services, and organizing across borders.” They also seek to address the systemic issues that lead to the unjust treatment of migrants.

Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement

Familia: TQLM is an advocacy group for “all LGBTQ Latinos, Latinas, and gender nonconforming individuals.” In partnership with non-LGBTQ allies, they work to unite the LGBTQ Latino and Latina community.

Queer Detainee Empowerment Project

QDEP supports queer individuals in immigration detention, works to help them build a life after being detained, and organizes efforts to fight against the negative treatment of LGBTQIA, transsexual, and gender non-conforming by the state.

Trans Queer Pueblo

 Located in Arizona, Trans Queer Pueblo seeks to support members of the LGBTQ+ migrant community of color through advocating for movements that lead to self-sufficiency.


Burridge, A., Mitchelson, M., & Loyd, J. (2012). Beyond walls and cages: Prisons, borders, and global crisis. University of Georgia Press. Available here.

Chávez, K.R. (2017). Homonormativity and violence against immigrants. QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking 4(2), 131-136. Available here.

—. (2013). Queer migration politics: Activist rhetoric and coalitional possibilities. University of Illinois Press.

—. (2017). Queer migration politics as transnational activism. S&F Online. Available here.

— & Griffin, C.L. (Eds.) (2012).  Standing in the intersection: Feminist voices, feminist practices in communication studies. SUNY Press.

Coaston, J. (2019). The intersectionality wars. Vox. Available here

Costanza-Chock, S. (2014). Out of the shadows, into the streets! Transmedia organizing and the immigrant rights movement. The MIT Press.

Crenshaw, K. (1989) Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1(8), 139-167. Available here.

Davis, K., & Evans, M. (Eds). (2016). Transatlantic conversations : feminism as traveling theory. Routledge. Available here.

Dechaine, D. (2012). Border rhetorics: Citizenship and identity on the US-Mexico frontier. University of Alabama Press.

Foust, C.R., Pason, A., & Rogness, K.Z. (Eds.) (2017). What democracy looks like: The rhetoric of social movements and counterpublics. The University of Alabama Press.

Godfrey, E. (2018). What ‘Abolish ICE’ actually means. The Atlantic. Available here.

Haritaworn, J., Kuntsman, A., & Posocco, S. (Eds). (2013). Queer necropolitics. ProQuest Ebooks. Routledge. Available here.

Jordan, S. (2009). Un/convention(al) refugees: contextualizing the accounts of refugees facing homophobic or transphobic persecution. Refuge, 26(2), 165–182.

Levinson-Waldman, R. (2018). The Abolish ICE movement explained. Brennan Center for Justice. Available here.

Luibheid, E., & Cantu, L. (Eds). (2005). Queer migrations: Sexuality, U.S. citizenship, and border crossings. University of Minnesota Press.

Kimberlé Crenshaw on intersectionality, more than two decades later. (2017). Columbia Law School [blog]. Available here.

Kingston, L.N. (2019). Fully human: Personhood, citizenship, and rights. Oxford University Press.

McKinnon, S.L., Asen, R., Chavez, K.R, & Howard, R.G. (Eds.). (2016). Text + field: Innovations in rhetorical method. The Pennsylvania State University Press.

Nyers, P., & Rygiel, K. (Eds). (2012). Citizenship, migrant activism, and the politics of movement. Routledge.

Sycamore, M.B. (Ed). (2008) That’s revolting! Queer strategies for resisting assimilation. Soft Skull Press.

Vaid, U. (2012). Irresistible revolution: Confronting race, class and the assumptions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender politics. Magnus Books.

Viteri, M. (2014). Desbordes: Translating racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender identities across the Americas. SUNY Press.