Justice Without Borders, Birmingham Magazine, October 2013

Justice without borders: Fiesta 2013 celebrates the activism of Hispanic workers alongside Birmingham’s civil rights anniversary
Birmingham Magazine
October 2013

In the same years that Fred Shuttlesworth and Martin Luther King, Jr. organized nonviolent acts of resistance in Birmingham, another peaceful stand for equality brewed more than 2,000 miles away in the small central Californian town of Delano. In 1962, Cesar Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association (now the United Farm Workers), which took inspiration from King and the civil rights activists in making a non-violent stance against the inhumane treatment of immigrant farm workers. By 1965, just two years after King led the March on Washington, Chavez led a 340 mile march from Delano to the California state capitol of Sacramento.

On Sat., Oct. 5, from noon to 8 p.m. at Linn Park, Fiesta 2013 will highlight the parallel stands for justice spearheaded by Hispanic and African-American activists in the 1960s. They chose the theme “Looking Back, Moving Forward: Equality for All,” for this year as they partnered with Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the city’s civil rights movement.

“Chavez used a lot of the same tactics that Martin Luther King did,” says Freddie Rubio, chair of Fiesta’s board. He says that to show the similarities between these activists and their methods, this year’s Fiesta will include a movie tent showing films on each of the movements. 

The festival will show two documentaries: “Mighty Times: The Children’s March,” which focuses on the events of Birmingham’s children’s movement in May 1963 and includes interviews with local civil rights veterans, and “Viva La Causa,” which documents the grape pickers’ strike and boycott led by Chavez. 

Rubio explains that the films fulfill two sides of Fiesta’s educational goal for this year, simultaneously offering Hispanics a close look at historic events in Birmingham, while also showing the non-Hispanics in attendance the movement that took place on the west coast just a few years later.

Ahmad Ward, the head of education at BCRI, says that this year’s increased partnership with Fiesta is part of the institute’s larger goal to advocate justice to all people. “Our mission is to promote civil and human rights around the world,” he says. The BCRI previously sponsored a booth at Fiesta festivals, but this year’s festivities mark their most substantial work together to date. 

In conjunction with Fiesta, the BCRI will also offer Spanish-language tours of its museum on Sun., Oct. 6,  the day after the festival. Ward says that the tour will serve as a pilot for the development of regular Spanish-language tours as part of an effort to make its collections accessible to a broader audience. “If you live in Birmingham, you need to know what happened here and see how that applies to you,” he says. “We want everybody to feel a connection to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.”

For 11 years Fiesta has organized its annual festival to celebrate Hispanic culture as part of as part of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which this year runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Rubio explains that with 25 different Latin American countries, spread over four regions in North, South, Central America and the Caribbean, Hispanic culture is diverse and multifaceted. At this year’s event, all four regions will be represented through music performances and a series of themed villages. The villages will include multi-cultural food, soccer, health and wellness, arts, and family. To keep things entertaining for the children in attendance, the family village will feature storytelling, face painting, balloon animals, and large inflatable playground structures.

Admission to Fiesta 2013 is $8 per person at the entrance or $5 per person with advance tickets. Proceeds support college scholarship funds for Birmingham high school students. Since Fiesta started in 2002, they have donated approximately $50,000 in scholarship money to local universities, says Rubio.

“It’s a good place to celebrate diversity in our Birmingham area while raising funds to support scholarships for Birmingham students,” he says.

For more details on Fiesta 2013 go to http://www.fiestabirmingham.com/.