April 24, 2017

People in 19 cities honored for promoting equity and turning tide against poverty

SEATTLE – Marguerite Casey Foundation, an independent national grantmaking institution dedicated to the idea that no family should live in poverty, is proud to announce that it honored 27 people nationwide last month as Cesar Chavez Day Community Heroes for 2017.

They were honored in a special edition of Equal Voice News, Marguerite Casey Foundation’s award-winning online publication, on March 31, 2017. Cesar Chavez, who advocated for farmworkers and civil rights, would have been 90 years old on that date.

“These community heroes are doing impressive work that often goes overlooked. They are working for neighborhood progress on issues important to families and the poor by bringing people together and finding solutions,” said Luz Vega-Marquis, president and CEO of Marguerite Casey Foundation.

“They are doing so at a time when we see political rhetoric being used to divide people. But these community heroes show us that positive change is possible, that families are the leaders of this change and that Cesar Chavez continues to inspire the country.”

This year’s group of honorees live in 19 cities in 10 states (Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri and Texas).

They include:
Maria Elena Ramos, an immigrant and San Francisco mom who is organizing for better technology and more computers in her child’s school;

James Mackey, a Boston man who started #StuckOnReplay and is working to end prison slavery, which is allowed in the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution;

Olivia Zarate, a Rio Grande Valley, Texas grandmother who joined others in successfully getting streetlights for her community and serves as a health educator, especially for Spanish speakers;
Hector Herrera, a Chicago man who started Villapalooza, a music festival that focuses on nonviolence, the arts and creativity in the city’s Little Village neighborhood;

Xavier Jennings, a Denver man, mentor and sports coach whose “Rise Up” classes help young people understand and navigate issues they face.

“Their grassroots work shows how people of all backgrounds are striving to make cities better and uphold democratic values,” Vegas-Marquis added. “These community heroes also show us the idea of equity in action and that we all make contributions.”
Since Marguerite Casey Foundation started the Cesar Chavez Community Hero Project in 2014, it has honored more than 162 people nationwide for their contributions to their communities and the nation.

The text and photo for each Chavez Day Community Hero for 2017 can be republished as long as credit is given to Marguerite Casey Foundation and Equal Voice News. Please also include a link to Equal Voice News, which examines stories at the intersection of policy and poverty.

Marguerite Casey Foundation’s communications staff can connect journalists with President and CEO Luz Vega-Marquis and community heroes for interviews. Staff also can serve as a resource for journalists who cover poverty, working families and policy. As of 2015, the United States was still home to 43.1 million people, who by official measures, fell below the poverty line.

CONTACT: Marguerite Casey Foundation Communications Office: 206-691-3134 or