From (His)story to Ourstory – Youth Lead Mural Art Project to Tell the Story of This Enchanted Land

By Anthony Fleg, Native Health Initiative

Albuquerque – Empowered youth, hot summer sun, paintbrushes and the north-facing wall of the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice. These are the ingredients of an ambitious mural art project that contrasts iconic images and struggles with their modern-day counterparts. The goal is to tell “ourstory”, the heroes, events, and cultures of New Mexico often forgotten in textbooks.

Liz Carrasco and Lillian Fernandez, two college-bound youth interns with the SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP) came up with the idea of the project through conversations with fellow SWOP youth.

Taking a break from the mural work being done outside, I had the chance to sit down with both students on the first day that the project began.

We envision the art as a space to come together as a community and represent  who we are,” says Liz, a graduate of the South Valley Academy who is headed to UNM to study political science.

Lillian sees the project as an extension of her love for art. “I think that this project, led by youth activists and artists, shows the power art has to improve our world.” A graduate of Nuestros Valores High School, she will be attending La Sierra University in Riverside California, planning to become a veterinarian.

“The mural is going to have images that you would not normally see together – the Virgin de Guadelupe reaching down to help a mother in need, an Aztec dancer who is break dancing…we will have freedom fighters from the past such as Dolores Huerta, Jeanne Gauna, and Geronimo alongside our struggles of today, such as the Statue of Liberty and a family on their knees, both detained by immigration,” says Liz.

Curious to hear about how the project got started, I asked them to explain.

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AG Gary King Thinking About Continuing His Battle Against Nonprofits

By Tracy Dingmann

It is unfortunate that a recent appeals court ruling has apparently not dissuaded Attorney General Gary King from contemplating a continuation of unfounded legal action against nonprofits in New Mexico.

On June 30, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld in its entirety a lower court’s ruling that the state of New Mexico has no power to force two nonprofits to register as political committees. The court based its decision on the fact that the nonprofits’ central purpose isn’t campaign intervention, and that their election-related expenses don’t make up a preponderance of their budgets.

It was an unambiguous ruling that affirmed the traditional role of nonprofits and upheld their right to free speech.

But in a July 19 article on the website with Heath Haussamen, King was quoted as saying he is “quite honestly digesting that case and trying to decide” whether to appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In August 2009, a judge ordered the state to pay the nonprofits some $72,000 in attorney’s fees accrued through that time. The estimate of fees accrued during the state’s appeal to the 10th Circuit is not in, and it is unknown how much an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court would cost state taxpayers.

In addition to considering a Supreme Court appeal, King hinted to Haussamen that he is also considering ways to revise the state’s Campaign Reporting Act that would still inappropriately regulate nonprofits who engage in protected speech. 

Not all nonprofits though – just the ones King has decided were formed for the purpose of campaigning, because they dare to exercise their right to hold public officials accountable.

From the Haussamen story:

King said he’s not out to require disclosure from groups such as the League of Women Voters or Association of Commerce and Industry, groups that “really do provide information to either the public or to their members, and it’s not campaigning.”

We know some elected officials don’t like being held accountable – and they complain bitterly when their voting records are called out. King knows it too – complaints from legislators whose voting records were publicized were what motivated him to pursue this failed case.

It may be true that New Mexico’s Campaign Reporting Act needs work. But somehow reconfiguring and torturing it to make sure it punishes and shuts up the nonprofits King doesn’t like is not the kind of reform we need.

Pajarito Water Station Opens Saturday

It took years of organizing and hard work, but on Saturday, about 400 families living on Pajarito Mesa west of Albuquerque will finally get access to clean drinking water.

For about 20 years, the residents of the unincorporated area have had to buy water and haul it to their homes, from a distance of 10 to 18 miles away.

Here’s a New York Times story from last month on the rugged conditions at Pajarito Mesa – and the community’s quest for clean, accessible drinking water.

But no more – on Saturday, the community will open its own water filling station.

The official opening ceremony will happen from 12 to 4 p.m., when there will be a celebration of food and music with the people and groups who helped the Pajarito community get the well, including the Pajarito Mesa Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association and the SouthWest Organizing Project.

Here’s a map to the area, if you’d like to attend:

pajarito mesa

Map to Pajarito Mesa Water Station

First Amendment still stands in NM, despite AG appeal

The Center for Civic Policy is disappointed that New Mexico Attorney General Gary King has chosen to appeal the recent decision by United States District Court Judge Judith Herrera in favor of New Mexico Youth Organized (NMYO) and the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP).

“It’s unfortunate Attorney General Gary King – the top attorney in the state – refuses to acknowledge that the First Amendment applies the same in New Mexico as it does in the other forty-nine states,” said Matt Brix, policy director for the Center for Civic Policy – which sponsors NMYO. “Attorney General King’s actions spell trouble for all New Mexicans who care about free speech.”

King’s decision will needlessly cost the taxpayers of New Mexico, said George Lujan, communications director for SWOP.

“The Attorney General’s actions also spell trouble for all New Mexico taxpayers who are concerned about the waste of literally hundreds of thousands of additional dollars on irresponsible and pointless litigation,” said Lujan.

In her decision two weeks ago, Judge Herrera carefully explained why criticism of elected officials is not something that government can regulate, except in the narrow circumstance when the criticism occurs near an election and is accompanied by a plea to vote for or against a candidate.

It is dismaying that Attorney General King has chosen to ignore Judge Herrera’s decisive ruling on First Amendment rights and will instead subject taxpayers to more expensive and unnecessary litigation.