Dateline—This past June 19, 2017 marked the 152nd year that the state of Texas announced the abolition of slavery. Juneteenth is a holiday that commemorates the official emancipation of Negro slaves from the Confederate south. Those familiar with history but unfamiliar with this history may be wondering why it took an additional two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation for the Negro slave to be freed in all the Confederate States. The answer is simple: The “white establishment,” particularly in the form of government, has always dealt with the dark-skinned creature ambiguously. Therefore, I get it, and I even understand why it should bother you to say “Happy Juneteenth Day.” Actually, I along with many others of the black community would much rather you don’t offer a meaningless pleasantry and instead quote Gil Scott Heron, who said, “The Government You Have Elected is Inoperative” to begin your acknowledgement of your current and historic cruel treatment of black humanity.
The New Mexico electoral landscape is taking shape to the extent that early indicators are suggesting a clear change of power. Republicans have ruled the state for the majority of the last eight years. However, in these upcoming elections the New Mexico Democratic Party can potentially end the nightmare here in the Land of Enchantment that is unfolding in earnest for the rest of the nation. The question swirling throughout the Black community is, does it remain loyal to a Democratic Party that is failing to champion their interests, concerns and placing the future of all Black Americans at risk? For example, since the confirmation of the new United States attorney general, the U.S. Department of Justice has relented on a commitment to reducing and preventing excessive use of force by law enforcement, reforming the justice system and reducing the number of incarcerated Blacks.
The Legislature plans to revisit the issue of allowing the rehiring of law enforcement retirees. This development could potentially agitate the current tension existing statewide between the community and law enforcement. In the reintroduction of this bill, the New Mexico public is being betrayed and threatened by the potential reinforcement of these agencies’ perpetuation of a “culture of war”—specifically an “Us vs. Them” (law enforcement vs. community) mentality.
The timing of the release of WalletHub’s Report on Racial Progress in America 2017 is impeccable, correlating with the first African American president’s farewell address and the annual observation of the birth, life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The report lists the state of New Mexico as 12th-best in “racial integration” between blacks and whites and sixth-best in the level of racial progress realized over time. These occurrences seemingly unveil an opportunity unique to New Mexico as well as its black community when you consider that our state currently resembles the racially diverse culture and populace that the entire nation will maintain within the next 20 or so years. The opportunity then becomes to lead in creating a roadmap on how to achieve the hope of our Constitution to be a “perfect union”—complete with best practices and real-time experiences for the remaining 49 states. Furthermore, as we take part in annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities, it behooves the New Mexican Black community to swift our focus, energy and intellect on engaging activity that will make our community essential to and at the center of this transformation. Elder Michael Jefferson is a minister at Procession Ministries in Albuquerque.
It’s been two weeks since Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry removed Confederate imagery from Old Town after a group of advocates brought attention to the issue. In doing so, Berry ordered that images that “accurately represent our place in the history of the Civil War” would stay up. Plaques indicating Confederate bias would come down, Berry said. But to Elder Michael Jefferson of Procession Ministry, it’s not enough. Today, Old Town still displays replicas of two Mountain Howitzer cannons that Confederates used against Union soldiers in the Skirmish of Albuquerque, as well as a plaque describing the cannons.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry announced Monday that some Confederate imagery on Old Town Plaza, including a Confederate flag, would be removed. Berry announced his plans in a long Twitter post this afternoon. “Those who consider the flag and artifacts to be nothing more than markers of history, should consider those who are deeply offended by the Confederate flag flying in Old Town because they view it as a celebration of an ideology that did not recognize all men as equal and an affront to those who died to ensure freedom for all,” he wrote. Still, Elder Michael Jefferson, who organized a coalition of community leaders and lawmakers around the issue, called on Berry to remove all Confederate-related imagery in Old Town. “We commend the Mayor for removing the Confederate flag and some of the Confederate imagery in Old Town,” Jefferson wrote in a statement Monday evening.