Gathering Allows Youth to Brainstorm Solutions to Address Violence in our Communities

By Anthony Fleg, Native Health Initiative

“How many of you have witnessed violence in the last week? Last month? Last year?”

As Mike Brown asked each question, more hands went up, until all but a few of the 40 youth had hands raised.

“How many of you feel safe every day?”

Not a single hand went up.

In a hidden-away strip mall in the International District, youth leaders and representatives from many youth organizations gathered Wednesday evening to begin conversation on what a youth-led action plan to address youth violence in New Mexico would look like.

Mr. Brown, a self-proclaimed veteran of years of violence, both on the streets of Los Angeles and in the U.S. Navy, recently completed close to 300-mile run from Albuquerque to Juarez to highlight the negative effect of violence on youth. The run began in Albuquerque’s West Mesa where 11 women were found murdered two years ago. He called the journey Run 4 Healing (www.run4healing.org), saying  “There is one thing I wanted to come out of this run: I wanted to create a platform for youth to stand on….maybe a youth violence roundtable where youth are seen as the experts and are the ones creating the solutions.”

He facilitated a heart-to-heart discussion about the state of youth in  Albuquerque, focusing on how youth can work toward a less violent society. The input from the attendees, who ranged from middle school to college students, was honest and centered around two themes. First, they felt there  was a need for more youth to take a stand as leaders, and second, that there was not enough support from adults, schools and organizations to allow youth to lead effectively.

Jamie Escarcega, a 7th grader, spoke about the need for adult allies who know their role as supporters. “I think the best thing adults can do is to support youth who are working for positive changes.”

Another youth, Bryant Gomez, who has led efforts for increasing the voice of youth thought that the technology divide was a part of the problem in the communication gap between young people and adults. “Technology has become our hieroglyphics, it is our way to create our own history. Let’s face it, we are just too fast for you all!” he said to the adults in the crowd.

One of the adults to respond to the challenges and indictments posed by the youth was Vernon Butler of Advocates for Equity. He confessed, “I think the adult world has lost focus about what is really important, and how we need to mentor our youth.

The youth were honest about their own shortcomings as well, citing the lack of unity among themselves as a hindrance to making positive change happen.

From the event, youth and adult allies decided that coming together again was a priority, inviting all youth interested in getting involved to contact the New Mexico Forum for Youth in Community.

Organizations represented at the event included Advocates for Equity, UNM CLPS, UNM Office of Equity and Inclusion, Generation Justice (aka KUNM Youth Radio), NM Forum for Youth in Community, NM Youth Alliance, Santa Fe Community College, and the Native Health Initiative.

*Of note- I would like to thank the following youth writers whose energy and input contributed to this story – D’Ana Alderete,  Bheira Ugalde,  Jamie Escarcega, Marilu Ugalde. Look for some pieces written by them in the near future on Clearly New Mexico!

Bill To Establish Suicide Prevention for Native American Youth Awaits Gov’s Signature

By Anthony Fleg, Native Health Initiative

In the next days, as Governor Martinez’s desk piles high with legislation pleading for her signature, many advocates hope that Senate Bill 417 will get the precious signature and become a catalyst for increased support and resources to prevent youth suicide in American Indian communities.

Suicide is the third leading causes of death for youth in New Mexico, and the rate for AI youth is nearly twice as high as for other groups. In 2007, the New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey revealed that 34.8% of Native youth in grades 9 through 12 reported feeling sadness and hopelessness.
The additional factors of isolation, poverty, loss of cultural and individual identity, historical trauma, substance abuse, and self-esteem issues all play into the increased risk for our Native American youth to take their own lives. For instance, 40% of American Indian children live in poverty – more than 3 times higher than the rate for white children.

SB417, sponsored by Sen. Lynda Lovejoy, (D-Crownpoint), creates a statewide clearinghouse to provide technical assistance and support to facilitate collaboration and establish sustainable suicide prevention programs in Native communities. The clearinghouse will also provide culturally appropriate suicide intervention and post-event assistance to Native American children and their families.

Funding for the measure was removed due to the state’s budget shortfall, but state officials will use grant money to fund the preliminary work of the clearinghouse.

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Youth Voice Rings Loud at the Roundhouse For New Mexico Youth Alliance

By Anthony Fleg

SANTA FE – On Wednesday, Jan.  the New Mexico Youth Alliance (NMYA) brought a strong message to our state’s legislators: Support our youth!

NMYA brought youth from across the state to get a closer look at how business is done at the NM State Legislature. Ironically, in the days prior to this event, Senate Bill 158 was dropped by Senators Lynda Lovejoy and Paul Bandy, proposing to terminate NMYA altogether.

The bill calls for a Government Restructuring Task Force, doing away with many committees, councils, and boards formed under Bill Richardson’s administration.

On Wednesday, young people spoke to their respective legislators to request that the NMYA be removed from the chopping block in the bill.

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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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Thanksgiving Wishes From Clearly New Mexico

A Guest Post by Anthony Fleg

To our wonderful Clearly New Mexico community, we want to thank you for your support and energy. Far beyond this site, it is the work we are dedicated to, making our state healthier, safer, more equitable, and more democratic that is worth giving thanks for this holiday. Whether your efforts are improving our schools, ethical reforms in our political systems, or speaking on behalf of the most vulnerable populations that are too often forgotten, thank you!

As you can see from the stories on our site, it is exactly those efforts that inspire the writers of Clearly New Mexico. Often, these are the stories not deemed “newsworthy” elsewhere – youth working to beautify their communities, conversations about keeping the internet accessible to all, and Indigenous efforts to protect water are not the things we see much of in the media, but which have made it to our site in just the last week!

A few thoughts as you enjoy your time with family and friends this holiday, given in the spirit of Clearly New Mexico’s community:

* First, a medical fact – yes, turkey does have an amino acid called trypophan which causes sleepiness. So, get those important political, philosophical, and spiritual conversations out of the way before the turkey-induced daze!. And before you ask, NO, this does not give you lisence the next day to blame something you say to the in-laws on the trypophan!

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Youth Shine at Community Pride Day!

A Clearly Guest Post by Anthony Fleg

Albuquerque – In the heart of the International District, one-hundred and fifty people gathered for “Community Pride Day: Our Food, Our Community” Wednesday evening at Van Buren Middle School.

Though many community leaders and elected officials were in attendance, it was an evening for them to listen, an evening to celebrate youth as they presented the projects they have worked on through the Citizen Schools afterschool program at Van Buren.

One group worked on understanding the stories and meaning behind the foods we eat. Kathy Rojo, a 6th grader at Van Buren, presented to the crowd on the importance of understanding new cultures through food. “We are trying new things, learning about all of the foods eaten here in the International District,” she said proudly. Her group provided and served a potluck for the celebration.

Laura Musumi, the teacher for the class and a staff member at Citizen Schools, said that her idea for this class started with a love of food. “We have so much diversity in this community, and we tried to show how you can find common ground with others through something as simple as food.”

A second group worked on community outreach, and after walking the neighborhood, decided that they would do something about the conspicuous piles of large trash items (e.g. furniture).

“Tonight, we are asking everyone here to join us in launching the Clean Community Campaign,” said Van Buren student Michael Rodriquez. The Campaign asks citizens to pledge that they will work hard to keep the community clean, including a promise not to pile trash in public spaces.

And if that wasn’t enough, the youth also created an “Inner Beauty Pageant,” with collages reflecting their unique talents and showing off their families.

One of the Citizen Schools teachers, Joanne Landry, explained, “There is so much inner hatred, so we wanted to create an opportunity for the youth to see their inner beauty…for some, I think this was the first time that they saw themselves in this way.”

Citizen Schools is a national organization that provides free afterschool programs for students in Title I schools, schools where many of the families live at or below the poverty line. Many of the teachers are volunteers from the community who have a desire to share a specific skill with students.

Joanne Landry, who also serves as a minister at the Interfaith Bible Church and as president of the Trumball Neighborhood Association (both of which served as co-sponsors for the event) says that the community outreach class was a way for her to share her passion for public service with the youth.

Alayna Bowman, serving as a teacher liaison for Citizen Schools, was all smiles as she helped the youth clean up after the event.

“The teamwork and leadership we saw here tonight was something special,” she beamed, noting that she and her staff are already looking for more volunteers to teach this spring’s classes.

Maybe the evening was summed up best by City Councilman Rey Garduno’s comment, amidst the chatter of excited students preparing their presentations and families meeting one another.

“The noise of inclusiveness…you can see it, you can feel it here tonight,” he said.

If You Missed It: The Future of the Internet Town Hall

By Tracy Dingmann

If you missed Tuesday’s town hall in Albuquerque with Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Copps on the Future of the Internet, you can catch up right here with these links.

The event was sponsored by the organizations The Center for Media Justice, Media Literacy Project and Free Press.

Writing at NMFBIHOP.com, Claus Whiteacre said:

Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps spoke to hundreds of supporters about the need for net neutrality Tuesday evening at the Albuquerque Journal Theater at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

Net neutrality is the principle that all content on the internet should be treated equally, and that internet service providers cannot discriminate between different types of content.

“When broadcast came about the corporation said ‘trust us.’ When previous FCC commissions removed limits on media consolidation we were told ‘trust us.’ With this new medium they are saying ‘trust us,'” Copps said.

Andrea Quijada, the Executive Director of the Media Literacy Project, served as the MC for the evening. She shared how an open internet is needed for the most basic of services.

“With 30 of our 33 counties being medically underserved, we know that the internet is not just about civic participation,” Quijada said. “With a state poverty rate at 19 percent we know that the internet is not just about access.”

“America cannot have a digital divide, this is an injustice for those that have been too long denied,” Copps said in his speech.

George Lujan of the SouthWest Organizing Project gave his account at ElGritoNM.org:

Perspectives from the community included single mothers explaining how the internet allows them to provide a strong sense of family; students detailing how far they have to drive just to finish nightly assignments; local artists and slam poets offering a cultural perspective; professionals trying to bring the online world to offline communities.

The point was clear- we need an open internet, we deserve an open internet, and now we demand an open internet.

Finally, those who would like to see an accounting of the entire event can visit this link to the webcast at SaveTheInternet.com.

An Election Report From Campus

Clearly New Mexico

In this Clearly video extra, New Mexico Public Interest Research Group advocate Erin Eccleston talks about her groups efforts to engage and involve students in voting yesterday at the University of New Mexico.

We at the Center for Civic Policy are proud and excited to work with Student PIRGS, because getting and keeping young people civically engaged is critically important!

A word of caution – the visual aspect of the video is a bit blurry….but the audio is good and the message is inspiring!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZ7bLuJmc-8

Protecting Sick Children? It’s No Job For Insurance Companies, Apparently

By Tracy Dingmann

How dismaying.

A story in the New Mexico Independent yesterday says Lovelace Health Plan will sharply limit the time period during which parents can buy child-only health insurance for their kids.

Lovelace, which is one of the largest health care providers in New Mexico, said it will only allow parents to buy such policies during a one-month enrollment period each year, instead of maintaining open enrollment all year long.

The decision is expected to result in a huge drop in the number of children-only policies Lovelace issues.

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Native Youth Lead The Way At Local Health Conference

Youth presenters at the AAIP meeting. Back row (L to R): Leon Paquin, Nick Felipe, Emmit Yepa, Mark Panana. Front row: Tiffany Faustine, Leroy Paisano, Lindsey Toya and Tianie Toya

A Clearly Guest Post by Anthony Fleg

SANTA ANA PUEBLO, NM – A week before the school year began, a group of American Indian youth in New Mexico were not only working hard, they were teaching the class!

Earlier this month, the 39th annual conference of the Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP) featured nationally known speakers, including Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, the current director of Indian Health Services.

Alongside such speakers were three groups of local youth presenting on their efforts to create healthier, more sustainable and empowered communities.

The Walatowa (Jemez) Green Stars talked about their activism to create a full-scale recycling program in their community, with group member Lindsey Toya pointing out that “we know that our trash will be here for the generations to come, and it is our job to teach the elders in our community as they have taught us.”

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