Cesar Chavez – A Street Renaming

City of Portland
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Cesar Chavez needs to be truly honored. People need to see, hear, and read why he is important. Moreover, this can be done along any street. Imagine a teaching tool: a memorable, artistic series of drawings and sculptures teaching onlookers about the importance of food, respecting those who grow and harvest our food, and knowing where our food comes from. Those who want to honor Chavez could channel their efforts in organizing ideas, funding, and volunteers to create and install an educational memorial. These acts would foster direct involvement and bring people together. This alternative will honor Chavez more than renaming a street.

The memorial could be similar to the Japanese Interment Memorial at the Expo Center MAX Stop. Here, in an elegant way, the harsh truths of World War II are for all to see and ponder. One can read newspapers published, see the many tags issued, and get a sense of the atrocities carried out in the name of security and freedom. At the Expo Center, where people come together for many reasons, we have a teaching tool that makes one stop in awe and wonder, keeping history alive giving us a chance to correct wrongs from the past.

Correcting wrongs from the past would be accomplished better with a teaching tool. So, for Chavez, we could create a teaching tool along each MAX stop at one of two locations linking transportation to food to people. One location option would be along the Interstate Ave Yellow Line, beginning with the Overlook Stop (linking it with the Wednesday Farmer’s Market) ending at the Delta Park Stop. A second option could be along the new Green Line route in downtown Portland, running near PSU and the Saturday-Portland Farmer’s Market. Either place could host a series of artwork and information, delicately balanced with education. The art could show snapshots of Chavez’s life, explain why supporting labor and civil rights is important, and explain the origin of our food. Again, the teaching tool would capstone with linking the importance of food, knowing where it comes from, and honoring those that work very hard to ensure a better life for us all. Chavez’s supporters, rallying the community to engage in ideas, could organize the work with discussions about how to best display this honor and execute the work together. This type of memorial would do more to honor Chavez and his legacy.

If we continue to spend our precious time and money engaging in street renamings and the political rhetoric surrounding it, we tend to lose sight of the real point. When we fight for the idea of something, what we perceive it to be, instead of including a diversity of folks, engaging in compassionate conflict to resolve problems; we lose sight of the real point. Street renaming sounds like an honor, but the reality is a disservice to the public in foregoing an educational opportunity. An educational opportunity of this magnitude could show how we are Better Together, and that’s something that could truly Cesar Chavez.

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