Community Rallies at Roundhouse for Anti Racism Day

Poet Hakim Bellamy performing in the Capitol Rotunda on Anti Racism Day. Photo by Claus Whiteacre.

By Anthony Fleg, Native Health Initiative

The most important piece of health legislation in this year’s session might just be one without the words Medicaid, health insurance, or the names of any disease conditions in it.

Instead, it is a bill addressing institutional racism, the practices and policies within institutions (e.g schools, courts, hospitals, businesses) that lead to unequal access to resources based on skin color.

A week ago, the health professionals, educators, and community activists of the New Mexico Health Equity Working Group (NMHEWG) rallied for the bill at the first-ever “Anti Racism Day” at the legislature.

House Joint Memorial 32, sponsored by Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas (D-Albuquerque) and Sen. Tim Keller (D-Albuquerque) passed its first test, being approved by the House Labor Committee at 8pm on Thursday, February 17th.

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Child Welfare, Civil Rights and the Nature of Marriage

By Claus Whiteacre

After a lengthy debate Thursday afternoon, three bills related to same-sex marriage were tabled in the House Consumer and Public Affairs on a straight party line vote of three to two.

At the request of committee Chair Rep. Gail Chasey (D-Albuquerque) all three bills were presented together. So, while public comments and committee debate addressed the three bills as one, each bill was voted on individually.

The action came after hours of testimony and debate about the child welfare, the nature of marriage and civil rights for all New Mexicans.

In the end, all three bills were tabled along party lines, and thus are unlikely to be brought back in the house this session.

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Support for Voter ID Waning?

By Tracy Dingmann

There’s a drumbeat of hysteria from those who think New Mexico desperately needs to force voters to show photo identification at the polls – and supporters of the idea think they might finally be able to get a law passed this year.

Why?

One big reason is that Gov. Susana Martinez is a huge supporter of so-called Voter ID – and so is new Secretary of State Dianna Duran. Martinez called for a Voter ID law in her State of the State speech, and Duran sponsored numerous photo ID laws in her 18 years as a state senator.

Also, the state House has also gained eight Republican seats and is closer to a majority than before.

A bill, HB 308, sponsored by Rep. Dianne Hamilton (R-Silver City), is making its way through committees and is expected to be heard next week in House Voters and Elections.

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Leap to Extremes: New Mexico Tea Party goes by the book

by John Daniel

W. Cleon Skousen - The man who changed Glenn Beck's life

When it comes to the New Mexico’s Tea Parties, attention must be paid.

After all, many Roundhouse observers are crediting the Tea Parties (or blaming them, depending on one’s point of view) for derailing a bipartisan power-sharing arrangement in the state House of Representatives that would have unseated Speaker Ben Lujan and given conservatives considerably more power in the bargain.

According to those who spoke for the Tea Party’s position, their objection to the deal was one of high principle. Departing from their previous nonpartisan stance, they found it totally unacceptable for any Republican lawmaker to vote for a Democrat for Speaker – in this case, Representative Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces.

The Tea Parties are all about principle – so they say. They claim to be advocating a return to the nation’s founding principles contained in the U.S. Constitution – principles that have been discarded. And how do they read the Constitution?

For some answers, consider this invitation contained in a January 5, 2011 email blast from one of the New Mexico’s major TP groups, the East Mountain Tea Party based in Bernalillo County:

by W. Cleon Skousen

Constituion (sic) Class: $15

Sign up for our seven week course on the Constituion (sic), starting on February 5th, 2011. Discover the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Founding Fathers which they said must be understood and perpetuated by every people who desired peace, prosperity, and freedom. These beliefs have made possible more progress in 200 years than was made previously in over 5,000 years. Thus the title “The 5,000 Year Leap”.

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Teach-in on Racism Allows Youth to Pose Tough Questions to School Board Candidates

By Anthony Fleg

As the room got quiet, the high-school student asked with confidence, “Does Albuquerque Public Schools have an anti-racism policy and if so, are you aware of it?”

Many of the professionals seated at the front, all running for the upcoming Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) school board election on February 1st, appeared unprepared for such a question.

This was the energy on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday when over one-hundred people gathered at University of New Mexico’s Law School for the “Teach-in and Candidates Forum” hosted by the Critical Race Theory (CRT) Working Group.

Youth from local high schools, UNM students, staff, and faculty and community members gathered to enhance their understanding of racism and CRT, and then to use the “teach-in” to inform a school board candidates forum.

The program will be broadcast on KUNM’s Youth radio this Sunday from 7-8pm.

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MLK Today, Legislature Tomorrow

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A Guest Post by Anthony Fleg

On the eve of the 2011 legislative session in Santa Fe, the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday gives us a moment of pause, a moment to reflect as New Mexicans about what we hope to see come out of the two-month session, and how we will individually and collectively affect the process. Using some thoughts from Dr. King’s vast repertoire of proverbial wisdom, I hope that you will find inspiration today to fuel your service and advocacy tomorrow and beyond.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – MLK

I often hear friends and colleagues lament that “politics is just not for me,” in the same way they might discuss foods and movies they dislike. The important distinction is that our political system does affect all of us. It can protect our natural resources and sacred places, or it can do just the opposite. It will determine over the next sixty days whether the budgets of our schools and social programs are slashed, or whether we instead decide to go after un-tapped revenue from corporations to solve our state’s deficit.

These are not small, insignificant decisions. We will all live with the effects, good or bad, from decisions over the next two months. Get involved! If you are one of those likely to shrug off politics, my first, simple suggestions would be to check out the very user-friendly NM legislative website where you find your legislators, look up specific bills, and even watch proceedings from the Roundhouse and then to go up to Santa Fe and see the legislative process for yourself. Those who do see quickly that it is not the scary world they had imagined, and that in fact, all of us can make more of an impact than we think.

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. ” – MLK

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Welcome, El Grito!

By Tracy Dingmann

On Aug. 4, our friends at the SouthWest Organizing Project launched “El Grito: News and Views from New Mexico’s Grassroots.”

The exciting new website aims to use digital media to evoke the deep cultural traditions of New Mexico communities as well as the rich legacy of struggle through alternative media for justice, equity, and opportunity that exists in New Mexico.

In English, El Grito means “The Cry,” and in this context it refers to several things, including the traditional shouts made during cultural celebrations and dances in New Mexico, as well as to El Grito de Dolores, the battle cry of the Mexican revolution for independence from Spain.

El Grito also refers to El Grito del Norte, a community newspaper founded in Espanola in 1968 that chronicled the grassroots struggles of traditional New Mexico communities.

Writers and activists from El Grito del Norte later moved to Albuquerque’s Los Duranes neighborhood, where they founded the Chicano Communication Center to advance grassroots communication across the state.

As explained on the site:

SWOP’s roots in alternative media extend back to those days at the Center, and the spirit of grassroots powered media lives on in our work today through blogging and our magazine, Voces Unidas. We hope that spirit is embodied here at El Grito, where we’ll bring community based analysis about the burning issues we face today, as well as news of the happenings in our communities.

In an interesting nod to history, two of El Grito’s writers, George Lujan and Clearly New Mexico alum Juan Reynosa, are from families that were well represented in the Chicano Communication Center.

The site will have several sections, including space for community event notices and for short pieces on current events El Grito finds noteworthy. There will also be longer articles from El Grito writers.

Submissions from the public are encouraged and welcome.

From the site:

Our lens is critical analysis of our society, our focus is the landscape experienced by New Mexico’s traditional and low-income communities. We reserve the right to only publish those pieces that further the debate in a constructive and positive manner.

El Grito is strictly non-partisan, and will not publish any content referring to political elections or written by a person seeking elective office.

From the site:

We pledge to offer a space here for the diversity of voices that exist in New Mexico, and to continually seek out and share the stories and views of New Mexicans who may not always have access to a medium that will let their cry be heard across the state. And we sincerely hope you’ll check in often and add your “grito” to the debate.

Please join Clearly in welcoming this much-needed voice to the New Mexico blogosphere!

Not St. Pete!

By Tracy Dingmann

We like this post from blogger Matt Reichbach, who blogs at NMFBIHOP.com and writes occasionally at the New Mexico Independent.

In the post from NMFBIHOP last night, Reichbach linked to an interesting post from the SEIU blog. The SEIU post that noted that, under the drive currently being pushed by some U.S. lawmakers to revoke the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and withdraw citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants who are born in America – former New Mexico U.S. Senator Pete Domenici would have not been considered an U.S. citizen.

That’s St. Pete to all you old-timers who remember how Domenici brought home the bacon for New Mexico all those years.

Here’s an explanation of Domenici’s situation, from the SEIU blog:

Former GOP Senator Pete Domenici’s (born in U.S. May 7, 1932)
In 2007 on the Senate floor, Sen. Domenici (R-NM) recounted his mother’s arrest by immigration agents, after unwittingly learning she was an undocumented immigrant. “I wish to tell about both my parents who came to this country as aliens… one day during the Second World War, [my mom] was arrested by several men who came in black cars to the backdoor while we four children were playing with marbles… [USA Today, 6/4/07]

Under Pearce’s world “order” Domenici would have been deported back to his parents’ native Italy and not gone on to serve six terms as a Republican Senator for New Mexico.

According to the New York Times, “Domenici said he decided to tell his story when the hostile rhetoric about illegal immigrants started to boil. He said he wanted to remind his fellow Republicans that the sons and daughters of this century’s illegal immigrants could end up in the Senate one day, too. ‘I wasn’t trying to impress anybody,’ he said of his story. ‘I think it just puts a little heart and a little soul into this.'” [New York Times, 4/4/06]

SEIU says others who’d be deemed non-Americans under the proposal include former U.S. Atty General Alberto Gonzales, astronaut Jose Hernandez and Lousiania Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Just a little something for everyone to think about as they talk about immigration reform.

Long-Form Debate on Immigration Deserves Kudos

By Tracy Dingmann

An interactive, multi-media forum on immigration devoted a healthy chunk of time to an immensely complicated and explosive issue – and for that, KUNM-FM, KNME-TV and the New Mexico Independent deserve kudos.

The July 14 panel discussion at the KNME studios featured Rep. Dennis Kintigh, R-Roswell, a former FBI special agent; Marcela Diaz, an immigrant-rights advocate with Somos Un Pueblo Unido; and Dante DiGregorio, a professor at UNM’s Anderson School of Management who specializes in business relations between the U.S. and Mexico. Trip Jennings, senior writer for NMI, moderated the discussion.

A live studio audience looked on as KNME cameras filmed the discussion for webcast on NMI, while reporters from NMI liveblogged the proceedings and relayed questions from online viewers and the audience. Meanwhile, KUNM news director Jim Williams relayed questions as he anchored the station’s live broadcast of the event, which came during the public radio station’s all-important evening drive time.

A transcript of the forum is available here on the NMI site.

(Full disclosure: Although I am a correspondent for KNME-TV, I was not involved in the planning or execution of this particular forum. The station has hosted similar forums on other topics in the past and will likely do so in the future.)

A Long-Form Discussion
One of the best things about the forum was the generous amount of time afforded to the topic and the effort that organizers made to balance the discussion, said Adonai Morales, a community organizer at the local immigrants rights group El Centro de la Igualidad y Derechos .

Morales was born in Mexico. At El Centro, his outreach and advocacy includes giving workshops that inform immigrants about their basic civil rights.

Morales, a former journalist, said he was impressed with the format of the event.

“It was an excellent forum. It is always good to have different sides and different viewpoints. A lot of what you see in the media is one-sided, most of the time,” he said. “It was more than an hour long. Immigration is a very complicated issue, and the fact that they gave it enough time to really flesh out the arguments was great.”

In the forum, Diaz made an often-passionate case for immigrants who live in New Mexico now, saying that their lives are disproportionately subject to misinformation and fear. Diaz tamped down the myth that there is an immigrant crime wave going on, citing figures that show immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the restof the population.

DiGregorio offered up a number of interesting facts and figures regarding immigration, including that rates are currently declining due to the downturn in the U.S. economy.

A Focus on Law and Order

And while he stressed several times that he favors immigration reform that is fair for all, Rep. Kintigh repeatedly attempted to frame the debate as one largely about law and order and the need to protect law-abiding American citizens from crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

Kintigh’s repeated mention of two or three ghastly crimes committed locally by illegal immigrants as justification for his hard line position caused some head shaking and eye-rolling among some members of the audience. Reactions from the audience heated up even more after the KNME cameras were turned off at 7 p.m. and the discussion continued on.

For his part, Morales said he understands that public safety needs to be part of any discussion about immigration.
“Focusing on crime is always an argument that is used, and there is a real basis to it,” said Morales. There are hardcore trafficking and kidnapping syndicates, as well as whole industries based on the forgery of documents and of smuggling people and weapons into and out of the country.”

However, he continued:

“The problem is when sometimes a couple of bad actors – criminals on either side of the border – get all the attention when the majority are honest, working immigrants who are just here to work get cast in this wide net of strategy.”

“It’s not an excuse for not solving the problem and tackling the issues. And it’s not an excuse to not work for comprehensive immigration reform that is fair for all.”