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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 3:27 pm | Fair 55º


César Chávez Celebration Includes Tributes to Selma Rubin, Babatunde Folayemi

Labor leader's birthday marked by proclamations, speeches, music and dancing at Santa Barbara's West Side Community Center

Farm worker labor leader César Chávez would have been 84 years old Saturday and the Santa Barbara community turned out to celebrate his life and his legacy of activism that continues to this day.

Selma Rubin and Babatunde Folayemi are local community activists who passed away in recent days and weeks. They were celebrated in art and speeches Saturday, as well.

Folayemi’s widow, Akivah Northern, spoke of her husband’s activism, which began as a young child. A teacher was about to beat a little girl with a pointer stick as punishment and the young Folayemi (then Tony Northern) grabbed the stick and broke it in two, she said. He took the punishment to stop what he saw as an injustice and he never stopped his activism, she said, from working in Africa to mediating peace among gangs in Los Angeles and in Santa Barbara.

Guadalupe Romero also spoke of justice. Romero’s son, Sergio, was just 15 when he was struck by a truck and killed in a Milpas Street crosswalk last year. She called for traffic signals and to recognize that her son’s life mattered.

Santa Barbara County and the city of Santa Barbara issued proclamations for the occasion of Chávez’s birthday. Elected officials who spoke Saturday at the West Side Community Center included Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and Councilwoman Cathy Murillo, 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal and Santa Barbara Unified School District trustee Monique Limón.

Many organizations staffed tables at the event, including Santa Barbara County Action Network (SBCAN), Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara, Ventura & San Luis Obispo Counties, the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation (COAST) and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

After the speeches, there was music and dancing and other entertainment.

Organizers said they considered the event a success and plan to do it again next year, but make it even bigger and better in every way.

Robert Bernstein is a local photographer and frequent Noozhawk contributor.

At Saturday's César Chávez celebration, Akivah Northern speaks about her late husband, Babatunde Folayemi, who died Wednesday at age 71.
At Saturday’s César Chávez celebration, Akivah Northern speaks about her late husband, Babatunde Folayemi, who died Wednesday at age 71. Click here for more photos. (Robert Bernstein / Noozhawk photo)

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