Fifty years ago right now, César Chávez and Maria Zamora labored among thousands on the legendary long march to Sacramento.
That 340-mile trek eventually resulted in the landmark California Farmer-Labor Act that gave field workers rights long granted to other workplaces. Sen. Omer Rains, D-Santa Barbara/Ventura, now a longtime Nevadan, was a principal legislative leader of that fight.
Thirty years ago, César Chávez came here to rally Reno-Sparks workers. Then-Mayor Pete Sferrazza declared July 15, 1986, as Reno’s first César Chávez Day. César Chávez and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., never met. They did converse by phone and still advise us today.
What do you get when you put them together?
Perhaps regionalized cooperation on human rights. It started because of boxing. On the 10th of last month, I journeyed to Reno City Hall for the city council’s tribute to former Gazette-Journal writer Guy Clifton. (United Auto Workers boxing coach and Sparks resident George “Battling” Nelson is a big Clifton fan.)
I noticed another item on the council agenda, Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve’s request to instruct the city manager to look into forming a human rights commission.
Acting as vice-president of the Reno-Sparks NAACP, I endorsed her initiative. I noted that the Sparks City Council had unanimously authorized creation of a diversity commission on Jan. 22, 2007, but had not moved forward.
At Sparks City Hall on Feb. 22, former Reno-Sparks NAACP President Lucille Adin and I accepted the city’s Black History Month proclamation. I reminded the council that we were present in that chamber for the 2007 vote and that the current council has an opportunity to make its proclamation mean something by coordinating with Mayor Schieve.
Sparks Mayor Geno Martino commented that City Manager Steve Driscoll was taking notes.
On Feb. 24, I joined my NAACP colleagues to receive Reno’s Black History Month proclamation and informed the Reno council about what had happened in Sparks two days before. Mayor Schieve said she would contact Rail City officials.
The circle was completed on March 15 — the Ides of March, an iconic day to honor someone named César.
Washoe County Commissioner Kitty Jung had agendized that body’s annual Chávez proclamation. I accompanied Reno resident Ramón Chávez, César’s nephew, who accepted on behalf of his family.
I informed the commission about the recent Sparks and Reno activity. Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler later requested that the county move forward as well.
Governments at all levels pass proclamations on every subject. In this case, they started an important discussion for a fast-growing and quickly-changing community.
What should a human rights commission do? That’s up to you as the project progresses.
We will advance that process at northern Nevada’s fourteenth César Chávez Celebration this Wednesday evening at Circus Circus. Maria Zamora will speak, as will Sen. Rains.
Reservations for the event may be made through CesarChavezNevada.com or by calling (775) 786-1455.
Beginning on March 30 and thereafter, please consider becoming involved in the next round of the never ending fight for for fairness.
¡Si se puede!
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 47-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org> Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.