Some 700 people to participate in 2016 César Chávez March

by Jeanne Baron
| WMU News
Photo of Samuel Betances.


KALAMAZOO, Mich.—More than 700 people are expected to participate in Kalamazoo's 22nd annual César Chávez March and program Thursday, March 31, from downtown Kalamazoo to Miller Auditorium on the Western Michigan University campus.

This year's activities will tentatively begin at 9:30 a.m. with area high school and college students as well as members of the public gathering at Bronson Park for a brief opening ceremony, then marching to WMU. Participants will disperse for a lunch break and reassemble in WMU's Miller Auditorium for an after-march program starting at about 11:30 a.m.

Miller Auditorium program

The program will include a welcome by the Kalamazoo Central High School Bilingual Club, which is now the main organizer of the march, and Dr. John M. Dunn, WMU president.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Samuel Betances, who will present a talk at noon titled "Chávez, Education, Leadership, the Future." Betances taught sociology at Northeastern Illinois University for 25 years and now is a diversity consultant and speaker. A bilingual, biracial, bicultural professional, he is best known for talks and workshops on retaining, educating and graduating first-generation students.

Betances is passionate about helping educators, parents, communities and leaders to make it possible for students to stay in school, study and graduate. He has provided professional leadership and staff-development training to more than 1,000 public and private schools in the United States and abroad.

In addition, Betances has earned numerous awards for bringing cultures together, and he works to help others learn the importance of pulling cultures together as a way of bringing America back to the top in education, business and society in general. He also remains a faculty member of the Harvard Graduate School of Education's Summer Academy for Senior Urban Educators.

About the march

The César Chávez March was founded at WMU in 1994 by Mike Ramirez in the Division of Multicultural Affairs and a few WMU students. The small group wanted to celebrate the life and achievements of the late César Chávez, a civil rights, education and environmental activist who co-founded the United Farm Workers union.

The event has grown steadily in size and scope over the years, with the KCHS Bilingual Club becoming the prime organizer in 2002. Now the largest such march in southwest Michigan, the event not only honors Chávez, but also celebrates the Hispanic community's rich cultural history and serves as way to teach young people about nonviolent social justice and change.

Ramirez also is involved in "Celebrating the Legacy of César E. Chávez," an annual scholarship fundraising dinner that includes the Southwest Michigan Cesar E. Chavez Committee's presentation of its annual Southwest Michigan awards and several student scholarships. This year's event starts at 5 p.m. Saturday, April 2.

For more information about the march, including route and timetable details, visit Questions about the march and scholarship fundraising dinner may be directed to Mike Ramirez at or (269) 387-3329.

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