Annual César Chávez Celebration at Eastern Michigan University to feature Anita Martinez, a prominent Michigan executive committed to improving academic and economic outcomes for Hispanic students

Chavez memorial fountain on EMU campus.
César Chávez Memorial Fountain

YPSILANTI – Anita Martínez, executive director of the Michigan Hispanic Collaborative, will serve as the keynote speaker when Eastern Michigan University honors one of the most charismatic and impactful figures in the history of American labor at EMU’s 11th annual César Chávez Day of Celebration on Wednesday, March 20.

Martinez will speak at the annual luncheon, to be held in the Student Center Ballroom from noon to 1:30 p.m., with doors opening at 11:30 a.m. The luncheon will also feature the awarding of several student scholarships and the prestigious Sandra M. Gonzales Trailblazer Award.

Anita Martinez headshot
Anita Martínez

Tickets for the are $25 for an EMU affiliate (faculty/staff/alumni) or community member and $10 for students. The event is sponsored by the EMU Division of Academic Affairs and the Division of Enrollment Management. To purchase tickets or donate to the event, see the website link.

The Michigan Hispanic Collaborative is a group of Hispanic leaders committed to supporting Hispanic students' academic and professional success. At the MIHC, Martinez focuses on establishing a network of partnerships to help put in place proven models that will improve Hispanic academic and employment success

Hispanics are a fast-growing group in the United States and outpace other groups in entrepreneurship and business establishment. But a stubborn academic completion gap remains. Nationally,  67.1 percent of Hispanics finish high school and just 15.3 percent finish college. In Detroit, the rates are 52.7 percent and 6.1 percent respectively.

Martinez is a graduate of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and holds a bachelor's degree in Organizational Studies. She was born and raised in Detroit, and began her career l15 years ago in the private brokerage and banking sector, a role that evolved into non-profit community economic development as a financial coach at Southwest Solutions' Center for Working Families in 2008.

She has held her realtor license for more than 15 years and has held property and casualty and life insurance licenses. She has dedicated the past 11 years of her career to applying her financial background to improve systems that assist constituents with growing their financial awareness. Her professional experiences have allowed Martinez to pursue her passion, which is serving others and improving individual and family conditions in life.

The EMU event honors Chávez, who was the child of Mexican American migrant laborers and spent his early years in a succession of migrant camps, attending school only sporadically.

He spent two years in the Navy and returned to migrant farm work. In 1962, he began organizing the largely Hispanic farm workers of Arizona and California. A born leader figure, he used strikes and nationwide boycotts to win union recognition and contracts for California grape and lettuce growers. He brought his union to the AFL-CIO, and in 1972 it became the United Farm Workers of America (UFW).

Chávez dedicated his life to building a movement of poor working people that extended beyond the fields, and into cities and towns across the nation. He inspired farm laborers and millions of people to commit themselves to social, economic, and civil rights activism.

The EMU event began in 2009. Since then, the annual event has grown to include hundreds of students representing more than ten different high schools throughout southeast and mid-Michigan as a way to honor the “Service and Learning” component of the celebration while helping to prepare underserved student populations for college.

The Gonzales Trailblazer Award honors former EMU faculty member Sandra Gonzales, who helped to lead a campus-wide initiative to celebrate the César Chávez Day of Service and Learning. 

During the Fifth Annual Chávez Day Luncheon, in 2013, Gonzales returned to EMU to deliver the keynote address. After her talk, she became the first recipient of the Dr. Sandra M. Gonzales Trailblazer Award, recognizing Latino/a leaders who have made significant contributions to the Latinx community on the Eastern campus and beyond.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 19,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

March 06, 2019

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Geoff Larcom