Lansing for Cesar E. Chavez Committee celebrates successful events; plans for next steps

Day Of The Dead

Day of the Dead 5K Run/Walk.
Photo by Veronica Villarreal

By Jennifer Sharp and Rina Risper

Lansing boasts one of the most diverse demographics in the nation. The doers in the city are always looking for opportunities to gauge the needs of the tri-county area. Collaborating with both residents and visi- tors to spend time with people who love the city and want it to thrive, they are always looking for ways to engage both entertainment and education for families and individuals alike.

Joseph Bermudez, a local entrepreneur and President of the non-profit organization, Lansing for Cesar E. Chavez (LCEC), shares this hope for the future. After completing two successful events, Bermudez said every nonprofit needs a clear vision with strong leadership after the past two years. Giving some insight and reflecting on pre-pandemic events, he insists that he is focused on creating new opportunities to promote the LCEC nonprofit organization.

Currently, Bermudez says that the LCEC Committee has been reveling in the success of not one, but two of their most recent charitable events; the LCEC Hispanic and the LCEC Day of the Dead 5K. The fiesta had approximately over 1,500 attendees from September 9, Friday to Saturday night, September 10. The 5K had almost 200 participants on Sunday, October 23.

Bermudez said, “September and October are the perfect months to gather family and friends together. National Hispanic Heritage Month and Dia de los Muertos are two days that are important in the Hispanic/Latino community.”

Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins each year on September 15 to October 15 celebrates Hispanic culture and history. Started in 1968 by Congress as Hispanic Heritage Week, it was expanded to a month in 1988. The celebration begins in the middle rather than the start of September because it coincides with national independence days in several Latin American countries: Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica celebrate theirs on September 15, followed by Mexico on September 16, Chile on September 18 and Belize on September 21.

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

The Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Mexican celebration and tradition began during the pre-hispanic era of Mexico centuries ago. The concept is to celebrate life and death and to each year welcome back the souls relatives, family members who have died for a brief reunion that includes food, drink and celebration.

It is a blend of Meso-American ritual European religion, and Catholicism and is celebrated each year from October 31st, to November 2nd.

Every ofrenda exhibits the four elements, water, fire, wind and earth. Earth is represented by food, especially bread,(tortillas), candles generally are placed in the form of a cross to represent the cardinal directions so the spirits can find their way.

The cempasúchil, a type of marigold flower native to Mexico, is often placed on ofrendas and around graves. With their strong scent and vibrant color the petals are used to make a path that leads the spirits from the cemetery to their families’ homes.

Monarch butterflies play a role in Día de los Muertos because they are believed to hold the spirits of the departed. This belief stems from the fact that the first monarchs arrive in Mexico for the winter each fall on November 1, which coincides with Día de los Muertos.

Calaveritas de azúcar, or sugar skulls, along with toys, are left on the altars for children who have passed. The skull is used not as a morbid symbol but rather as a whimsical reminder of the cyclicality of life, which is why they are brightly decorated.

Day Of The Dead
The Lansing for Cesar E. Chavez Committee (LCEC) members (left) Joe Salazar and (far right) Jennifer Sharp at the Cesar E. Chavez Fiesta at the Cesar E. Chavez Plaza (Lot 54) in Old Town. celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month on September 10, 2022. Mr. Party is right in the middle! Photo courtesy of LCEC

The LCEC: Equity and Inclusivity for a Stronger City

Bermudez said, “The Day of the Dead is an important opportunity for our community to honor those who have passed on. It was an opportunity for people of all ages to also run or walk the 5K together with their families. It was such a beautiful day as well.”

Both of the charity events provided an opportunity for the LCEC committee to raise funds for their current community beautification Archway Project in Old Town, which will be erected in honor of Cesar E. Chavez.

The Committee is currently working on a strategic plan for 2023 and is committed to continually educating the entire community about a great Civil Rights champion and activist who spent his final days pushing for the rights of all workers.

“We are excited about our Committee’s growth and everything each unique and diverse member brings to the table. In talking with a close friend, I realized that our Committee is really excited and motivated to serve our community. We have to embrace our culture and ourselves. This month was all about our contributions and celebrating who we are and including teaching the core values of Cesar E. Chavez,” said Bermudez.

He added he has a desire to really hone in on a clearer vision and trajectory for the non profit organization, which focuses on diversity, inclusion and education.

They are in the process of planning a retreat for LCEC board members to achieve a clear and unified vision for the future of the nonprofit. Also planning for the annual student scholarship will begin soon.

“I look forward to working along-side other LCEC members in hopes of finding unique solutions to our city’s unique challenges. I am a product of the Lansing School District, and believe that our diverse board of directors and members have what it takes to contribute to carry out the vision of our nonprofit. We are the change we need and want to see in the great capital of Michigan. In the words of our great late leader, Cesar E. Chavez, ‘Si Se Puede!’”

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