César E. Chávez & the United Farm Workers Movement: 1975-1979 A Photo Documentary by Cathy Murphy opens May 17 at the Pasadena City College Art Gallery
Pasadena City College is pleased to present a powerful photographic exhibition by Bisbee, Arizona photographer Cathy Murphy from May 17 – May 20, 2006.
There will be an opening reception on May 17 from 5:30 – 9 p.m. Cathy Murphy will present a lecture open to the public Wednesday, May 17 from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. in the Forum.
“César E. Chávez & the United Farm Workers Movement: 1975-1979, A Photo Documentary by Cathy Murphy” is being presented by Pasadena City College to honor the efforts that developed one of the most vibrant labor unions in U.S. history. The union, started in 1965 and led by César E. Chávez, was at its height in terms of its membership numbers and its effectiveness in the 1970s. It broadened the Civil Rights Movement and inspired generations of Americans to become more politically and environmentally involved and aware.
Cathy Murphy was there to witness the events unfold. In more than 30 photographs ranging from the most famous moments of the movement to some of the most private, Chávez is seen sometimes as a family man, dancing with his daughter at her wedding, and sometimes as a private individual practicing yoga. At the same time, Chávez can be viewed as stressed by the ordeal, worried. Other times, he is depicted offering the inspiration that was required of him to workers and to the press. Murphy documents the plight of workers in the field, the fight against child labor, and the 1975 march through the state of California known as the 1,000 Mile March. In this historic 58-day march in 1975 from San Ysidro to Keene, California, just east of Bakersfield, Chávez educated farm workers about a new law—the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975—guaranteeing their right to organize and bargain with their employers.
According to Murphy, Chávez recruited her during the 1,000 Mile March. “By the end of a week I made arrangements for my son, Paul, to go to stay with his grandparents in Redondo Beach; I gave up our cottage on the beach in Santa Barbara and began walking more than 20 miles a day up the highways and roads through rural areas of California,” she writes in her notes about the exhibit.
“I knew immediately that I was on an historic journey and was grateful for being given such an opportunity. Everywhere we went César spoke to the farm workers. He went into the fields, and the workers followed him out. They sang as they marched on the highways. They were proud to walk with César. They loved him. He was their hero.”
Over the years that followed, Chávez and later the Chávez family would call Murphy back to La Paz, the family compound in Keene, Calif., to update the family album. Chávez had set a condition to the family photos: they were not to be shown publicly until after his death, according to Murphy. Chávez died in 1993, and this will be one of the first public viewings of the family photos outside of La Paz.
One of the most famous photographs of the time, an image of Chávez walking with then-California Gov. Jerry Brown away from the camera, marks a special moment for both men. After months of negotiation, it was that walk that resulted in Brown’s support of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975. To this day, a copy of this photograph hangs in Brown’s office in Oakland where he is now mayor.
PCC gallery director Brian Tucker recognizes the significance of the exhibit at Pasadena City College. “While our exhibitions in the PCC art gallery often address social issues, they usually do so obliquely, through the use of materials, the qualities of design, as part of an ongoing dialogue with the history of art,” Tucker observes. “But the gallery can also serve valuably as a place to present straightforward documentation of social history for the edification of the campus community. This show of photos by Cathy Murphy will do just that.” Tucker emphasizes the timeliness of the exhibit: “César Chávez is a key figure in California history whose efforts on behalf of migrant workers and whose effectiveness as a leader of a nonviolent movement for social change would be worthy of consideration by the campus community at any time. But at this moment, with hundreds of thousands of people massing in the streets of Los Angeles chanting Chávez' rallying cry, ‘Si Se Puede,’ the show could not be more timely.”
This year marks the 36-year anniversary of the 1,000 Mile March while September 2005 marked the 40-year anniversary of the beginning of the farm workers movement.
This exhibit is being presented in conjunction with the PCC Borders of Diversity student-led conference to be held on Thursday, May 18 in Creveling Lounge, CC Building, 2nd floor from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. The theme of this year’s Borders conference is “The Future of Los Angeles After Latino Ascendancy.”
The exhibit is made possible with the generous support of a Pasadena City College What Drives LA grant, the College Diversity Initiative, the Student Services fund, Pasadena City College Borders of Diversity funding as well as the University of Arizona Media, Democracy & Policy Initiative.
Contact Information: Brian Tucker, director Art Gallery 626-585-7721 PCCgallery@att.net
Jill O’Hora, Ph.D. English Division 626-585-7652 firstname.lastname@example.org
Carrie Afuso, coordinator Cross Cultural Center 626-585-7117 email@example.com