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.

Some New Mexicans’ Reaction To Arizona Boycott Is A Shame

By Tracy Dingmann

It’s been a little over three weeks now since Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the controversial measure SB 1070 into law in Arizona. Much has happened since, including an outcry of protest from those who see the law as a civil and human rights outrage and an outpouring of support for the measure from those who say Arizona was forced to act after waiting in vain for federal immigration reform.

Many of those who support the Arizona immigration law see it in black and white terms that go something like this:

  • Undocumented immigrants are criminals, merely by virtue of being in the U.S. illegally – so whatever law is aimed at prosecuting them, by any means, is right and virtuous
  • The federal government has failed to provide enough protection at the border from illegal immigrants, so good for Arizona for taking matters into its own hands. So what if the courts say states don’t have the right to make laws in this area
  • I don’t care if police want to stop and question me – if I’m not breaking the law, what’s the big deal? The only people who should be worried about this law are the people who are here illegally
  • If you don’t like this law, then you don’t love America…and maybe you should just leave

Those who oppose the law do so on many grounds, including those motivated by concern that the new law will:

  • Cause police to unfairly target all people who happen to have brown skin and speak Spanish, including U.S. citizens
  • Violate the Constitution by giving a state powers that only the federal government can have
  • Engender fear that people in immigrant communities, whether legal or illegal, will be afraid to report crimes or otherwise approach police
  • Encourage human rights violations by criminalizing an entire class of people

Protests that the law is a thinly-disguised tool for racial harassment of Hispanics in Arizona gained resonance with Arizona’s subsequent passage of a second law, to ban the teaching of ethnic studies in elementary and secondary school; as well as a directive from the schools to bar any teacher with a heavy accent from teaching English in schools (read “Arizona Doubles Down on Hispanic Residents” by syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. in the Albuquerque Journal today…subscription only.)

So far, most of the angst has been centered on Arizona.

But one thing that’s happened right here in New Mexico has made me sad.

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