"Zoot Suit" author Luis Valdez will speak at the 15th Annual Tom├ís Rivera Conference at the University of California, Riverside Thursday, April 25 and Friday, April 26, in what could be the end of an era.
Concepci├│n "Concha" Rivera, who founded the conference to honor her husband's memory, said this is the last conference she will organize. "It is the end of my leadership role, but I am hoping that it is not the end of the conference," she said.
Tom├ís Rivera, a poet and academic who was UCR's chancellor from 1979 to 1984, was the first Hispanic Chancellor in the UC system, and also, at 43, the youngest person ever appointed to lead a UC campus. Rivera, who died in 1984 after a heart attack, is widely credited with paving the way for Chicanos and Latinos in higher education.
"Each year this conference has focused on something of importance to the Latino community," said Robert Nava, interim vice-chancellor of advancement at UCR. "We have looked at immigration, politics, music, food, the roles of women and the importance of education. Now we will return to honoring Tom├ís himself."
The conference, called "A Tribute to the Life and Legacy of Tom├ís Rivera," will open at 7:30 p.m. Thursday with a free showing of the film ....y no se lo trago la tierra (....and the earth did not swallow him) at the Canyon Crest Towne Centre Cinema, 5225 Canyon Crest Drive in Riverside. The award-winning film, based on Tom├ís Rivera's novel, will be followed by a discussion with director Severo Perez.
After a series of panel discussions starting at 2 p.m. Friday in Terrace Rooms C and D, there will be a 6 p.m. reception and a 7 p.m. dinner featuring keynote speaker Luis Valdez, author of "Zoot Suit," the first Chicano-produced play on Broadway. He also wrote and directed "La Bamba," the hit film about the life of singer Ritchie Valens.
"We have had Luis Valdez as our keynote speaker before and we have come back to him because he was so good," Concha Rivera said. "He will take you to places you have never been before."
After dinner, Concha Rivera will present a Lifetime Achievement Award to Arturo Madrid, who holds an endowed professorship in the humanities at Trinity University, for his service to higher education. Madrid is the founding president of the Tom├ís Rivera Center, the nation's first institute for policy studies on Latino issues. He is the sixth person to win the Lifetime Achievement Award. Others were Mexican-America folk singer Lalo Guerrero; former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso; former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros; United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta; and James Erickson, a former vice-chancellor for Advancement at UCR.
"We want to look back in these 15 years and see what has happened, whether the community has advanced beyond where we were," said Rivera. "We are standing on the shoulders of those people who were before us, we take strength from them and we move on. It is our responsibility to build on what they left us." She promises a surprise announcement at the dinner, to end the event on a high note.
Participants in the panel discussions include Carlos Cortes, professor emeritus, UCR; Nicolas Kanellos, professor, University of Houston; Hector Calderon, associate professor, UCLA; Gabriela Baeza Ventura, assistant professor, University of Houston; Flora Ortiz, professor, School of Education, UCR; Leonard Valverde, professor, Arizona State University; and Eugene Cota-Robles, professor emeritus, UC Santa Cruz.
All events are free, except the dinner. Cost for the dinner is $50 per person, with a student price of $25.