Civil Rights

Providence dedicates Cesar Chavez Memorial Way to late civil rights and labor leader

Over 60 people gathered to dedicate Raymond Street as Cesar Chavez Memorial Way, honoring the memory of the American labor leader and civil rights activist. The dedication took place in Davis Park, where a statue of Chavez was erected in 2009.

April 17, 2023, 7:46 pm

By Uprise RI Staff

Over 60 people gathered at the corner of Chalkstone Avenue and Raymond Street on Saturday to dedicate Raymond Street as Cesar Chavez Memorial Way to honor the memory of Cesar Chavez, an American labor leader and civil rights activist. Chavez, a leftist and a Catholic, co-founded, along with Dolores Huerta, the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), which later merged with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) to become the United Farm Workers (UFW) labor union. He died in 1993.

“Today we are here co-naming Randall Street as Cesar Chavez Memorial Way,” said Carina Monge, who emceed the ceremony. Monge started with a moment of silence for the late Rhode Island State Senator Maryellen Goodwin (Democrat, District 1, Providence), before introducing Providence Mayor Brett Smiley.

Carina Monge

“His leadership, and the struggles of the farmworkers in California, and then later his leadership through the organized labor movement throughout this country not only raised living conditions and wages for farmworkers but has served as an organizing force and symbol to all those who struggle for the right to collectively bargain, to lift wages and to improve working conditions, in addition to being a true civil rights pioneer,” said Mayor Smiley.

Providence City Councilmember Althea Graves (Ward 12) expanded on the mayor’s comments, saying that, “A civil rights leader is someone that organizes people, bringing them together, to correct injustices,” said Councilmember Graves. “A civil rights leader is someone who puts his or hers body, soul and mind into a commitment and follows through. [Chavez] was definitely a civil rights leader.”

“In a time when a lot of folks across the country are trying to erase history, it’s important that we fight back and promote Cesar Chavez…a legend in the Mexican-American labor movement,” said Providence City Councilmember Miguel Sanchez (Ward 6). “Right now we have a strike going down at RISD. A lot of them Black and brown Providence residents. Cesar Chavez started a fight – it continues to this day.”

Providence City Councilmember Miguel Sanchez (Ward 6)

Cesar Chavez’s name “being put here, on this street, and his statue being here across the street from [Nathaniel Greene Middle School] is no accident,” said Providence City Councilmember Juan Pichardo (Ward 9). “Because in this mind, education is the most important thing that we have to offer our kids.”

“Cesar Chavez was, we must remember, an organizer and a fighter,” said Rhode Island State Representative David Morales (Democrat, District 7, Providence). “A fighter against injustice as relates to racism. The injustice of low wages. The injustice of brutal working conditions that more often than not, people of color and immigrants are forced to experience.”

Rhode Island State Representative David Morales (Democrat, District 7, Providence)

“Honoring the memory of Cesar Chavez is important for the labor movement because we have been struggling as working class communities,” said Rhode Island State Representative Enrique Sanchez (Democrat, District 9, Providence). “Right now we’re seeing what’s happening downtown with RISD and the workers their struggling to gain a fair contract. We’re seeing the injustices that workers are facing at UPS with their management. We have seen the struggles of our healthcare workers, our SEIU union worker. We have seen the struggles of all our workers. It doesn’t matter if they’re white or Black or Brown of Latino or LGBTQIA+ or anyone. We are all workers. We are all working class communities…”

“We need to work together. We are all part of Cesar Chavez,” said Julio César Aragón, from the César E. Chávez Committee of Rhode Island. “Cesar Chavez was our inspiration.”

There was a ribbon cutting ceremony, followed by music from Mariachi Tequila.

The dedication took place in Davis Park, where a statue of Chavez was erected in 2009.

Cesar Chavez statue in Davis Park