The Southern Christian Leadership Conference
New Mexico Chapter


MLK Jr. Luncheon speakers:  Talk, 'treating others needs as holy vital among races'   

Gary Herron

Posted: Wednesday, January 21, 2015 8:00 pm

By GARY HERRON 

Former University of New Mexico football player Marcus Goodloe makes a point during his keynote speech at the event.

Although there’s probably no place in America that’s exempt from an outbreak of the racial violence that erupted in Ferguson, Mo., last summer, the Rev. Dr. Charles Bicknell Sr., of Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church in Rio Rancho, said he’s confident that wouldn’t be the case in the City of Vision.

Becknell’s remarks came during the fifth annual Martin Luther King Jr. luncheon Monday at Club Rio Rancho, where close to 300 people crammed into the dining room to remember the late Dr. King and celebrate his legacy. King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968.

When African-American teen Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9, a series of protests and civil disorder erupted the next day. The unrest — including vandalism, arson and looting — sparked a vigorous debate about law enforcement’s relationship with African-Americans and use-of-force policy there and nationwide.

“(What happened in Ferguson) has really set us back,” Becknell said. “I think the major problem is we didn’t dialogue: When people stop talking, that’s when we have problems — and people work on assumptions. Even in marriage counseling, you know, when people stop talking, that’s when trouble starts.

“Here in Rio Rancho, we’ve got a situation where I’ve got a pipeline to the police chief,” he said. “If something happens, we can get on this right away and start talking. There’s no substitute for dialogue.

“That’s why race relations in this country are so splintered — because we don’t talk to each other.”

Becknell said he knows a lot of young people today don’t know as much as they should about the work of King, or even Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color line in 1947.

“It saddens me, on one hand, but it also challenges me on the other hand. People of my generation have not done a very good job of educating those who are coming up behind us,” he said. “It’s the forgotten part of American history. But there are other avenues that we can use to educate: We can do it through the home; we can do it through the churches.

“Parents hold the key; lessons can be learned at the feet of mom and dad,” he added. “And we’re not teaching those lessons.”

Becknell said his church, at 4848 Huron Drive, “has a small congregation, and we do have those conversations with our young people.”

“Recapture the Dream” was the theme for this year’s luncheon, and guest speaker Marcus Goodloe spoke about King’s legacy, saying King had “called for a renewed commitment” and offered three questions that could bring about change:

• Are we willing to ask others for help?

“We need each other,” Goodloe said.

• Are we willing to treat the needs of others as holy?

“This is the measurement,” he said.

• Where do we go from here?

“Chaos or community?” he asked.

 “I call us to a better place,” the former University of New Mexico football player said. “Love wins the day — and hate loses. … Seek justice, love (and) mercy; walk only with God.”

Although Goodloe’s remarks lasted only 29 minutes, he received a standing ovation.  “Marcus, you hit a home run,” Becknell declared. “You reflect a lot of ideals of the Southern Leadership Council.”

With Black History Month, celebrated every February, around the corner, Becknell urged Rio Ranchoans to see the movie “Selma.”

 The movie is based on the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights marches, which included King, portrayed by David Oyelowo. It premiered at the American Film Institute Festival on Nov. 11, began a limited U.S. release on Dec. 25, and expanded into wide theatrical release Jan. 9 — two months before the 50th anniversary of the march. (It’s at Premiere Cinemas in Rio Rancho.)

 “Selma” had four Golden Globe Award nominations, including Best Motion Picture, and also was nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Song at the 87th Academy Awards. “Go see it,” Becknell said. “A lot of the people they portray in that Selma march, I sit next to on that national board — they’re still around, and they talk about Selma.

 “There’s only one portion of the film I’m not sure about,” he said. “I don’t think (former President) Lyndon Johnson was portrayed in the way that he should have been portrayed. … You shouldn’t take liberties with history.

“I tell my class (at UNM) Lyndon Johnson was one of the best friends the black community ever had. He may have been crude, he may have been a Southerner — he may not have been able to say the word Negro, but he was a solid fellow right down the line.”

Local African-American leader calls on  
governor for more support 

By Deborah Baker / Journal Staff Writer 

PUBLISHED: Sunday, July 19, 2015 at 12:02 am 

Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal 

SANTA FE – A Rio Rancho clergyman and civil rights leader faults Gov. Susana Martinez for not speaking out after the recent murders in a South Carolina church, a criticism her spokesman labeled “ridiculous.” 

BECKNELL: Wants blacks in more positions (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal) 

The Rev. Charles Becknell, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of New Mexico, says the governor’s lack of public comment underscores what he views as the Republican governor’s frayed relationship with the state’s African-American community. 

The nine South Carolina victims – including the pastor, who was also a state senator – were gunned down in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston last month, allegedly by a 21-year-old white man who had joined them at a Bible study class. 

The governor did not issue a public statement. But she “was, and is, heartbroken by the tragedy and senseless violence that occurred in South Carolina,” spokesman Chris Sanchez said. 

“She has personally called Governor Nikki Haley to offer her thoughts, prayers and support. (She also praised Gov. Haley for her decision to call for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina capitol),” Sanchez wrote in an email. 

The flag was removed from outside the South Carolina Capitol on July 10. 

Meanwhile, some African-American Republican lawmakers commended the governor’s outreach and efforts, and said the blacks she has tapped during her tenure have been very strong appointments. 

But Becknell, the pastor of Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church in Rio Rancho, wrote to Martinez on June 23, saying many predominantly African-American churches in New Mexico were grieving the Charleston killings and “need to hear from you … need this expression of concern from your office.” 

In an interview with the Journal, Becknell reiterated his long-standing criticism of the governor for what he contends is her failure to appoint black New Mexicans to high-level positions in state government. 

And he said he wanted Martinez to “just bring some comfort to the people and let us know she understands what we’re going through.” 

He said he got no response to his letter. 

Sanchez said it was “shameful” for Becknell “to try to use a national tragedy to score political points on other issues.” 

 Martinez, who is in her second term, ran into criticism early on for cuts she made to the $5.4 billion state budget that included vetoing the entire budget of the African American Performing Arts Center at Expo New Mexico. 

There are currently few – if any – blacks, who according to census figures account for about 3 percent of the state’s population, in the highest-profile posts such as Cabinet secretaries, university boards of regents, and influential financial boards. 

The governor had appointed Conrad James of Albuquerque, who is black, to the University of New Mexico Board of Regents in 2013, but he resigned after he was elected the following year to the state House of Representatives. 

There are also administration-appointed African-Americans serving as deputy secretary of the Corrections Department; as executive director and in other positions at the Office of African American Affairs, which was created under the administration of Republican Gov. Gary Johnson; as general counsel in the Department of Indian Affairs; and as commissioners of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission. 

“I do think the governor has made some substantial efforts,” said James, a Republican, who pointed to what he said is the improved statewide outreach and coordination with business and community leaders that has given the Office of African American Affairs a higher profile. 

“I think she may not have appointed enough (blacks) in their eyes, but the folks she has appointed have been very qualified,” said Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert, a Republican House member from Corrales who is black. 

The lawmaker also said there has never been a governor who has satisfied every group. 

“I’m a legislator. I wish we could get her to do everything we wanted,” Powdrell-Culbert said. 

But former state Treasurer James Lewis, a Democrat twice elected statewide, said “I think there has been some real concern that we aren’t being included, as African-Americans.” 

“The (population) numbers should not dictate the representation,” said Lewis, whose 38-year career in government included being chief of staff to Gov. Bruce King. 

Bishop David Cooper, senior pastor of New Hope Full Gospel Baptist Church in Albuquerque, said he isn’t critical of Martinez for not issuing a statement, but he agrees it would have been appropriate for the state’s highest-elected official to say something in solidarity. 

“I think that some of the leaders in our community are sensitive to what they believe is a lack of interaction as it relates to the governor’s office,” Cooper said. 

But “talk with follow-up” is the most important thing, Cooper said. He suggested that New Mexico look again at issues such as racism, hate crimes, treatment of mental illness, gun violence and the accessibility of guns. 

“I just think there needs to be additional discussion on the issue of race,” said Harold Bailey, former executive director of the Office of African American Affairs. 

“Racism is alive and well, and it’s going to continue to be alive and well if we do not address it openly and come into the discussion with an open mind.”

Hundreds attend MLK luncheon at Star Center

By ANTONIO SANCHEZ  Observer staff writer 
Jan 24, 2016

 

Antonio Sanchez
Guest speaker LaDonna Harris addresses MLK luncheon attendees.

Top of FormBottom of FormHundreds of people attended the fifth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Luncheon on Jan. 18, the MLK national holiday.  The event was held at Santa Ana Star Center and organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of New Mexico. The luncheon featured recognition of King’s work by Mayor Gregg Hull, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich. Five children gave presentations about King’s legacy and what it meant to them, and selections were sung by the MLK mass choir. Keynote speaker and Comanche social activist LaDonna Vita Tabbytite Harris spoke about the importance of collaboration and communication between Native Americans and other minorities, both in New Mexico and on a national-level.