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Olmos Call For Unity During Cesar Chavez Lecture



Edward James Olmos, actor and activist, spoke last week at the University of Missouri Kansas City campus for the 7th annual Cesar Chavez program sponsored by the Division of Diversity and Inclusion.

Olmos lecture entitled, “We’re All in the Same Gang,” discussed uniting as the ‘human race’ and stopping the violence.

“I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to realize how in the world are we going to come together when we keep using the word ‘race’ as a cultural deterrent. There is only one race and that is the human race. Period,” he stated.

Erika Noguera, coordinator for the Division of Diversity and Inclusion, spoke about Cesar Chavez and the work that he did. “Cesar Chavez’s passionate and peaceful pursuit of civil rights for migrant farmworkers, labor equity for the disenfranchised and social justice, propelled a movement that changed the lives of many.”

Chavez’s work influenced Olmos and for more than two decades he has advocated for Latino and Latina communities, but his efforts for social justice transcend racial lines.

Olmos became aware of the work that Chavez was doing for the migrant farm workers after his high school graduation. “When I graduated from high school in 1964, Cesar was gearing up. It was in 1965 that his voice was being heard. The boycotts came and everybody jumped on that and wanted to help,” he said.

Chavez’s way of showing strength through non-violent social disobedience had an impact on Olmos. He wants people today to begin to take a stand against wrongs in the cities and communities by standing together as one race and make their voices heard through non-violent disobedience.

During a one-on-one interview with Hispanic News, Olmos said that he has seen the movie, “History is Made One Step at a Time” twice. He thought the movie represented Chavez very well but felt that it only gave an inside look at a slice of his life.

“It didn’t have the scope that I was hoping it would have like we saw in the Martin Luther King story, like we saw in the Malcolm X story and like we saw in the Ghandi story. We needed to make that kind of story about Chavez in his memory,” said Olmos.

The Chavez movie released last month has netted $3 million in its opening and Olmos said that the filmmakers were hoping it would net $6 million. Olmos said the movie should be used in the classroom to teach students who Chavez was and what he did for the country.

Olmos reflected on the day that Cesar Chavez was buried. Tens of thousands of people from all over the world came for the funeral services.

“I had a camera, Gregory Majoro had a camera, Jesse Covino had a camera, Ray Lobos had a camera, just to mention a few of the people who are very well established in the industry, and we documented the entire funeral. I wish they had started and ended the movie encompassing that scope. He was considered one of the truly most impactful Latinos that we ever had in the history of this country,” explained Olmos.

Eventually people may see that angle about Chavez’s life, as Olmos revealed that he has plans to make a movie about him in the near future.

As he spoke to a sold out crowd in the Pierson Auditorium, he hoped that the attendees left with the message that humanity is one.

“We as a community, whether you are black, brown, white or red, we must understand that we are one,” he said.

Speaking about Cesar Chavez, Olmos said, “The change Cesar Chavez brought did not just affect Latinos, Chicanos, Mexican Americans, but everyone across the whole country. He gave voice to people who never had a voice.”

Olmos gave an unscripted talk for about two hours encouraging people to have a voice in their communities against the wrongs that are happening across the United States.

He encouraged college students to go into middle schools and high school students to go into elementary schools and share their struggles with the students on what it has taken to get their education. He wants students to have hope and see that an education is obtainable.

He pointed out the impact of the hate crime that took place at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas. His message to the crowd was to unite as the human race and stand up through non-violent disobedience and say, “We will not tolerate this.”

As an activist he speaks out about the division of the races and cultural differences in the world.

“We are a beautiful people but we have been taken advantage of because we have been divided by them. Who are they, the government,” he said.

According to Olmos, the race division classifications came about so that people would be divided and it would be in his words, “easier to kill us.”

“The reason we use race as a cultural deterrent, is so that it is easier for us to kill each other. If we are the same race, we don’t want to kill our own race. You don’t want to do that, so from this moment on, there is only one race, the human race,” he emphasized.

According to Olmos, unity is essential for the future in order to address the problems the world faces such as environmental issues such as global warning, diminishing water supplies to economic stratification, both national and international. He would like to see people unite and use their voices to take a stand.