Watch our show Mujahid Talks with Imam Malik Mujahid in conversation with President and Chairman of the Cesar Chavez Foundation Paul Chavez
Guest: Paul Chavez - President and Chairman of the Cesar Chavez Foundation
Host: Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid - President of Sound Vision and Justice for All.
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Abdul Malik Mujahid 00:03
Salam and peace. This is Imam Malik Mujahid and you're watching Muslim network TV, Muslim network TV is always there 24 seven on galaxy 19 satellite, Amazon Fire TV, Roku TV, Apple TV, you can download our app or go on our website, Muslimnetwork.tv. And if you're one of those people who are always watching everything on YouTube, remember to watch there and subscribe as well. And today we'll be talking with someone who's raised well organizing people who has a heritage, which is cherished in America. And a whole lot of people in the world are thankful for the struggle in the organizing, and it has become a part of American genre. And I will be talking with Cesar Chavez son, Paul Chavez. Welcome to Muslim network TV brother.
Paul Chavez 01:11
Good morning. I'm glad to be with you.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 01:12
Good morning. Paul Chavez is president and chairperson of the Cesar Chavez foundation. 10 May, I mean Chavez has been recently in the news because President Biden the closest to the best of anybody, he has his, you know, bronze bust of Cesar Chavez in the Oval Office, how it came about?
Paul Chavez 01:42
Well, you know, we were shortly before the inauguration, there was some informal conversations about, about using the bus that we have here at the National Service Center, which is a it's a part of the national monument that President Obama established. And so, you know, there was informal conversations, but actually, it was the was the Monday morning before the inauguration, that there was a formal call with members of the National Park Service and, and people from the White House where the formal request was made to use the bust. And so, you know, of course, we agreed to it, but and so, you know, it was really a question of getting it created and boxed up and, and shipped out on Tuesday afternoon, actually. So that it would be there in time for Wednesday morning at 10 o'clock, but you know, but it's amazing what can happen when you have that Si Se Puede headed to. So you know, so we were able to ship it off, and they confirm that it arrived. And so, you know, what we knew was that it would be in the Oval Office, but we didn't have any indication of, of the location, you know, in. And so I have to admit that when we actually tuned in to see the president, President Biden begin to sign the executive orders. You know, I was prepared to sneak around and look and see if I could spy it someplace in the corner. And lo and behold, it was right behind him amongst pictures of his family. And so we were thrilled as family members, but I think more importantly, as Latinos who have who have suffered these last four years, we were we were given hope that a new day was was dawning. And so we were, we greeted it with a lot of enthusiasm and, and happiness.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 03:36
I hope he really cares for him. And instead of just using it for political purposes, because let in or major constituency, I hope he he draws some vibrance from the from the idea and the organizing. I mean, he Biden, President Biden is not an organizer. But President Obama was an organizer then who got I mean, first time I knew what Si Se Puede is when in 2006, there were about 1.2 million people, according to Chicago police who marched. Se Puede I learned from Latinos at that time, way before I came to know that yes, we can it's said translation how that came about?
Paul Chavez 04:19
Well, you know, we would love to take credit for it. But you know, but but, you know, in subsequent years when we had the chance to speak with with President Obama, you know, he talked to us about how my father's example. And as a community organizer inspired him to go out and do work there and in the south side of Chicago, and it was a message that he carried with them. And so, you know, I think that it came from it came from, from working with people who many times, faith may wane a little because of the oppression that's weighed upon them, and sometimes they can believe that you can't make a difference. And so for us Si Se Puede was a rallying cry, was that response to people who have maybe begin to give up hope that things can happen where we would, where we would, you know, we would chant, optimistically that yes, we can we can make a difference. And I think it was that it was in that same spirit that the Obama campaign adopted the, the the slogan, Yes, we can.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 05:23
So do you think your father started that as a slogan, or it, he borrowed from someone else?
Paul Chavez 05:29
Well, you know, it was started in, you know, my father. He was a, he was a very unique man, because he understood the power of faith in our work. You know, many times in especially progressives, we tend to reject, reject our faith, as as a tool to help us in the struggle for justice. My father fully embraced it. You know, and, and, and some of the traditions that that he followed was this one of Penance and sacrifice, he would fast, you know, he wouldn't do hunger strikes, he would always remind us that a hunger hunger strike is to get somebody to do something. And, and he would say that a fast is where you take a look at yourself and your shortcomings, and you and you, it's a critical examination of your efforts, and then you you make an effort to, to go out and do something about it. And so it was in 1972, that my father was fasting in Arizona. And Arizona is one of the states like Texas, where Latinos have been oppressed for years. And we were challenging a governor who had signed some really bad anti farmer legislation. And as organizers went out, you know, people began to have doubts about no Se Puede we're not going to be able to do anything and that's how it is. And it was through the organizers really captured by Dolores Huerta, who coined the phrase, Si Se Puede you know, what do you mean we can't? sure we can Si Se Puede and it became a rallying cry. And the interesting thing is, is that, you know, we look at the election of those two democratic senators from Arizona, something that I didn't think I'd see in my lifetime. And it's amazing, because of many of the Latino activists who were who were active and have assumed roles in civic and political, civic and political leadership roles in Arizona, will actually trace their initial engagement in politics and Community Affairs, to that fast and, and being involved in the campaigns that came out of that 72 fast. So it's amazing how this work is that it's done, you know, it ripples, and it continues to uh, it continues to impact generations after generations.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 07:47
He is he's organizing farm workers was, he was more known. But so he is not only icon of labor movement, but he is considered icon of civil rights movement, as well. What is the reasoning that he's considered an icon of civil rights movement?
Paul Chavez 08:05
Well, you know, and it's true, many people, you know, will look at him, and they'll see a small brown man that worked with, with migrant workers in rural parts of the state, but the fact is, is that his works, spoke to, to deeper issues, issues of opportunity for for everybody, and that the bounty, and the promise of this nation would be extended to to all. And so while he, he did work with farmworkers, you know, his work really attacked this, this terrible sense. And this pro- profound level of poverty and despair that had beset the community, you know, for 100 years before my dad began organizing, every attempt to organize farm workers had been brutally crushed. And so there wasn't much hope and and farmworkers face discrimination, well, they face very tough working conditions, low pay, and it was just a terrible place to be in lack of opportunity. But the fact is, is that when they left work, they would go home to a whole different set of problems, the lack of affordable housing and quality educational opportunities for our children. And, and, and we were excluded from the communities that we've made, that we've made rich through the through our sweat and labor. And so and so he understood that, while the Union would address economic issues at the workplace, he understood that that the fight was really about something much larger. It was about respecting people's contributions, and offering them full opportunities in this great nation of ours. And so I think that's why people have began to, to to look at his work because it attacked issues, not just in the workplace, but in the community as well.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 09:52
What is the have found what is the current state of farmworkers?
Paul Chavez 09:59
Well, you know, While we're very, we're very proud of past accomplishments, you know, farmworkers have been excluded from every major pace piece of federal legislation that protects workers. But, you know, through the efforts of my father and, and members of the United Farm Workers and other people who care about justice, you know, farm workers have have begin to get some benefits. Unfortunately, it tends to happen more at the state level. But, you know, farm workers were excluded from workman's compensation, there was no disability insurance, there is no unemployment insurance. And and now we have that in states it's not, it's not guaranteed by federal legislation, but different states have provided that, you know, they we have organized workers throughout the throughout the West, and bringing in better conditions and benefits and pensions for for workers who have worked for many years in, in agriculture, but, but we're also cognizant that that much work remains to be done, you know, my father passed away over a quarter century ago. And since that time, there's been new generations of immigrants that have come in people who are desperately looking for a better life, and who all too often fall prey to unscrupulous labor contractors, employers who take advantage of their need. And and as a result, have people working for less than minimum wage, and then in, in terrible conditions. And in those cases where workers are undocumented, you know, they they prey on their, I guess, on their willingness to come forth because of their legal lack of legal status. And so there's much work to be done. But you know, but the work continues, we know that, in this struggle, you only lose when you give up. And so we're committed to, to this long, hard struggle of representing workers and improving their lives.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 12:05
What are the current campaigns of farm workers?
Paul Chavez 12:10
Well, you know, the United Farm Workers, and you know, I can, I can only speak from the sidelines, because I'm, you know, I'm not I'm not a member of the board of directors, but in conversations with them. you'd mentioned earlier about the bust, behind the President's desk, hopefully, it's more than than a prop. And, you know, that's always our concern, you know, we've been in this business long enough, and we know that there's times that people will, will look to embrace my father's legacy and mean, and sometimes not follow through on some of the important things, you know, in the conversations that that, that our union has had with the, with the Biden ministration. You know, he's come out, he's come out swinging, you know, some of the first executive orders addressed the issues of DACA, the young folks that came to this country, and that are more American than anything else, but have been, have been demonized by the past administration. He's, he's, he's, he's stopped the funding of the border wall an issue that is decisive, divisive, and it's just really mean spirited. You know, and, and also, they've introduced, they're working with this to introduce legislation for the for, for rehaul of the immigration laws of this land. And so, you know, in his first, he's been in office now for what, a month now. We believe that he's hit the ground running, but you know, but we also understand that it's, it's progress, and it's legislation, that we need to protect people, and so we're and so we're working with him on those kind of items.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 13:47
Do you have any idea how much farm workers get paid right now by average?
Paul Chavez 13:54
Well, you know, it depends. It depends on the industry. And, and the work, you know, they're and also Where, where, where people are at by, you know, by state. And so some states people are making nothing, nothing minimum wage and, and the minimum wage, the minimum wage will actually vary by state. There's no federal minimum wage. In California farm workers have overtime, but not in other states. And so they make, they don't make very much and in most cases, it's a minimum wage. Now, there are some places where workers will work piece rate where they earn so much per unit produced. And in those situations, you know, people can make a little bit of money, but what we've seen is that it's for extremely short periods of time. But the other thing is that because of the brutality of the work, and the pace that people put their bodies through, bodies break down and they won't last more than six or seven years, and so and so it's a it's really a it's an inhumane system. That takes the best of workers and and gives little in return.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 15:04
Yeah, I'm in the economist and UK is fairly conservative paper. But I was shocked and surprised to but happy to read a report in which some reporter went and worked with farmers in California and describe the what work is like it just humanized, the you know what type of I mean we just go buy things from the grocery store and eat. But people who essentially make sure that thing comes out of a farm instead of rotting there are the people who are most neglected, is what is the guestworker system? is it helping or hurting the farmworkers?
Paul Chavez 15:46
Well, you know, that's been an issue that has been that we've had to deal with. And we've dealt with it in different ways. You know, agriculture in the United States has been dependent on cheap labor. And what they found is, is that us residents will hesitate at working in those conditions for those wages. And so what they've done is historically, they've gone throughout the world to look for people who have tremendous need, and bring them in, and they work in the fields. And it's happened for the last 100 years. And so, you know, we know that and so so that's the first concern we have is that is that rather than sitting there and like the miners do, they decide that they got to pay people decent wage, wage to work in those terrible conditions. Here, employers instead of doing that, will go out and look for workers from other countries with tremendous needs. There's been some efforts and the Ufw has has engaged in those efforts to to bring some higher standards and some practices of protections for workers, setting minimum wages for workers that come in making sure that they have protections of labor laws, and that housing is provided and things to address some of the abuses, but it's an ongoing issue. It's an ongoing issue that we need to drill with, but to deal with, but in the past these guest worker programs and I guess most notoriously was the setup program, which was started during the Second World War, because of a shortage on farms, because people were out in active in the in the, in the in the war industries and in the war effort. They brought in Mexican laborers to work in the fields. But what they did was they depress wages for many years, but but it's a it's a tricky issue. And right now we're the Ufw has worked with, with past administrations to see if they can come up with a more equ- equitable way to to address the you know, the the the guest worker issue.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 17:51
You're watching Muslim network TV. This is Imam Malik Mujahid and I'm talking with Paul Chavez. And we'll be right back after these messages.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 18:26
Welcome back to Muslim network TV. This is Imam Malik Mujahid and I'm talking with Polish Chavez about Cesar Chavez and farmworkers. Do you have any broad idea what percentage of farmworkers in America right now are American citizens? And how many are guest workers are undocumented workers?
Paul Chavez 18:49
You know, there are there are different numbers that are that are floating out there. And I would, you know, I would have to I would have to be honest and say that, you know, the the estimates I give would be just based on observations and wouldn't be based on any empirical data. But, but I would say that, that it is overwhelmingly undocumented, and I think it's probably in the 90% of the workforce 85 to 90%. I mean, I know there's people that would discount that. But, but you know, but when you look at history, and you see what's happening, that's what agribusiness has done, they prey on poor people, and they and they, and they seek to exploit their need to enrich themselves. And so you know, that's an issue we have now. You know, it's a good issue that you raised though, because see, when my father began his work organizing in the in the early 60s, it was a much different world than what we're in today. Probably 15% of the workforce were the old Anglo workers from Arkansas and Oklahoma, the poor whites that came across in the Dust Bowl that we read about in The Grapes of Wrath. There was probably 15% of the workforce were were Filipino workers that were brought over from the Philippines in the in the 30s, and late 20s, and 30s and 40s, to work in the fields. And there was probably 10% African Americans who were brought in from the south to work in the cotton fields in the watermelon and agricultural fields here and in the, in the West. And then the remaining what was it, maybe 50% were Latinos. But half of those Latinos were people like my mother and father, who were born and raised in the United States. My dad was from Yuma, Arizona, my mother from Brawley, California, they were born US citizens, but because of the lack of opportunities that they had outside of the fields, they ended up working in the fields. And then the other half of the of the, of the of the Latino workforce tended to be the expert, many who had green cards were here on legal status. And so you know, so it was a different workforce. It was a it was intended to be a highly legalized workforce. And then you fast forward to today 2021, where it is, it is overwhelmingly undocumented and recent immigrant and so that those issues present a whole different set of problems that my father had to deal with during his days of organizing, but it shows you how, how, you know, how the workforce has changed, and how the demands that that we look at new tactics to address the issues that face people today.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 21:38
So that that that explains why he preferred to stabilize wages, he was not in support of undocumented workers at that time?
Paul Chavez 21:48
Oh, yeah. No, not at all, you know, you know, be very clear is that my father didn't believe that anybody had a right to break a strike. He knew that when people, poor people made the determined decision, to walk off the job, that they were, they were taking food out of their kids mouths in order to provide for a better day. And so whenever people came to replace him, strikebreakers were brought in, he he had no, he had no tolerance for it. And he was very active in, in fighting all forms of strike breaking, but, but it's important to know that, you know, our movement is a movement of immigrants. And, and he made sure that when the organization was founded, that there was no limitations on who could be members, everybody was welcome. If you worked in the fields, when programs were set up, they were set up with the idea that everybody should receive benefits. We have many people that that receive pensions today, sent to their families in Mexico, they were immigrants, our medical plans, you know, when they were developed many times that the insurance was for coverage in the United States, but families were left back home, he went and set up programs with the Mexican government to ensure that, that we could contract with the American with the Mexican health service to provide services. You know, there was times that when we had hiring halls, that immigration would want to come and look at membership records. He refused to share that information. And and then, and then also, when we, when we passed the first law in this nation that gave farmworkers the rights to bargain collectively, he ensured that, that everybody had the right to participate in those union elections, regardless of legal status. And if their right and if their rights were violated, that they had access to all of the provisions to remedy the the lawlessness that everybody was granted. And so, you know, made a tremendous effort to bring people in, everybody in, but again, when it came to people breaking strikes, he he had no patience for that.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 23:54
So share with us some personal memories of him. I mean you being his son, were you the youngest son or?
Paul Chavez 24:00
Well, you know, there's, there's eight of us in our family.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 24:03
Paul Chavez 24:03
And and so I have five older brothers and sisters, and then they're the younger three. So I'm the oldest of the younger three. I'm I'm, I'm Yes, so I'm, you know, I'm, I'm number six in our family of eight. Yeah. So you know, yeah. So you know, well, it's interesting, because, you know, if you talk to my older brothers and sisters, you know, growing up was a was a different existence for them. You know, they were they were in elementary school in high school, in the early days of the struggle when there was a lot of attacks against my father and, and the, you know, the local police department was breaking into the house to steal evidence that he was a communist agitator in a way to discredit him. When there was people that would pick up the house because they thought that outsiders were coming in riling up local people and and they had to deal with a lot of racism and anti-union sentiment in high school, now, by time I grew up, and I was in high school, and I was a little bit older, my father had become a national figure by then. And so it was a little bit different for me than my brothers and sisters, but but you know, the thing that I remember about my father was that he was an extremely busy man. And we learned that at a, at an early age that we would have to share him with others. And so, you know, when we grew up, and we would go and play softball games, you know, our friend's parents would be there cheering them on, in many cases, you know, my father wasn't there, because he was out organizing. You know, when kids would be picnicking with their parents, we'd be with my mom, but my dad would be out in some organizing champaign or speaking to workers rallying them to stand up for their rights. So we knew that we'd have to share him. But what my father did though, was he made sure that this movement that his work was big enough that he can include all of us. And so while we didn't go to those baseball games, we went to marches, right. And we went to Union meetings and conventions, and we're with him on picket lines. And so he made sure that that we could participate in the work that he was doing. And it was really incredible, because during that time, where everybody was demanding his attention, and he was being pulled in all different directions. When he would talk to us.....he would make sure that, that he gave us 100% of his attention. And so in the midst of everything that was going on, he always made sure that that he had time for us. But we had to be involved in the work he was doing.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 26:49
I hope you had study his school, because he's reportedly attended 38 different schools before the eighth grade.
Paul Chavez 26:59
Well he did you know, because they were migrants. And when the crop would end, there was no unemployment insurance. And so they would have to pack up and leave to the next crop. And many times that was during the school year. And you know, in and my father, he only his formal education stopped at the eighth grade, he stopped going to school, not because he, he didn't want to learn. He, he dropped out of school because he knew that he had to help his mother and father put food on the table for his other brothers and sisters. And actually, I remember once listening, talk to a person who, who, who asked him, you know, what was what's your ideology? What is that? That, you know, where does that fire come from, that has has remained so vibrant for all these years, you know, trying to understand the political nature of it. And he looked at me said, you know, it's not any grand ideologies, it's a lot of anger. He says, I remember my mother coming and t elling me, mijo, which is son, you need to help us provide for your brothers and sisters. And I know what it meant for her to tell me that. And I swore to myself that I would work and work and work so no other mother would ever have to have that conversation with her with her children. And it was that type of it was that type of life experience that drove him and sustained him during difficult times.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 28:22
But it translated his anger into energy of organizing, digging yourself while being raised. Well, father is going around organizing, did you your family face sometime shortage of food and things of this nature?
Paul Chavez 28:39
Charges of I'm sorry?
Abdul Malik Mujahid 28:40
Food. Food shortage and
Paul Chavez 28:42
Oh, yes, yes. Well, yeah, you know, because see, my father, you know, my father had had had worked in the fields as a young man and understood the understood the the, the inhumanity of how workers are treated, not in farm work, not in farming, because he was talking about there was nothing more dignified, there is nothing more important than providing people food nourishment. What he talked about was the way that people were treated was the inhumane thing and he always felt that that somebody should do something, but but like, you know, like many people who who work in difficult jobs, they want better for their children. And so their goal is to get out of the fields, get out of the steel mill, get out of this and offer something better to their children. And so, my father, you know, was actually able to leave the fields. And he, he ended up in an urban center in San Jose, California, and was working in a lumber yard in different places and, and, you know, was a was looking to have different opportunities in life. But it was during that time that he that he met a community organizer named Fred Ross who worked for Sal Alinsky from Chicago. And they talked to them about an organization that was a that was formed on the west coast to go out and organize the community organizing Latinos. And it interested my father and he became a, a part time. supporter, then became a full time staff member and actually became the director of the staff director for the organization. But he always had this feeling that somebody had to do something about farmworkers, he would drive up and down the states from his meeting, and he would see people bent over in the sun. And he couldn't, he couldn't forget those days that that he was out there. And you know, my mother would talk about my mother was a woman, a few words, very tough woman, but a few words, and my father would come home and complain and say things like, somebody should do something about that. And she would listen, and somebody should do something about that after the next trip and the next trip and the next trip. And they got to the point where my mother sat down and she said, Why don't you do something about it. And it was through her encouragement and support, that they gave up the best job that they ever had. By that time. My father was living in East LA, he was he was on his way to middle class life. He had a salary, they had a home, they didn't have to worry about putting food on the table. He was driving a Volvo in the late 50s, how many Latinos were driving Volov's. He was..
Paul Chavez 29:01
How many Americans were driving Volvos?
Paul Chavez 31:25
Right? He was wearing You know, he was wearing suits to work. You know. And so it was a different and and what he did was, he had $2,000 in savings. And he quit his job. And he went to Delano. And he began his work of organizing. And he just basically believed that if you become a servant of the people, they'll take care of you. And it was a tremendous leap of faith. I remember him talking about it once worried about, you know, I have 8 children and a young family and how am I going to support them? And how am I going to do this thing that people have attempted to do for 100 years before him and had failed, and they had a lot more resources and a lot more education.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 32:05
Not only just failed, but got killed, murdered.
Paul Chavez 32:09
Abdul Malik Mujahid 32:11
...risk for eight children and a wife getting into a business which is nothing but a danger. You're watching Muslim network TV, and we're talking about Cesar Chavez with no other than his son Paul Chavez and we'll be right back after these messages.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 33:04
Welcome back to Muslim network TV. This is Imam Malik Mujahid, and we're talking with Paul Chavez. I mean so so this so your mother was the one who says, you know, why don't you do something about it Huh?
Paul Chavez 33:17
Well, you know, she was she was a tough woman, but also, like my father, you know, she she grew up in the field, she dropped out of school to help her mother feed her brothers and sisters, they lived in a converted horse barn for a wealthy for a wealthy grower. And so she, um, she suffered the same indignities that my father had. And she also had that anger. And so they, they, you know, at, at her urging, but also with her support, he decided to do, well, they decided to give up the the most secure future they ever had. And they moved to Delano to begin the work, the precarious work of organizing farmworkers. Now, you know, one of the things that, that I, that I think about, and I just, you know, I'm marveled by my mother's strength was that it was during this time that my father would go out and he'd leafleted the whole Central Valley, the Central Valley of California is the largest agricultural region in the United States. It starts at the foothill coming out of Los Angeles. And it goes all the way past Sacramento, it's probably 350 miles long, and maybe 100 miles wide. And it's all agriculture. And so my father traveled up and down the Central Valley leafleting and talking to workers about this idea of organizing and having to convince them that it could be done this time, you know, that, that they could make a difference. And, and so that took a lot of strength, because he was rejected more often than not. He talked about knocking on 10 doors before one door would be open to talk to somebody. And so you know, there was times that he would come home tired and dejected. And in his early days, my father kept a journal. And in this journal, there was a, there was an entry where he said, a very short note said, I'm tired, I'm getting discouraged. I don't know if I can continue. And then a couple of days later, there was a journal entry that said, I spoke to Helen, I'm ready to go. So I talked about the strength that she gave him. But what she did was it was more than moral strength. When my father was out driving, my mother who had eight children, went back into the fields that she was able to escape, went back to the fields and began working to earn money to feed the family. And there was a lot of we have aunts and uncles that supported us, right? Help put food on the table while my dad was organizing, because they also believe that things had to be done differently. But my mother would get her paycheck, she would feed, you know, provide food for the family. And then she would give my father money to pay off their credit card, so he could get more gas to go and talk to more workers. And that's how it was for many years until, you know, until things became a little bit more established. But you talk about determination, and grit. Those are examples that I have never seen. You know, where that are rare to find in other people and I think it's a hallmark to why maybe he succeeded with others with a lot more money in education. I tried in that and failed...
Abdul Malik Mujahid 36:33
You know, the boycott of the table grapes. How old were you at that time? Do you have some....?
Paul Chavez 36:41
Sure. Sure. You know, that that happened in the in the in the mid 60s. And so I was probably 10 years old. And you know, it was a you know, it was it was a it was a lesson learned. You know, my father read a lot even though he stopped going to school at the eighth grade. He was a he was a he was a he was a learned man through his readings, he read voraciously. And he read everything he could, you know, I know that. He read the the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, of Dr. King. And he looked at how they were able to use non violence and channel that anger into into active non violence to challenge a power and authority. And, and so the boycott is an example of you know, he didn't he did not invent a boycott, right? There was some tremendous examples of it being very powerful, but he was the first one to use it in a labor setting. But again, I think that that boycott really spoke about the tremendous faith he had in the goodness of people. He really believed that, that housewives and consumers 1000s of miles away from farmworkers, many who had never seen a farm worker day in their life, that if they heard their story and understood their conditions, that they would support them, by not buying grapes. And, and again, it talks to this tremendous faith he had in people, you know, he believed that farmworkers, the poorest of this nation's poor, can take on the biggest and most powerful industry the state and prevail. And at the same time, he believed that the consumers that had no direct ties to farmworkers, he believed that if you went and you talk to them about, about the things that were happening, and appealed to the humanity, that people would respond in kind and so I think that the organizing talked about this great faith in humanity. And the boycott was the other part of it. You know, and so it took a lot of organizational skills. But at the foundation of that was this was this tremendous faith he had in humanity.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 38:43
I want you to know, many times when I pick up grapes, I think of your father.
Paul Chavez 38:51
Abdul Malik Mujahid 38:51
You know, the connection of people knowing what they're eating and what sacrifices and what effort and struggles goes with it. You also shared with us, and I like to talk a little bit about it. And now the decimal law, therefore, law literally means the guest of God, that he was, he was among the first person who was murdered, while striking in 1973. Do you want to talk about him a little bit?
Paul Chavez 39:22
Sure. Well, you know, if I can just take a step back. In our movement, we have five martyrs, 5 people who have given their lives so that this movement could continue and could grow. They gave life to this movement, as my father would say, in eulogies. And, you know, you think of farmworkers you think of Latinos and Catholics, right Christians? Well, the fact of the matter is of the five martyrs that we've that we have in our movement. The first was a young Jewish woman who was killed on a picket line in in in Florida in 1972.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 39:57
And she came as a solidarity she was not a farm worker.
Paul Chavez 40:01
She was not a farm worker. She was there in solidarity picketing a sugarcane plant in in Belle Glade, Florida. And she was run over by a strike breaker and killed on the picket line. That was in 1972. The next, the second martyr in our movement was a young Muslim, a man from from, from Yemen, Nagi Daifullah, who, like 1000s of other Yemenis had were brought in to California because of Agriculture's addiction to cheap labor. They were brought in because of the tremendous need they have to work in the fields. And they worked and they suffered the indignities, but he became a strike leader in 1973, and was brutally killed by a current county sheriff a Deputy Sheriff. Naji was a was a strike leader. And he was we believe he was singled out by the sheriff. But But you know, his work and his life was given so that others could, could enjoy the benefits of representation and better wages and conditions. But it was a tragic life loss. And then the subsequent three other martyrs were Latinos. But the fact is, is that, you know, when you think about this farm worker movement, Latino movement, the fact is, is that we have five martyrs. And here at the National Chavez center, our headquarters, my father built a monument to our martyrs. And if you look at it, we have we have the symbols, of all three faiths, the Muslim, the Jewish, and the Christian faiths, and it talks about this, about this multicultural and this multi religious combinations that were put together to to, to fight against, you know, one of the most powerful industries in the in the state.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 41:53
So Nagi Daifullah was from Yemen young person. How many people were this Yemeni Muslim, or who were part of that any idea, approximately?
Paul Chavez 42:05
You know, I, what I recall was there was up on the east side of the valley around a little town called Porterville. There was companies that had large, large numbers of Yemeni workers. And and I believe he came out of that group, I believe that there was probably 5000 workers at one time that were brought in. Now, what we found out shortly afterwards was that many of these workers were militant unionists from Yemen. And so when they came, and they saw my father, and other organizers talking about the rights of working people and trying to look into to improve conditions, they were some of the most loyal and adamant unionists for the farmworkers union. And many of them went on strikes, and we had many Arab organizers in the 70s, while while there was large concentrations in the fields, but yes, he was a young man, he was 21 years old.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 43:00
So Nagi Daifullah was not only on the head. But as he was bleeding, bleeding Sheriff dragged him from his feet.
Paul Chavez 43:10
Right. You know, it's at a little town that's probably 20 miles from where I'm speaking to you today. And he was clubbed. And he laid on the ground bleeding, and the sheriff you know Nagi was a small man, probably 5'1" 5'2". And this Sheriff was like, six four, and after he swing and hit him with his flashlight, he began to bleed profusely, he grabbed them by the foot, and he dragged them on the sidewalk. And there was bloodstains on the on the sidewalk there. But again, it talked about the brutality in which farmworkers had to do their work. You know, we understood my dad understood that, that when you went against the growers, you were going after a whole political system. There was the police forces that were brought in to break the strikes, right. There was judges that issued that issued unfair and unconstitutional injunctions that prohibited us from from expressing, you know, our first amendment rights and boycotting and striking and there was politicians that would pass anti farmworker laws and so they understood that we were going to have to put up not just with the growers, but with their friends. And unfortunately, you know, we we had to deal with situations like, like the, like the murder of Nagi Daifullah.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 44:27
And you remember, you were part of the funeral, which took place at that time.
Paul Chavez 44:32
You know, what I recall was that it was during that summer that it was a very violent summer, there was probably over 5000 people arrested. The Kern County Sheriff's Department beat the hell out of people indiscriminately on the picket line. We were fighting with another union that was coming in to try to take away Ufw contracts. And they brought in goons that would beat up strikers. And it was It was a mess. And, and Nagi was was, was struck, I believe was in August 17, in 1973. And I remember we went to Delaney. Now, you know, I'm a young Latino kid, and I hadn't seen too much. But I remember when we, when we gathered at a park about three miles from the union headquarters in Delano, we, we marched behind a procession of our of our Muslim brothers. And, and, and there was services that were held that were attended by 1000s and 1000s of workers, but, but I do remember the March, I remember, it was the first time that I'd ever been had ever participated in a Muslim ceremony. And I was, I was awed, because in that occasion, you had Muslim and Latino Christians joining together to remember and to honor the life of one of our brothers.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 46:05
Tell me how farmworkers are connected internationally. Because, you know, here you have right here in, you know, Latinos and Yemeni Muslims, and probably others working with each other, and dying for the farmworkers cause right now in India, there are I mean it's the largest strike in India. I mean, 70% of their economy is agrarian economy, all the farmers are on strike. Are there some awareness in the American Farm, people who are engaged in farming and the labour union about the solidarity with those people. Because in California, Northern California, there are many people who actually are from India, who came here, I think, about 100 years ago, or so, smalltime farmers. So are there some solidarity with those people at all in farmers movement?
Paul Chavez 47:06
Well, you know, yes, there is, and it's growing up, you know, our foundation recently issued a statement on the, on the struggles of this of the small Indian farmers last week. And we, we issued in, it's been shared with members of the Indian community, here in the Central Valley of California, throughout California. But there are many parallels, you know, our fight has always, you know, we understand the importance, and the role that agriculture plays in providing nourishment to, to, to the societies in which we live. But unfortunately, all too often, whether it be in the United States or in India, you know, we provide the greatest bounty of food that this land has ever seen. But all too often, we don't have enough or we have to struggle to put food on our own tables. And so it's from that point of view that we stand in solidarity with our, with our Indian brothers, that the small farmers who are looking to overcome the restraints that are trying to be placed on them, you know, that the struggle here and in with farmworkers in the United States, is it shares many parallels with, with our brothers in India
Abdul Malik Mujahid 48:24
Paul, let me ask you a very personal question, who will physically discipline you mom or dad?
Paul Chavez 48:32
You know, the funny thing is, is that my mother was the disciplinarian. You know, my father, I think about he was, when it comes to a father, he was pretty liberal, right? In certain aspects. When it came to my sisters, he was a very traditional Mexican father, right? If they went out, their brothers had to go with them. They had to be home at a certain time. But I remember, excuse me, times that my mother would become angry because of mischief. And she would, she would tell my father, you need to discipline him, you need to spank him. And he would take us into the other room and he would say, Listen, I really don't want to spank you, which you did is wrong. I hope you recognize it. Yes, we do. We do Dad by then we'd be crying. He says, Well, listen, your mother expects me to spank you. So what I'm gonna do is I'm going to spank the pillow. And I want you to cry. And this way Your mother will feel that I did my job. But between me and you, we know that you learned a lesson and so that those are some of the things that I remember. It was my mother that was the disciplinarian.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 49:36
So tell us, you know, we just got a minute left. Tell us what are the most important lessons which you have learned from your father?
Paul Chavez 49:45
You know, I think the biggest lesson is that is that our work you know, the work of fighting for justice. It's not like it's not like a baseball game where after so many innings whoever has the most runs, wins and the other loses. It's not a political campaign where candidates talk to voters an on election day, whoever gets the most votes wins, the other loses. You know, he made it clear through his life's example that you only lose when you give up. If you look at his life, you'll see that he suffered more setbacks than victories. Yet, each time he faced a setback, he would get up and dust himself off and he would go back to work. And his mantra that you only lose when you give up is something that sustained us definitely during these past four years. Because we know that that so long as we're able to give up and, and to answer injustice and fight for justice, that in the end, we will win.
Abdul Malik Mujahid 50:48
Well, thank you so much Paul Chavez, truly appreciate your time. Paul Chavez is president and chairman of Cesar Chavez foundation and his his son. Thank you so much. And thank you Sherdil Khan and Dr. Abdul Waheed for producing today's show. And thank you for watching. I hope you learn something that you lose when you give up on a struggle. If you eat you owe it to farmworkers, each time you're praying before you start your meal, think of those people and pray for them. And if you're able to contribute to their struggle, so they live as well as we do. And that's what the teaching of all the prophets sent by God to us. And thank you so much for watching. You're watching Muslim network TV. Stay tuned for other programming. We are 24 seven on galaxy 19 satellite, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and on our website Muslimnetwork.tv. You can download our app or watch on YouTube Muslim network TV as you see at that peace Salaam Salaam
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