An event called Peace Talks, hosted by the Black New Mexico Movement, educated attendees on how to register to vote, ways to vote and the history of Black voters being oppressed and how they believe it can be seen today.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 enforced the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing bureaucratic restrictions for Black voters. These restrictions included poll taxes, literacy tests and other obstacles.
“They also risked harassment, intimidation, economic reprisals and physical violence when they tried to register or vote,” according to ourdocuments.gov. “As a result, very few African-Americans were registered voters, and they had very little, if any, political power, either locally or nationally.”
This was only 55 years ago, said Barbara Jordan, president of the Rio Rancho chapter of the BNMM. President Donald Trump is 74 years old, she said.
“We are not complacent anymore; we are in the driver’s seat now,” she said. “So, I need you to sit in the driver’s seat and I need you to make these people work for us.”
By “people,” Jordan means elected officials.
About 70 people attended the event Oct 3 at Rio Rancho City Hall.
At the event, a handful of counter-protesters stood in the back, holding Trump 2020, Back the Blue and American flags. The Observer asked several of them to comment, but they declined.
Some counter-protesters carried guns and shouted at speakers at times, but the Observer saw no one brandish the weapons or show physical aggression.
Erica Davis Crump began her speech by saying the land she stands on was stolen and Native American voters are also being oppressed.
“Who are you going to put in place? Who is the right person to work for you?” Davis Crump said.
Reflecting back on the administration of former Gov. Susana Martinez, Davis Crump said that was not the right person to work for her.
“All of a sudden, New Mexico is 50 out of 50 for education. What? All of a sudden we are ranking No. 2 in poverty in the nation. But she was over here having pizza and beer parties before the legislative session. These are your people; gather them,” Davis Crump said. “That is who you chose to work for you. Just because it is feminine to vote for females — look at their track record.”
Davis Crump suggested to attendees to get a sample ballot to read the fine print and understand what to vote for or against. She said mail-in ballots should be sent in by Oct. 20 to ensure they are counted.
Davis Crump said convicted felons of even minor crimes, like carrying cannabis, cannot vote. This is another example of how minority votes are being suppressed, she said.
Cannabis was decriminalized in 2019 under Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, but the law didn’t clear the records of people with previous charges. Voting rights after felony convictions vary from state to state.
In New Mexico, people convicted of a felony lose their right to vote until their completion of sentence, payment of fines and restitution. Then, a certificate of voting rights restoration is issued to restore their right to vote, according to state statute.
The event ended with Jordan’s speech. She said she should be a statistic after what she endured growing up. Jordan was abused by her mother her whole life, she said.
To escape the abuse, Jordan joined the U.S. Air Force with nothing but the clothes on her back she said. She served for 20 years.
Jordan said everyone overcomes something in life and that is why it is important to move forward. She went on to say it is also important to vote, and stand in the face of adversity.
“When we ask them to question racism, it is hard because they have to question their entire heritage. Can you imagine? I feel so sorry for them; I feel so sorry for you,” Jordan said.
It is time to rip the Band-Aid off, she said.
“There is no more hiding the disgrace,” Jordan said. “Everyone knows racism never went away. It just evolved in our workplace; it evolved into our school system; it evolved into our health-care system.”
She said BNMM will be back in Rio Rancho and Albuquerque.
“We will not stop. It is time to dismantle every racist system,” Jordan said.
After the speeches, members of both groups mingled and talked for a short while until BNMM founder La’Quonte’ “Te” Barry told everyone to go home.