Despite current competing interests in Fresno, the state of California, and the entire country between the Black and Hispanic communities, Cesar Chavez Boulevard should be praised by all.
Make no mistake, Fresno’s Black community, much like many Black communities around the country is finding that the Black and Hispanic strong political coalitions developed in the 1950s and 60s and which blossomed during the Jesse Jackson Presidential Campaign in 1988, for the most part no longer exist.
Over the last two decades, as some in the Hispanic community have grown more republican, conservative, and even discriminatory, while at the same time the Black community has faced an upheaval in institutionalized racism, today both communities are now facing historic challenges.
What has made these challenges more difficult for Black Americans are recent instances of overt racism by conservative Hispanic elected officials locally, statewide, and nationally whose goal thus far seems to be to divide and confuse both communities. However, if the purpose of this recent Fresno street name change was to divide and confuse it backfired because Cesar Chavez was liberal as they get.
Chavez Patterned His Strategies After Black Civil Rights Movement
It is fair to say that Chavez himself would be outraged by the recent displays of discrimination and racism displayed locally, statewide, and nationally by some in the Mexican American community today.
Those who know the real Cesar Chavez know that he can never be whitewashed. Chavez studied the civil rights movement and patterned his strategies on that Black community effort.
Chavez was liberal. Chavez was an activist. Chavez was a self-described Chicano. Chavez was a Mexican American civil rights activist who depended on and knew he needed the support of the Fresno Black community to be successful in the Central Valley. That was demonstrated by his relationship with my father, local Black civil rights leader Lesly H. Kimber, founder of The California Advocate, Fresno’s Black community newspaper since 1967.
Chavez sought out the support of the Fresno Black community at every turn. Chavez knew that the civil rights movement begun by Black Americans was the correct strategy to use in his fight for justice for the Mexican American community and the United Farm Workers Union.
Together, Chavez and Kimber were instrumental in facilitating change in the Central Valley. For instance, Chavez was an encouraging influence on Kimber to print Fresno’s first Chicano newspaper named “La Voz.”
They advised each other, confided in each other, and praised each other. Each of them was instrumental in the changes we all benefit from today. Chavez was supportive of Kimber’s fight to change the election laws here in the city of Fresno and Fresno County from “at large elections” to “district elections” that included residency requirements. Together, they were instrumental in increasing voter registration in Mexican American and Black communities in the Central Valley.
Kimber also was instrumental in assisting Chavez’s efforts to increase affordable housing, U.S. citizenship, union organizing efforts, and solving basic discrimination issues in the Hispanic community through La Voz.
Chavez Backed Kimber’s Run for Fresno County Supervisors Seat
When Les Kimber decided to put his hat in the political ring and run for county supervisor in 1978, Cesar Chavez was the first to endorse him. Despite his vow not to ever endorse any political candidates, Chavez brought to the Kimber campaign other Mexican American community leaders to assist Kimber’s campaign effort.
Thus, the effort to use this historic street name change as a negative to Black Americans has backfired!
Cheasar Chavez is our BROTHER and we love him as our own. So politicians with nebulous strategies, please know that you have opened up the much-needed dialogue between our communities which we all need to have as we move forward as a more respectful and alert electorate.
So let’s take a step back and celebrate this historic occasion while respecting the fact that our communities, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, White, Armenian, Italian, Hmong, and Middle Eastern, are a melting pot and make up this wonderful place we call Fresno. And we VOTE!
About the Author
Mark B. Kimber is the publisher of The California Advocate Newspaper, 1555 E. Street, Fresno. He is the son of the late Les and Pauline Kimber, who founded the Black community newspaper in 1967. Les Kimber became the second Black elected to the Fresno City Council in 1983 and was re-elected in 1987. Follow The California Advocate on Facebook at this link.