For Release: May 5 , 2008
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11
or [email protected]
Black Activists Rap Cesar Chavez Earmark Bill
President Bush to Decide if Taxpayer Funds Will Honor Militant Activist Whose Followers Used Violence as "Organizing" Tactic
Washington, D.C. - Black activists with the Project 21 black leadership network are highly critical of legislation that would open the floodgates for taxpayer spending to honor the questionable legacy of the late labor activist Cesar Chavez. Project 21 members oppose spending taxpayer funds to honor Chavez as well as other irresponsible spending provisions found in the bill.
The legislation has been adopted by Congress and needs just a presidential signature to become law.
"To say the jury is still out on the legacy of Cesar Chavez is an understatement," says Project 21 member Joe Hicks. "Unlike other individuals who have been honored in the manner suggested by this earmark, the politics behind and the consequences of Chavez's activism remain dubious."
Project 21's Hicks, a former executive director of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the California State Bar's Board of Governors, is currently vice president of Community Advocates, Inc. in Los Angeles. Once a left-wing political activist who trained UFW members in "revolutionary theory," Hicks marched arm-in-arm with Jesse Jackson at Cesar Chavez's funeral in 1993.
The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (S. 2739) creates an essentially open-ended request for taxpayer money to fund "a special resource study of sites... that are significant to the life of Cesar E. Chavez and the farm labor movement in the western United States." The intent of the legislation is to find places appropriate for "preserving and interpreting" the memory of Chavez and his leadership of the United Farm Workers (UFW) union.
The bill also designates millions of dollars for land acquisitions and designations at a time when the Department of the Interior just exposed potentially deadly hazards being neglected in schools, work sites and national parks it already maintains and a beetle infestation in western states closing popular camp sites. One earmark in the bill -- the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area -- does not even have the full support of lawmakers and local officials representing the designated area.
Project 21's Hicks adds: "While there is a provision for involving local historians in this study, the language of this earmark specifically requires the involvement of the Chavez Foundation and United Farm Workers Union. This is a virtual guarantee that sites will be recommended for preservation, and this will open the floodgates for spending more taxpayer dollars on this questionable quest as well as raising the possibility of compromising or taking privately-held properties."
Hicks testified about Cesar Chavez in March 2007 as part of the U.S. House of Representatives consideration of the The Cesar Estrada Chavez Study Act (H.R. 359), an earlier version of this legislation introduced by Representative Hilda Solis (D-CA).
In testimony before the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, Hicks noted: "Unlike other Americans honored in such a manner, there has normally been a consensus on the contributions of such persons among the American people. No such consensus exists regarding the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez. In fact, no such consensus on Chavez's contributions exists even among farm workers, the population it is claimed that he and the United Farm Workers represented... Despite the public persona as a man of peace and nonviolence, Chavez did or said little to reign in the violence, which may explain why it's difficult to find farm workers who have anything good to say about him or the UFW... [T]he record is too murky, the politics too contentious, the life contributions too shrouded in mythology to justify expending scarce public funds to study national sites associated with Chavez's life."
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or [email protected], or visit Project 21's website at www.project21.org/P21Index.html.