We stand at the dawn of a new Progressive Era as the people arise as one to scream "no more." The only way we can be defeated is if we break solidarity. The robber barons and their minions have proven ingenious fracturers. President Richard the Rotten rode the hangover of Southern racism to the presidency in 1968. His scapegoating strategy now infects every political campaign.
As always, the artist expresses matters much better than the historian. The Austin Lounge Lizards concisely capsulized the blame game in one song title: "Teenage immigrant welfare mothers on drugs."
Will we all get fooled again? Not if we listen to the giants when they come to town in a couple of weeks. A coalition of local citizens will marshal the greatest labor leader and the greatest minority icons of the 20th century to show us the way forward as America sails the uncharted waters of her post-adolescence.
I am working on three major events which will address the ills of the community and the nation. Activities will begin with a joint promotion with the United Auto Workers Union, headlined at Nevada Labor.com with an original photo of UAW legend Walter Reuther and César Chávez at the 1969 dedication of "The 40 acres," the United Farm Workers headquarters in Delano, Calif., which Reuther helped Chávez build.
Then comes Chávez Day on his 81st birthday, March 31, followed the next weekend by a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The triple-event buzz will be heightened because this year's topic of the Washoe County School District Chávez essay contest is "Should Congress declare a national holiday to honor César Chávez?"
Over 200 national, state and local organizations have endorsed the idea, as have many prominent leaders, elected officials, celebrities and three presidential candidates. Ten states already celebrate César Chávez Day: California, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Rhode Island.
Local students will again compete in three age categories at elementary, middle and high school levels. The winner in each category will receive an Apple iPod.
Washoe County School District students may obtain rules and entry forms at their schools. They are also available online in English and Spanish at CesarChavez Nevada.com.
All entries must be received by 12 p.m. on March 24, submitted via school mail or regular mail to Fátima Rivas, Hispanic Liaison Specialist, Student Support Services, Washoe County School District, P.O. Box 30425, Reno, NV 89520-3425. She may be contacted at (775) 325-2076.
The first local César Chávez Day came on July 15, 1986, when Chávez himself came to town to speak to workers. Annual celebrations began in 2003 when he was honored with a first-class postage stamp a decade after his death.
Activities will conclude with a dinner at Circus Circus Hotel-Casino at 6 p.m. on March 31. If the entertainment goes the way I'm planning it, we will have something totally new to present to attendees.
Major supporters of this year's event include Circus Circus, Culinary Union Local 226, Laborers' Union Local 169 and Norm's Auto Sales.
Flagship media are KNVV Univision TV-41 (Charter cable 22) and Radio Tricolor 102.1-FM. KNVV will produce and air vignettes about Chávez's life and cover activities leading up to the event with the only local Spanish language newscast in the region.
And there should be a new English language TV show available to discuss these issues just in time•
I'm just one piece of broadcast equipment shy of launching my new TV show, so watch the Web site. I postponed the Valentine's Day premiere because the engineering wasn't right. The new hardware will allow all Barbwire participants, whether on the web or cable TV, to see and hear the same thing at the same time: live call-in talk and live Web chat crawl plus whatever else I can think up to make the screen busier than an endangered beehive.
Anyone who wants to volunteer for the Reuther-Chávez-King events may attend one or both of two meetings tomorrow. The first is at 10 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church at First and West streets in downtown Reno. The estimable Rev. John Auer is planning an entire weekend (April 4-6) of activity commemorating Dr. King. See the expanded Web edition of this column at Barbwire.US for details.
If you can't make it, how about the 4 p.m. Chávez committee meeting at KNVV TV-41 at the southeast corner of Wells and Ryland?
Corporate welfare update
Construction experts are howling with laughter over the erroneous claims made by City of Sparks consultants about the impact of the state prevailing wage law on the Running Legendarily in the Red project at the Sparks Marina. A relatively tiny percentage of wages is not the issue. The project is just too expensive for the projected tax revenue to support, so the developers want the taxpayers to become liable for private sector debts and are using the workers to justify their own greed.
The best debunking I've seen came as a reader comment to Janine Kearney's March 12 story, still available online and linked to this column at Barbwire.US.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 39-year Nevadan, member of Sparks-based Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO, political action chair and Web master of NAACP Reno-Sparks Branch 1112, and editor of NevadaLabor.com. As always, his comments are strictly his own. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.