Alamogordo Town News Artist Showcase: Meet the “Milk and Honey” Creations of Kathryn Cecava

Roadrunner Emporium Fine Arts Gallery, Antiques and More, 928 New York Avenue, Alamogordo, New Mexico is proud to showcase craft persons and artists that are #ExclusivelyAlamogordo –

Meet the “Milk and Honey” Creations of Kathryn Cecava. She is one of our exclusively showcased crafters who experienced the adventure of living in Alamogordo since 1957, except for the four years spent in Nebraska pursuing a Masters degree.

Kathryn’s showcased business is named “Milk & Honey,” because her creations are designed for use in the kitchen where the milk and honey flow.

She loves to create new things from old things. She repurposes the vintage beauty of hand embroidered items by combining them with the usefulness of a kitchen towel.

The artistic outcome becomes a warm and beautiful focal point in the kitchen – a true work of practical and functional ART.

Roadrunner Emporium is open 10 am and NOW at NIGHT till 7 pm Monday thru Thursday and 10 am until 8 pm Friday and Saturday.

Kathryn’s Milk & Honey creations are exclusively at the Roadrunner Emporium Fine Arts Gallery, 928 New York Avenue, Alamogordo and are showcased with many choices of colors and patterns.

Come and select one from a variety of choices showcased that are crafted as #ExclusivelyAlamogordo.

See the video of Kathryn’s creations:

#Alamogordoarts #AlamogordoMainStreet #LocalCrafts #AlamogordoArtist #AlamogordoRise #NewYorkAvenueAfter5 #2ndLifeMedia #RoadrunnerEmporium

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July is Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Awareness Month. Help is Out There! Reach for It!

This month was originally designated by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008 to honor the legacy of prolific author, teacher, and advocate Bebe Moore Campbell. 

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Awareness Month serves as an opportunity for us all to raise awareness of the unique mental health needs of people of color.

What happens at the intersection of mental health and one’s experience as a member of the BIPOC community? While the experience of being BIPOC in America varies tremendously, there are shared cultural factors that play a role in helping define mental health and supporting well-being, resiliency and healing.

Part of this shared cultural experience — family connections, values, expression through spirituality or music, reliance on community and religious networks — are enriching and can be great sources of strength and support.

However, another part of this shared experience is facing racism, discrimination and inequity that can significantly affect a person’s mental health. Being treated or perceived as “less than” because of the color of your skin can be stressful and even traumatizing. Additionally, members of the BIPOC community face structural challenges accessing the care and treatment they need.

According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, BIPOC adults in the U.S. are more likely than white adults to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress, such as sadness, hopelessness and feeling like everything is an effort. BIPOC adults living below the poverty line are more than twice as likely to report serious psychological distress than those with more financial security.

Despite the needs, only one in three BIPOC adults who need mental health care receive it. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Mental Health Facts for African Americans guide, they are also:

  • Less likely to receive guideline-consistent care
  • Less frequently included in research
  • More likely to use emergency rooms or primary care (rather than mental health specialists)

Barriers To Mental Health Care 

Socioeconomic Disparities
Socioeconomic factors can make treatment options less available. In 2018, 11.5% of BIPOC adults in the U.S. had no form of health insurance.

The BIPOC community, like other communities of color, are more likely to experience socioeconomic disparities such as exclusion from health, educational, social and economic resources. These disparities may contribute to worse mental health outcomes.

Stigma
Negative attitudes and beliefs towards people who live with mental health conditions is pervasive within the U.S. and can be particularly strong within the BIPOC community. One study showed that 63% of BIPOC people believe that a mental health condition is a sign of personal weakness. As a result, people may experience shame about having a mental illness and worry that they may be discriminated against due to their condition.

For many in the BIPOC community, it can be incredibly challenging to discuss the topic of mental health due to this concern about how they may be perceived by others. This fear could prevent people from seeking mental health care when they really need it.

Additionally, many people choose to seek support from their faith community rather than seeking a medical diagnosis. In many BIPOC communities in the U.S., the church, mosque or other faith institution can play a central role as a meeting place and source of strength.

Faith and spirituality can help in the recovery process and be an important part of a treatment plan. For example, spiritual leaders and faith communities can provide support and reduce isolation. However, they should not be the only option for people whose daily functioning is impaired by mental health symptoms.

Provider Bias and Inequality of Care
BIPOC people have historically been negatively affected by prejudice and discrimination in the health care system in the US. And, unfortunately, many BIPOC people still have these negative experiences when they attempt to seek treatment. Provider bias, both conscious and unconscious, and a lack of cultural competency can result in misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment. This ultimately can lead to mistrust of mental health professionals and create a barrier for many to engage in treatment.

BIPOC people may also be more likely to identify and describe physical symptoms related to mental health problems. For example, they may describe bodily aches and pains when talking about depression. A health care provider who is not culturally competent might not recognize these as symptoms of a mental health condition. Additionally, BIPOC men are more likely to receive a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia when expressing symptoms related to mood disorders or PTSD.

How To Seek Culturally Competent Care

When a person is experiencing challenges with their mental health, it is essential for them to receive quality care as soon as the symptoms are recognized. It is equally important that the care they receive is provided by culturally competent health care professionals.

While we recommend seeking help from a mental health professional, a primary care professional is also a great place to start. A primary care professional might be able to provide an initial mental health assessment and referral to a mental health professional if needed. Community and faith organizations may also have a list of available mental health providers in your area.

When meeting with a provider, it can be helpful to ask questions to get a sense of their level of cultural awareness. Providers expect and welcome questions from their patients or clients, since this helps them better understand what is important in their treatment. Here are some sample questions:

  • Have you treated other BIPOC people or received training in cultural competence for BIPOC mental health? If not, how do you plan to provide me with culturally sensitive, patient-centered care?
  • How do you see our cultural backgrounds influencing our communication and my treatment?
  • Do you use a different approach in your treatment when working with patients from different cultural backgrounds?
  • What is your current understanding of differences in health outcomes for BIPOC patients?

Whether you seek help from a primary care professional or a mental health professional, you should finish your sessions with the health care professional feeling heard and respected. You may want to ask yourself:

  • Did my provider communicate effectively with me?
  • Is my provider willing to integrate my beliefs, practices, identity and cultural background into my treatment plan?
  • Did I feel like I was treated with respect and dignity?
  • Do I feel like my provider understands and relates well with me?

The relationship and communication between a person and their mental health provider is a key aspect of treatment. It’s very important for a person to feel that their identity is understood by their provider in order to receive the best possible support and care.

More Information

  • If finances are preventing you from finding help, contact a local health or mental health clinic or your local government to see what services you qualify for. You can find contact information online at findtreatment.samhsa.gov or by calling the National Treatment Referral Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357).

In collaboration and permission of the Trevor Project we share some thoughts…

This BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, the Trevor Project collaborated with several individuals who are LGBTQ people of color to offer advice to youth on how to navigate the intersections of their identities and protect their mental health. HRC Foundation and the University of Connecticut released the largest-of-its-kind survey ever of more than 12,000 LGBTQ teenagers across the nation, revealing in distressing detail the persistent challenges so many of them face going about their daily lives at home, at school and in their communities.

LGBTQ youth of color and transgender teenagers experience unique challenges and elevated stress — only 11 percent of youth of color surveyed believe their racial or ethnic group is regarded positively in the U.S.,

and over 50 percent of trans and gender expansive youth said they can never use school restrooms that align with their gender identity;

More than 70 percent report feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in the past week;

Only 26 percent say they always feel safe in their school classrooms — and just five percent say all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ people;

Sixty-seven percent report that they’ve heard family members make negative comments about LGBTQ people
But there is help in the thoughts of others:

“Healing begins with you, and it is quite a journey as well, but it is worth it. You are worthy of so much. Always remember that.”
“I have learned that I do not need to find an exact mirror of myself in order to be valid or to find kinship and community. I can find resonance within myself, and I can find pieces of myself within others.”
“There is space for who you are and who you identify as. And that space that you probably know and want to explore is exactly where you will begin to flourish.
“Being honest with who you are and how you feel is a big step into being confident in who you are and how you feel.”
“I wish someone told me that it’s okay to not be perfect all the time. I wish someone would’ve said to me, ‘go live your life unapologetically. You MATTER.”
“I believe that while life saving organizations like The Trevor Project fill gaps in mental health infrastructure, we can all do our part to destigmatize mental health conversations in our own context.”
In Alamogordo there are options for help:
Crisis And Access Line Call for support and resources1-855-NMCRISIS (662-7474) Toll Free 24/7/365 

NEW MEXICO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH DOH
Address: 1207 8th Street Alamogordo, NM 88310Phone: 575-437-9340Fax: 575-434-6629


Alamogordo Mental Health Associates · Mental health service 2474 Indian Wells Rd A · (575) 682-5270

PMS- Alamogordo Family Health Center – Behavioral Health  Mental health clinic 1900 E 10th St · (575) 437-7404

The Counseling Center Inc· Mental health service501 24th St · (575) 488-2500

There is no shame in mental health assistance. If you are depressed or at risk seek help!

Sourced: The Trevor Project,  Department of Public Health New Mexico, Otero County Department of Public Health, National Institute of Mental Health, Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health

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New Mexico’s Couy Griffin Slaps at the Legitimacy of Native Americans Voting and their Struggles and History

“I think the Recall for Couy Committee should look at the legal side of it because those signatures they get on the Mescalero Reservation, I don’t see how they could be used in a recall if I’m already been banished,” Griffin told a local radio station during an interview on July 13 that he questions the legality of the signatures gathered on the Mescalero Reservation since he was banned last fall.

Griffin apparently has forgotten or is unaware of the plight to vote for Native Americans or that there is even precedent for elected officials to be banished from stepping foot onto a reservation, but the Native American Voters still have the right to vote for or against that individual, even if the individual is banished from tribal lands represented.

Native Americans see themselves as patriots. They’re the demographic with the nation’s highest participation in military service. Yet profound differences separate some of their values from those of mainstream America. Many Indigenous people do not support the dominant society’s fiercely maintained system of racial and financial privilege of which Griffins comments allude to. Platforms with health- and community-focused planks are what interest most Native American voters per polling and Mr. Griffins absences from the district, focus on Cowboys for Trump and infatuation with the Trumpian theology don’t bold well for most Native American voters within the district.

The banishment of Couy Griffin from the Mezcalero Apache Reservation was an act, by the tribe, to get his attention. The banishment was to let him know of their displeasure in his actions as a representative in local government. Though driven by his rhetoric, the tribe’s stance of banishment is statement of his ineffectiveness as a leader of the community. The tribe clearly understands the recall is based upon his actions and potential ethics violations and not his rhetoric and as such allowed the signature drive for recall to proceed on their tribal lands.

Leaders build bridges between diverse groups and advocate for their needs. An act of banishment is a statement that he has been ineffective in representing their voice within county government if even at all.

The banishment of a political leader by a Native American tribe is not to be taken lightly and there is precedent for such actions. Couy is NOT the first politician to face a banishment and not the first to question voting rights of Native American citizens.

A most recent example of a tribal banishment is by the Oglala Sioux tribe in South Dakota, Via banishment they told the state’s governor that she was no longer welcome to access the Pine Ridge Reservation, one of the largest in the country, because she signed bills that allegedly target Keystone XL pipeline protesters. The tribe’s president, Julian Bear Runner, informed Gov. Kristi Noem of the council’s unanimous decision in an open letter.

Tribal banishment is a permanent ban from the reservation, and violations are punishable by law with fines or even jail time on their lands. Tribes have sovereign rights over their lands per Federal treaties however they also participate in county and state elections. Federal law allows for what one might deem as dual citizenship the right to participate in tribal elections as per the tribes constitution and the right to participate in local, state and federal elections via rights granted to all citizens within the US constitution.

Voting Rights of New Mexico’s Native American Population:

Miguel Trujillo Sr. had been a Marine sergeant in World War II and was in the middle of getting his master’s degree from the University of New Mexico. But there was one thing he still could not do. Trujillo could not vote. In 1948, the state’s constitution barred American Indians living on reservations from participating in elections. So, that summer, the Isleta Pueblo educator waged a legal battle that culminated in a court ruling 74 years ago that won Native Americans the right to vote in New Mexico.

Even though the federal government had granted citizenship to Native Americans back in 1924, the New Mexico Constitution still barred them from voting. The state’s constitution expressly prohibited from voting “idiots, insane persons, persons convicted of felonious or infamous crime unless restored to political rights, and Indians not taxed.”

That last part referred to Indians living on reservations because they did not pay property taxes on their land. It is unclear whether Native Americans could have registered to vote if they lived outside reservations.

But the provision disenfranchised many and prompted condemnation from the President’s Committee on Civil Rights in its 1947 report. The provision did not make any sense, the committee said. That line in the constitution was written before American Indians were granted citizenship, but they were paying taxes to the state and federal government like other citizens.

Protests against this ban, the report noted, had only gained force as American Indian veterans returned to civilian life after World War II.

It was amid all of this that Trujillo went to the Valencia County Clerk’s Office in June 1948. Family have said Trujillo had grown up with the county clerk, Eloy Garley, but knew he would not be allowed to vote in any event. Sure enough, he was turned away. In turn, Trujillo went to court with the help of Felix Cohen, a former federal official who had become a prominent civil rights lawyer and was working with tribes in New Mexico.

They filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court focusing on that one strange qualifier in the state constitution. For one thing, Trujillo’s lawsuit argued, he paid plenty of taxes. No, he did not pay taxes on his land. But he paid income taxes and sales taxes. There are other voters who don’t pay property taxes, too, such as renters. But no other group has been barred from voting on the basis that they do not pay property taxes.

On Aug. 3, 1948, a panel of three judges in Santa Fe sided with Trujillo granting Native American voting in New Mexico.

“We are unable to escape the conclusion that under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments; this constitutes discrimination on the ground of race,” the court said in its ruling. The cruel irony that Trujillo had just served in the military but was denied the right to vote was not lost on the court, either. Native Americans, the court said, “have responded to the need of the country in time of war in a patriotic wholehearted way, both in furnishing manpower in the military forces and in the purchase of war bonds and patriotic contributions of that character.” “Why should they be deprived their rights to not now because they are favored by the federal government in exempting lands from taxation?” the court asked.

With that, American Indians had the right to vote and petition in New Mexico in any election for any candidate like other citizens.

And vote they do. In the most recent election voters elected a record-breaking six Native American congressional candidates to serve in the US House of Representatives. Native candidates also won dozens of races in state and local elections across the country.

In New Mexico at the state level 9 candidates ran…

  1. WON: Anthony Allison, Navajo Nation, State House 4, Democrat
  2. UNOPPOSED: Doreen Wonda Johnson, Navajo Nation, State House 5, Democrat
  3. WON: Derrick Lente, Sandia & Isleta Pueblo, State House 65, Democrat
  4. UNOPPOSED: Georgene Louis, Acoma Pueblo, State House 26, Democrat
  5. WON: Patricia Roybal Caballero, Piro Manso Tiwa, State House 13, Democrat
  6. WON: Shannon Pinto, Navajo Nation, State Senate 3, Democrat
  7. WON: Benny Shendo Jr., Jemez Pueblo, State Senate 22, Democrat
  8. WON: Brenda McKenna, Nambe Pueblo, State Senate 9, Democrat
  9. LOST: Gertrude Lee, Navajo Nation, New Mexico Court of Appeals, Position 2, Republican

There are almost 3600 members of the Mescalero Apache tribe of which a large percentage live on the reservation and are located within Couy Griffins District. By law each have the right to sign the petition if a registered voter in the county the tribe’s people like ANYONE registered to vote in Otero County District 2 can sign the recall petition, including those registered voters on the Mescalero Reservation.

If Griffin is removed from office, the New Mexico Constitution states that Lujan Grisham may appoint a person from any political party to the seat. The appointee must be from Otero County District 2, Governor’s Office Spokeswoman Nora Sackett said.

The New Mexico Constitution is not as specific as the statement from the Governor’s spokesperson however there is precedent in appointments, and it would be politically prudent for the Governor to appoint within the district thus the statement from her spokesperson.

The Committee to Recall Couy Griffin is setting precedent in New Mexico history as there is not a record of a recall effort that has garnered this much attention nor seen the successes to date of this effort. To learn more about the recall effort visit:

https://www.facebook.com/RecallCouy/

Signatures at the Reservation are being gathered…

Friday, July 16:

Mescalero, Apache Reservation at the Chiricahua Plaza parking lot from 10 am – 4 pm

Saturday, July 17

Mescalero: Chiricahua Plaza parking lot from 10 am – 4 pm

Note: Story Revised on 7/16/21 at 6:09 pm per request the author has remove the call letters and named interviewer referenced in the story per a call request. While the record of the call is in the public airwaves we respect the request and have done so accordingly. 

To hear audio of the interview with Couy Griffin of New Mexico follow the link https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FSgtChez%2Fposts%2F10219254270935110&show_text=true&width=500

New Mexico’s Couy Griffin Recall Status Update

As we reported on June 28th, 2021 the New Mexico Supreme Court cleared the way to allow the political action committee that is leading the effort to recall Commissioner Couy Griffin could go forward.

In follow-up, about two weeks since the ruling, the committee has begun circulating a petition and gathering signatures within his district to recall Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin from public office as a commissioner in Otero County.

The non-partisan Committee to Recall Couy Griffin consists of an equal number of representatives of both parties with a charter to collaborate for the removal of Griffin for the greater good of the overall county. Partisan politics has been put aside to work together for what the group deems is the common good of Otero County, the district, and Southern New Mexico.

The group is not focused on his removal due to rhetoric and outlandish statements, which are in themselves unappealing and lack dignity. Though the statements are unappealing and show a level of ignorance that does not shine well upon the county for business recruitment, they are not the basis of the recall.

The committee and the Supreme Court ruling affirmed that the focus of the recall effort of Griffin was for using his elected county position for personal gain and a variety of other charges.

The committee assert in their brief before the New Mexico Supreme Court that, Griffin used his office space to solicit contributions to Cowboys for Trump that covered his personal expenses. They also are criticizing Griffin’s pursuit of travel reimbursements from taxpayers for a cross-country trip that culminated in a visit with Trump at the White House. Additional causes for recall argued were Griffin’s attendance of Otero County Commission meetings by phone rather than in person, his banishment from the Mescalero Apache Reservation along with alleged use of Otero County Commissioner offices for personal business.

Griffin has called those allegations” frivolous, baseless and politically motivated” per his many public rebuttals. Griffin says that the Cowboys for Trump is a for-profit endeavor and as such that is not subject to financial disclosure requirements for political organizations. The state of New Mexico ruled against this assertion affirming that Secretary of State may go after him and the organization for failure to comply with New Mexico political reporting laws.

Since the positive ruling signature gathering has moved forward to get the question of recall on the ballot. AlamogordoTownNews.com reached out to the Committee to Recall Couy Griffin to get their assessment of how the effort is going. We presented committee spokesperson Scott Fredrick with questions for an update…

AlamogordoTownNews.com – Do you have any updates on the recall effort?

Scott Fredrickson – “We had good traffic this weekend at the La Luz and Tularosa locations. Only 2 people came to the locations that did not support our efforts, but they were nice and with discussed our case with them.

AlamogordoTownNews.com – When and where are the next signature drives?

Scott Fredrickson – We have a meeting Monday night to discuss the next weeks efforts. The committee will be at Veterans Park in Tularosa again next Sunday, July 18th from 1 to 4 at a minimum.

AlamogordoTownNews.com – Do you anticipate meeting the deadline to get the question on the November general election ballot?

Scott Fredrickson – “We have been told that we need to have the signatures to the clerk by August 5th to have them validated in time for the recall to be in the November general election. We are going to do all we can to prevent having a special election at an additional cost to the taxpayers.”

AlamogordoTownNews.com – What is the deadline to qualify for a special election of the August deadline is missed?

Scott Fredrickson – “We have 90 days from July 1st (September 28th) petition initiation date to get them to the clerk.”

AlamogordoTownNews.com – Has Couy Griffin been in touch with your group in the last week?

Scott Fredrickson – “We have not had any contact with Couy other than one of our committee members briefly spoke with him during a break at the county commission meeting last week.”

AlamogordoTownNews.com – Has the group encountered any recent hostility?

Scott Fredrickson – “No.”

AlamogordoTownNews.com – You are now the acting spokesperson for the Committee to Recall Couy Griffin, for what reasons are you involved in this effort and what is your community and political background?

Scott Fredrickson – “I am involved in the effort because I voted for Couy and do not like how he has represented me as a commissioner. I feel he spent too much time in his Cowboys for Trump role to effectively tend to the needs of Otero County. I live in District 2 and I am active in local politics because I want what is best for the local area. I am a registered Republican and ran for the city commission in the last Alamogordo District 2 election. I retired from the US Air Force 5 years ago and stayed here because we like the area and I work for Holloman.

Mr. Fredrickson concluded, “Our committee has 5 Republicans and 5 Democrats, and we are a non-partisan organization. Our goal is to get a commissioner who will work for Otero County and not bring negative press to the local area.”

The recall initiative is moving forward. The committee is in the parks and around County Commission District 2 gathering signatures. Couy Griffin is at present attending Commission meetings but is also embroiled in multiple lawsuits that are a distraction from serving his constituents.

Today, Couy Griffin is divorced, disparaged by family, and confronts a political recall drive, a state corruption investigation, and federal charges. He is charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, according to a United States District Court criminal complaint. In Washington, prosecutors unveiled photographs of Griffin climbing a toppled fence and another barrier to access the Capitol steps.

Griffin has been rebuked by many Republicans over his racial invective. He’s also been suspended from Facebook and banished from Native American lands in his district as he contests charges of breaking into the Capitol grounds and disrupting Congress that could carry a one-year sentence. A recall effort is underway, amid a plethora of lawsuits.

The New Mexico Secretary of State says that Cowboys for Trump operated by Couy Griffin qualifies as a political committee, amid its parades on horseback and merchandise sales in support of Trump. The secretary of state’s office prevailed in a June arbitration and appeal to court decision that ordered Cowboys for Trump to register, file expenditure and contribution reports and pay a fine of $7,800.

According tp the Santa Fe New Mexican Jan 18, 2021 “New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said he intends to see Griffin removed from his elected office. Balderas said his office is aiding the federal investigation into Griffin, 47 — who is charged with knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority — while also gathering evidence for a criminal probe into Griffin’s time on the Otero County Commission.”

“We’re hopeful the federal prosecution will move rather quickly and the evidence presented there will help make the case for his removal clearer,” Balderas said Monday. “The general public should be outraged about what he’s been able to do while in office.”

The two other County Commissioners; Gerald Matherly and Vickie Marquardt — both Republicans have asked Couy Griffin to please, just resign, so they can focus on the county’s business without distractions and drama.

At a commission meeting in April the drama and debate around Griffin intensified with both Republicans making statements that he needs to leave.

Matherly was clear about his position, “We have gone through many days of drama, with our staff and my office. I’ve received threats myself because of your actions. This is office supposed to be taking care of county business, and I don’t think you should be using county property for Cowboys for Trump business and filming personal videos. Every time we have county meetings, it turns into a meeting about Couy Griffin’s personal life and has nothing to do with county business.”

Marquardt didn’t hold back either, “How many hours do you think you actually spend on county business each week? You generate hate that rains down on this county, and we have to deal with it,” she said.

Griffin said that everything he did under the auspice of Cowboys for Trump was for the good of the county. “It was to represent the conservative values of Otero County.”

Griffin continues in defiance against all odds but now it is up to the voters of District 2 to decide. 

The question each voter should ask themselves…

Is the District better off since Couy Griffin was elected to his position?

What value has he brought to the district?

Has Mr. Griffin enhanced employment opportunities, recruited new businesses personally or via commission directives? What has he done to lower the poverty rates in his district?

Is he a good spokesperson for Otero county to recruit good paying jobs, tourism and new development?

Is he devoting a majority of his time to local constituent concerns?

If not allowed on the reservation, how does he represent their interests within the county and participate in collaborative dialog?

What has he done to improve the lives for our children since being elected?

What has his done that improves the lives of seniors and the middle class in his district since being elected?

The poverty rate for Otero County is 21.2% with the high number of individuals living in poverty, located in District 2, what has he done to help solve the issue of poverty since being elected, and how much time and how many speeches has he given specific to this topic since being elected?

Are you better off now then before he was elected?

If the responses to most of the questions above are positive, then he is your commissioner. If the answers to most of the questions above, are he has not impacted the issue, has not addressed the issue or has not proposed solutions and work towards them in district and on behalf of his constituents then the citizen should sign the petition for his recall.

Those who participate make the decisions. Be informed, participate, make a difference for yourself, family, and friends and for future generations. What we do today impacts tomorrow. The future of your district and of business growth and wealth creation for you, your family and future generation may indeed be impacted by this very recall effort.

Is Couy Griffin worth the gamble for the future of District 2 and Otero County? District 2 registered voters of all parties, that is up to you to decided.



Artist Corner – Five Questions with Alamogordo New Mexico’s Artist Marty H Torres

We met the Alamogordo based artist Marty H. Torres recently after viewing her expanded works of art now showcased at Roadrunner Emporium Fine Arts Gallery, Antiques and more, 928 New York Avenue Alamogordo, New Mexico. Mrs. Torres showcases her collection of eclectic paintings and fine art pieces in an incredibly unique and well executed corner of Roadrunner Emporium. Her works stand out as many of her works begin with an acrylic base, but she adds other media to give a three-dimensional look. Some of her works are quite whimsical such as her Wizard of Oz inspired collection of paintings or the Charlie Chaplin inspired painting. Other are much more serious such as a few of her paintings highlighting Native Americans and her Sailor and Woman painting which is compelling yet sensual.

We began our interview asking about her upbringing and her history of how she got into the world of the creative arts…

Photo of the works of Marty H Torres On Exhibition at Roadrunner Emporium Fine Arts Gallery, Antique and More 928 New York Avenue Alamogordo New Mexico (Photo by Chris Edwards AlamogordoTownNews.com)

Marty H Torres was born and raised in El Paso Texas, and her appreciation for art began in the 6th grade. Her teachers saw her work and told her to continue her art studies in High School. She was strongly encouraged and supported by her in high school and college. Upon their recommendation she continued her studies with a focus on arts. Throughout her artistic career she has studied interior decorating, fashion design, art, visual merchandising, small business management, sales, and makeup artistry in El Paso.

She explains that she loved the arts but as a youngster she was also a tomboy, so her dad sent her off to charm or finishing school at an El Paso institution called Mannequin Manor. The school made famous as Model and Actress Susan Blakely of El Paso was a graduate in the 70s of the same school prior to her successful modeling and acting career.

Most of her post-secondary studies were of Art Institute of El Paso but upon moving to Alamogordo she studied at New Mexico State University NMSU where she studied art, ceramics, and theater and did backstage makeup artistry as well.

In addition to her passion for painting and works on canvas she also has a passion for dance. While in El Paso she performed dance for Viva El Paso, where she danced tap, ballet, modern dance, Spanish dancing, and dancing w/ castanets.

Most of her professional career was as a visual merchandiser of which she did for 33 years. In addition, she was a Makeup Artist for Estee Lauder and Clinique and Elizabeth Arden for 14 years.

She says her life has always been about art, “really in my life was a lot of Art. I love every minute of it. I love to talk to people and hear about their life and what they love in life. If you have a talent, your talent is God gift to you. What you do with it, is your gift back to GOD,” she explained.

We concluded our interview with 5 questions for the artist…

How would you describe the work you create?

Marty H Torres: “I would suggest my art comes from my heart. Sometimes I have dreams about my art and will stretch it out and paint it onto canvas. So many times, what is on the canvas reflects a dream I have had or another world I crossed into in my dreams.”

What message do you want to get across with your artistic work?

Marty H Torres: “I want to let everyone know that anyone can do art. Even if you can only draw a stick person it can be beautiful so someone. Art is beauty. I sometimes paint nude people; some people think that is bad but its not. The human form as an artistic form is beauty and God’s creation. Where one’s mind is, is what one sees when they interpret art. What one sees from their perspective may not be the message the artist is trying to convey. My art is about happiness and beauty from within. Some artist paint sadness. The point is an artist should express themselves and paint what they feel. My artistic expression is to paint what I feel and in doing so I thank God every day for giving me the ability and the talent to express myself via art.”

How did you come to mixing textures, media, and colorful designs into your paintings? What is your favorite media or canvas?

Marty H Torres: “I love acrylics, charcoal, pastels and oils. My favorite is charcoal and oil. When you paint with oils, you can always go back the next day and change the painting or add to it, because oils take an awfully long time to dry. Charcoal is also incredibly fun to use and allows you to easily blend colors. I love bright colors as well as exclusively black and white paintings. I love to wear black all the time as Black is Beautiful.”

Do specific colors, forms or subjects have specific meaning to your works?

Marty H Torres: “Depending upon what I am going to paint, and my mood is, at the time, is what defines my works. Sometimes it could be a person, other times a flower or animals. Sometimes I want an abstract or Picaso tyle looks it all depends on what I am feeling at the moment. Each work has special meaning to me, and I pour my heart onto the canvas in an expression of love.”

Did the goals of your artistic work change during Covid-19 and do you have advised for any aspiring artists?

Marty H Torres: “No, I really think the lock down period helped me paint more and do more at home and to think more positively about life and the future. I worked more at home doing more paintings, decorating, working on my yard and a mural for my house. Life is too short not to make the best of every moment and do what you enjoy doing regardless of what is happening around you.

I know for many Covid-19 was scary and is scary and dangerous to many. But do not let it take over your life and prevent you from doing what you want to do to express yourself or expand your inner self. Learn to enjoy life regardless of circumstances, be happy and live life.

I am a candle lighter. I pray often for those around me that I know and those I do not know. Be good, be nice, be happy. If you are not an artist, just try something artistic, you might actually like it and find out how much fun any form of artistic expression can actually be.”

With that that concluded our interview with Marty H Torres. It was a pleasure and a joy to see how passionate she was and the beauty she sees in everything around her. A portion of her collection of works are on exhibition and for sale daily downstairs of Roadrunner Emporium Fine Arts Gallery, Antiques and More, 928 New York Avenue Alamogordo, New Mexico. Drop on by and see her fine works of art and that of several other artist, sculptured artists, photographers, antiques dealers, jewelers and more.

Repression to Freedom an Interpretative Art Installation Window Display by Coach & Artist Rene Sepulveda

Repression to Freedom

an Interpretative Art Installation by Coach & Artist Rene Sepulveda

In celebration of America’s freedom Artist Rene Sepulveda presents “Repression to Freedom” an interpretative window display showcasing the natural beauty of the white sand’s region and a natural view of freedom.

The art installation is composed of all-natural elements of fallen tree stumps, recycled metals, and other earthly elements to create a natural desert scene of color and beauty.

The scene begins with a fallen barbed wire fence. The tree stump it is attached to is an actual original barbed wire fallen fence representing the struggle of confinement and the repression of the barbed wire. Within the installation the barbed wire manifests itself into a scorpion representing change in the forms of death and rebirth. The Scorpion indicates there are lessons of our past lives that die off. Note the scorpion is reaching to leave the scene whereas the bluebirds look down from their corner perch onto the desert scene as a symbol of hope, love, and renewal as a part of many Native American legends. They are complimented by the nest of wise desert owls within the turquoise cholla cactus representing the wisdom of the desert. Along the fallen woods nestling into the tree trunks is the colorful gecko representing self-protection and re-growth that humanity and nature goes through. The customary gecko circle symbolizes the natural cycle of life.

The dominance of the turquoise coloring, center to the exhibit represents strength, skill, or even invincibility of the natural elements of the desert.

Center to the exhibit is the manifestation of the Native American designed turquoise accented pot with the turquoise tree root. containing the hanging gourds of sand pouring endlessly into the white sands symbolic of our never-ending unity with nature and the natural elements of the desert.

Throughout the exhibit are Roadrunners. The Roadrunner is a sign of Epiphany, Illumination and that something in our life has been healed on the spiritual and physical levels. The Roadrunner is a sign to the completion of a phase, a transformation of goal in life. The several Roadrunners in the scene symbolizes how we move forward to new and greater horizons. That within the desert we move on with renewed hope.

The scene ends with large moss-covered tree trunk of copper coloring and hanging above it is a Zia with an eagle soaring through the outline of the Zia. The Zia sun symbol represents the four cardinal directions, the four seasons of the year, the four period of each day (morning, noon, evening, and night), and the four seasons of life (childhood, youth, middle age, and old age) paired with the soaring eagle. The eagle caps or completes the artist installation with its acute eyesight, the eagle has come to embody an all-seeing EYE. The eagle is the solar symbol linked to the Zia thus representing the sky gods. It signifies inspiration, release from bondage, victory, longevity, speed, pride; and is the emblem for release from the constraints of the bondage of the barbed wire at the beginning of the installation.

As our eyes pull away from the artistic beauty of the display we are left with a feeling of renewal and hope from the sands of the desert to the vast sky above us.

New Mexico led the way to today’s NCAA announcement that it will allow athletes to earn money.

$1.5 billion annually, that’s how much college football’s 25 most valuable teams earn in combined profit in an average year, according to Forbes‘ most recent “College Football’s Most Valuable Teams” list.

College sports generates a tremendous amount of money for universities, but college athletes have long been given little more than a scholarship in return.

Polling has consistently shown a majority of Americans believe college athletes should be paid more though, and NCAA officials have started showing support for allowing players to profit off the use of name, image and likeness, until today.

New Mexico Led The Nation

New Mexico SB 94. Titled STUDENT ATHLETE ENDORSEMENT ACT, Sponsored by Mark Moores, Bill B. O’Neill, and Antonio “Moe” Maestas passed the New Mexico Senate with 39 yes votes and 0 no votes on 2/19/21. The bill then passed the New Mexico House of Representatives with 43, yes votes and 21, no votes.  The governor signed the bill into law on 4/7/21 to take effect July 1st, 2021.

The text of the actually bill signed by the governor is available to read via the text:

The law goes into effect on July 1st, the same day that a similar law will go into effect in the state of Florida, becoming the first two states that will have the laws in effect. 

“The NCAA model is not working for the athletes who drive the product,” Lujan Grisham’s press secretary told the Albuquerque Journal following the pass of the bill on Wednesday.

New Mexico’s law includes that athletes can receive food, shelter, having medical expenses paid for by a third party, or making money based off the use of their name, image, and likeness. Meaning that athletes featured on billboards, in commercials, or in video games can now begin to make money without fear of being declared ineligible. Athletes can also hire agents to set up endorsement deals but cannot hire them to represent them in contact with professional teams.

A total of 10 state have similar laws taking effect in July based on the New Mexico model. The NCAA wants to have federal laws or its own permanent rules regarding the issue known as NIL, but was forced to seek a temporary solution rather than have athletes in some states eligible for compensation while others were not.

Without NCAA action, athletes in some states could be making money without putting their college eligibility in jeopardy while their counterparts in other states could be in danger of breaking NCAA rules.

The NCAA’s stopgap measure comes less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the association in a case involving education-related benefits. That 9-0 ruling is expected to impact issues related to compensation for athletes.

The NCAA cleared the way for athletes to profit off their name Thursday, the eve of legislation becoming the law in New Mexico and Florida that would allow for such compensation.

The expected approval from the NCAA Board of Directors came a few days after a recommendation from the Division I Council to allow athletes in every state to pursue compensation for their name, image and likeness without jeopardizing their college eligibility.

The NCAA’s stunning reversal came after California passed a Fair Pay to Play Act, which would go into effect in 2023. Other states are looking at possible legislation. The California law would allow athletes to sign endorsement deals and licensing contracts, something NCAA rule makers will address.

NCAA officials said they were aiming to have a nationwide rollout of the recommendations made among their 1,100 members.

Figuring out all the details of it, it’s going to be a challenge. It’s a much more complex issue than most people see it as. I think schools are going to be able to work through this process and come up with rules that makes great sense for the student athletes and allow universities to continue their collegiate model of athletics, NCAA Officials have said.

NCAA officials said the working group will continue to get feedback on how to deal with state legislation and that will help guide future recommendations.

A very interesting argument in favor of athlete pay was made by the New Mexico Law Review and can be found in the link below…

 New Mexico Law Review -Let’s Get Serious – The Clear Case for Compensating the Student
Athlete – By the Numbers
Neal Newman
Texas A&M University – School of Law

This move follows compliance to a New Mexico state law that takes effect July 1st. 

The New Mexico legislature found itself on the cutting edge beating out typical states such as New York, California or Washington State on a progressive approach to student athlete compensation. What is even more impressive is the bi-partisan support this bill got in the New Mexico legislature with unanimous approval by all New Mexico Senate Republicans and Democrats and example of true bi-partisanship.

The fallout to this new regulation will become a true headache for college coaches and compliance officers creating a whole new set of pressure on those professional staffs. It is conceivable with a superstar collegiate athlete whose likeness is used often could be high paid than the millions of dollars paid to college football coaches. That in itself will ultimately create an interesting dynamic that social scientist and college administrators will be studying for decades into the future. 

When it comes to sports we indeed do live in interesting times in the 21st Century. 

Oil and Gas Industry Funding of New Mexico Politics, Follow the Money…

What is reason big oil contributes so much to New Mexico and to the southern Congressional District? 

14 Congressional Districts produced roughly 80% of onshore U.S. oil and this district inclusive of Otero county is one of those mighty 14 districts.

New Mexico following a 19th Century Budget process of 21st Century needs…

New Mexico for the long term must look at revenue options to wean itself off oil and gas tax revenues but that is an uphill battle. Republican and Democratic leadership of the state has allowed oil and gas to fund such a large portion of government operations that they are fearful to tackle the industry too much as to disrupt the tax revenues the state has become overly reliant on. Over the years, the state’s budget has become increasingly reliant on oil and gas funds. In the 2020 fiscal year, that share was about $2.6 billion — just over a third of the state’s general fund. Since 2006, the state has used oil and gas revenue for at least 28 percent of its budget and sometimes as much as 37 percent.

New Mexico is following a 19th century tax and business model for 21st Century business and public needs. In the end this is a recipe for failure for failing to adapt the model of income generation for the state. New Mexico’s dependence on natural resources has been a feature of the tax structure since statehood in 1912. As decades passed, the resources being pulled from New Mexican earth changed what was once coal, then became uranium, then natural gas and shale oil but the economic model never changed with them times. Basically, the state is running with the same tax model as it did from 1912 but is facing 21st Century needs.

But how did the state become so reliant upon oil and gas money to fund its budgets? First the history as seen above then big money influence. All one must do is to just follow the money paid to political campaigns. Where political contributions go, so goes public policy, it would seem.

Oil and Gas industry money was the largest source of state campaign contributions in 2020, according to an analysis from New Mexico Ethics Watch.

Per New Mexico’s Ethics Watch Report Titled The Continuing Influence of the Oil and Gas Industry in New Mexico in 2020: New Mexico’s Long-Standing Resource Curse…

“In spite of Covid-19 and a state wide shutdown…money from oil and gas interests to New Mexico politicians and political organizations continued to flow, with almost $3.3 million from the industry going to political causes during this past election cycle.”

Between 2017 and 2020 the old and gas industry contributed $11.5 Million to politics in the state of New Mexico.

New Mexico Ethics Watch has documented and researched 98 corporations, 262 individuals, 23 associations, 11 PACs, and almost 100 lobbyists active in New Mexico political campaign fundraising from 2017-2020.

Oil and Gas Political Spending 2017 to 2020

$4.3 MILLION – DIRECT CONTRIBUTIONS
$3.75 MILLION – LOBBYIST CONTRIBUTIONS
$3.4 MILLION – PAC SPENDING
APPROXIMATELY $11.5 MILLION TOTAL

Oil and Gas CONTRIBUTORS to new Mexico Political Circles

98 CORPORATIONS
262 INDIVIDUALS
23 ASSOCIATIONS
11 PACs
~100 ACTIVE LOBBYISTS

A detailed report on campaign money from the oil industry can be found at https://www.nmethicswatch.org/uploads/1/3/6/2/136215453/oil-and-gas-report_05012020.pdf

As was the case in the previous election cycle, the California-based Chevron corporation overwhelming was the top source of political money for New Mexico politicians in 2020, spending almost $1.8 million last year. Chevron lobbyists alone gave $700,000 during the primary to a PAC called “New Mexico Strong,” which, despite its name, is based in Texas.

Have you ever wondered why our member of congress spends so much time in Texas? Follow the money. Over 70 percent of the oil and gas contributions to politicians last year came from out-of-state companies, individuals and committees.

Top 20 Oil & Gas Contributors, 2020 Amount

1 Chevron $1,786,198.90

2 Jalapeno Corporation $142,462.00

3 Exxon Mobil Corporation $117,550.00

4 Strata Production Company $106,500.00

5 Devon Energy $102,500.00

6 Marathon Oil Company $83,500.00

7 Occidental Petroleum Corporation $76,162.50

8 PNM $61,918.18

9 Concho Resources, Inc. $59,350.00

10 Bowlin Travel Centers $57,975.00

11 John Yates $53,500.00

12 John A. Yates Sr Trust $50,000.00

13 Peyton Yates $47,500.00

14 NGL Water Solutions Permian LLC $47,000.00

15 New Mexico Gas Company $45,750.00

16 Process Equipment and Service Co $45,181.50

17 Conoco Phillips $44,500.00

18 Marathon Petroleum Corp. $40,750.00

19 Charlotte Yates $40,000.00

20 Petro-Yates, Inc. $37,000.00

With a few notable exceptions, the top contributors list is composed of corporations. There’s a reason for that. New Mexico law, unlike federal law, allows for direct contributions to candidates by corporations, associations, PACs and individuals

Grouping the oil and gas industry political contribution numbers by election cycles, we see the following amounts:

• 2015/2016: $1,697,488

• 2017/2018: $3,101,581

• 2019/2020: $3,082,830

The California-based Chevron USA is one of the best-known oil companies in the world. It’s also one of the top oil producers in New Mexico, currently holding more than 1,600 active drill permits, some that have been in use since the 1930s, according to data from the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. The company also led the oil and gas sector in terms of political spending in the 2020 election cycle, just as it did two years earlier. In 2020, Chevron reported contributing $1,761,198.90 to candidates and political committees in New Mexico. Last year’s Chevron contributions came during a time in which the corporation was losing money – more than $11 billion in new income loss during the 12-month period ending in September 2020.

The top recipient of Chevron’s contributions in New Mexico last year was the political action committee New Mexico Strong, which received a total of $700,000 during the primary from the oil giant. The PAC used the money to produce ads, mailers, and other services for six conservative incumbent Democratic senators facing challenges from more liberal primary opponents. Four of those incumbents lost their primaries.

Chevron also contributed to several leadership PACs in New Mexico in the 2020 election. The company gave Republican PACs $94,300, with PAC 22, (the Senate GOP PAC) getting $50,000 and the New Mexico House Republican Campaign Committee receiving $44,300. But Chevron did not completely leave out Democrats during last year’s election. Chevron contributed $44,300 to the Brian Egolf Speaker PAC, $25,000 to the New Mexico Senate Democrats, $5,000 to the Senate Majority Leader PAC and $10,000 to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s MLG PAC. (The governor was not up for re-election last year.) The company also contributed to dozens of individual candidates in 2020. Chevron contributed $245,300 to Republican candidates and $108,800 to Democrats.

What is all of this money buying?

The industry’s reach stretches beyond campaign donations. Its power led to the demise of a bill that would’ve outlawed spills of produced water, a toxic byproduct of oil and gas drilling. In committee where the measure died, Cervantes blocked public comment on the measure but did give fossil fuel lobbyists a chance to explain why they opposed it, according to the New Mexico Political Report.

Oil and gas industry leaders have also been intimately involved in shaping the policies meant to regulate it – and even boasts about the number of edits it secures to new rules.

In a February presentation, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association told its board it had secured significant changes to a proposed rule for limiting methane pollution. The state accepted more than 70 of the trade group’s redline edits, NMOGA said, according to records obtained by the Energy and Policy Institute.

The “process has been fruitful,” the group announced.

Among the fruits of NMOGA’s nearly $1 million influence campaign was greater leniency on “emergency” exceptions for venting and flaring – referring to the releasing or burning off of excess methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The Future?

With the oil and gas industry providing such a big portion of state government revenues – not to mention providing employment for so many in southeastern and northwestern New Mexico – nobody is predicting the end of fossil fuel production in this state any time in the near future nor should we.

However, what is advocated is that we as citizens need to be wary of where the big money is going. We need to hold our candidates accountable for our wishes not just the wishes of big money contributors. We need to hold candidates accountable to be in their districts in New Mexico and ensure they are representing small business and local interests not just those of big business which is donating millions of dollars to their campaigns. As citizens we need to stay active and vocal and ensure our voice does not get lost in the fray to big money and big corporate political interests.

Attend city commission and county commission meetings, attend congressional and senatorial open houses. The Governor does not make most policy it is made locally and via the legislature. Know what each level of government is up to and hold representatives accountable to represent us, “we the people.”

Alamogordo Town News Positive News – Daily Affirmation: 6-27-21, 28 Days A Habit, 90 Days A Lifestyle

As we remind our readers, podcast listeners and partners daily concerning our affirmations; a habit is “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” Habits become a lifestyle a “glass half full” mindset becomes a lifestyle and that leads to permanent results. Science and real-world experience tell us that it actually takes a minimum of 28 days to begin to form a habit, but on average its really between 60 to 90 days. For most of us 90 days is a much more effective and realistic timeframe to incorporate a new behavior into our life, thus 90 Days To A Glass Half Full Lifestyle.

Our Daily Action Steps Are To:

  • Commit to taking 5 minutes each morning as you begin your day to read the daily quote.
  • If you are moved or inspired by the quote; share it in an email, phone call, conversation, text, tweet or on your social media network or platform. When we share something, it becomes more real to us.
  • In your own words write in a journal how the quote or thought applies to you or your circumstances, today. If it doesn’t write on your page the first thing that comes into your mind after reading the quote.
  • The end of the day, prior to bed, take 5 more minutes for yourself. Re-read the quote again and write or think of how you applied or took an action today with a person, situation or referenced the daily quote in mind. Reflect on the day, was there any event in the day where your thinking was impacted differently because of the quote or the affirmation.
  • Let’s have fun with the system and commit.
  • Now, Let’s begin with today’s affirmation:
“I DON’T HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL I FEEL READY TO ACT ON MY GOALS. THE TIMING WILL NEVER BE RIGHT; I AM READY NOW.”


Beginning of Day
: How’s the above quote apply to me or what comes to mind when reading the quote above?

End of day: Re-read the quote. Did I share the quote or apply any of its meaning into any part of my day? What issue or situation made me think of or refer to the quote above? Did it help me bridge a positive outcome or mindset?

We encourage you to write or journal your thoughts or reflections on today’s quote.

“I don’t have to wait until I feel ready to act on my goals. The timing will never be right; I am ready now.”

It’s your life, express yourself as your true and honest self and let’s work together for self improvement and a Glass Half Full mindset.

Author Chris Edwards lectures, has his podcast and writes. His book series 90 Days to a Glass Half Full Lifestyle is 3 part series that garnered much acclaim from many coming out of rehab and those coming out of incarceration and beginning anew. His other book series, book 1 Coach Bob Sepulveda The Early Days is an inspirational sport history of interscholastic sports in New Mexico. All of his books are found at fine independent book sellers such as Roadrunner Emporium, 928 New York Avenue, Alamogordo, New Mexico and available via Amazon in 36 countries.

Alamogordo Town News Special Report: Modifying the 13th Amendment Jobs & The Right Side of History

With the recent focus on Juneteenth, the public is familiarizing themselves with the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution. What is recognized and we were all taught in civics classes is that the amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. That at face value is true and 2 years after passage all states recognized that thus the Juneteenth celebrations.

What we were not taught in history class or civics was the loophole. In reading this article, you will learn history but also how that loophole benefits for-profit prisons but harms counties where they are located. The reader will learn, good paying jobs promised to the public are not created in the local community due to the loophole creating exploitations and ultimately harming local communities like Otero County and Alamogordo, robbing the community of those promised good paying jobs for the local citizens.

Few of us neither realized the amendment has a loophole nor paid it attention! A big loophole, that has allowed for exploitation, that few realize that still exists today…

The amendment reads:

Thirteenth Amendment

Section 1

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. The amendment was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the required 27 of the then 36 states on December 6, 1865, and proclaimed on December 18.

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones. – Nelson Mandela

The passage of the 13th Amendment was seen as a successful move to migrate the nation away from slavery. But southern business owners sought to reproduce the profitable arrangement of slavery with a system called peonage, in which disproportionately black workers were entrapped by loans and compelled to work indefinitely due to the resulting debt.

Peonage continued well through Reconstruction and ensnared a large proportion of black workers in the South and harmed wealth generation of black workers of which the repercussions of generational wealth loss are felt today.

These workers remained destitute and persecuted, forced to work dangerous jobs, and further confined legally by the racist Jim Crow laws that governed the South. Peonage differed from chattel slavery because it was not strictly hereditary and did not allow the sale of people in the same fashion. However, a person’s debt—and by extension a person—could still be sold, and the system resembled antebellum slavery in many ways.

With the Peonage Act of 1867, Congress abolished “the holding of any person to service or labor under the system known as peonage”, specifically banning “the voluntary or involuntary service or labor of any persons as peons, in liquidation of any debt or obligation, or otherwise.” However, forms of it persisted especially in the deep south until the 1940’s.

In 1939, the Department of Justice created the Civil Rights Section, which focused primarily on First Amendment and labor rights. The increasing scrutiny of totalitarianism in the lead-up to World War II brought increased attention to issues of slavery and involuntary servitude, abroad and at home. The U.S. sought to counter foreign propaganda and increase its credibility on the race issue by combatting the Southern peonage system. Under the leadership of Attorney General Francis Biddle, the Civil Rights Section invoked the constitutional amendments and legislation of the Reconstruction Era as the basis for its actions.

In 1947, the DOJ successfully prosecuted Elizabeth Ingalls for keeping domestic servant Dora L. Jones in conditions of slavery. The court found that Jones “was a person wholly subject to the will of defendant; that she was one who had no freedom of action and whose person and services were wholly under the control of defendant and who was in a state of enforced compulsory service to the defendant.” The Thirteenth Amendment enjoyed a swell of attention during this period, but from Brown v. Board of Education (1954) until Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co. (1968) it was again eclipsed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, has generated more lawsuits than any other provision of the U.S. Constitution. Section 1 of the amendment has been the centerpiece of most of this litigation. It makes “All persons born or naturalized in the United States “citizens of the United States and citizens of the state in which they reside. This section also prohibits state governments from denying persons within their jurisdiction the privileges or immunities of U.S. citizenship, and guarantees to every such person due process and equal protection of the laws. The Supreme Court has ruled that any state law that abridges Freedom of Speech, freedom of religion, the right to trial by jury, the Right to Counsel, the right against Self-Incrimination, the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, or the right against cruel and unusual punishments will be invalidated under section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment. This holding is called the Incorporation Doctrine.

However back to the 13th amendment and the concern of the exemption for penal labor from its prohibition of forced labor. This amendment allows prisoners who have been convicted of crimes (not those merely awaiting trial) to be required to perform labor or else face punishment while in custody. While on the surface that makes sense and does not sound like a bad thing, we must keep in mind this amendment was passed well before the idea of privatized for profit corporate run prisons.

Prison labor, or penal labor, is work that is performed by incarcerated and detained people. Not all prison labor is forced labor, but the setting involves unique modern slavery risks because of its inherent power imbalance and because those incarcerated have few avenues to challenge abuses behind bars. Free prison labor, or work that is performed voluntarily, can be a valuable activity but it becomes exploitative when there are elements of coercion, force, and threat of punishment against detainees.

The line between free prison labor and forced prison labor is difficult to define. The International Labor Organization (ILO) lists several indicators of free prison labor which, if absent, could point to conditions of modern slavery. These include the right to written consent forms, wages and working hours comparable to those of free workers, and standard health and safety measures. The ILO states that these factors must be considered “as a whole” to determine if prison labor is forced.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) discusses prison labor in its so-called Nelson Mandela Rules, which outline minimum standards by which to treat those incarcerated; rule 97 states that those incarcerated “shall not be held in slavery of servitude” and that they must be covered by the same wage, health, and safety standards as free citizens. That is very much different that the US 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

The United States, which has the world’s largest prison population, aimed to abolish slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment of 1865. But the Thirteenth Amendment echoes the ILO’s definition by allowing involuntary servitude—in the form of forced labor— “as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Meanwhile, American labor laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act exclude those incarcerated by classifying their working relationship as penal, not economic.

Incarcerated people are thus unprotected from forced labor. Activists have further pointed out that mass incarceration and racial profiling in the United States has led to African Americans being incarcerated at far higher rates than their white counterparts. With forced labor remaining legal as punishment for a crime, the legacy of slavery and racism persists in the U.S. industrial prison complex. In fact, organizers of a 2018 prison strike called their labor exploitation “prison slavery,” with those incarcerated being farmed out to local governments and companies to perform labor for just pennies a day.

The U.S. is one of several countries around the world where mass incarceration has in effect become an avenue for forced labor based with clear links to racial discrimination. Commentators have called the exemption of prison labor a “fatal flaw” in the 13th Amendment; indeed, almost immediately after its passing, states began to take advantage of it to continue to exploit black and brown communities. The practice continues to this day, with many major corporations complicit in using free, cheap, or exploitative prison labor in what has come to be known as the prison-industrial system.

As recently as this year and as close as El Paso we see where this labor is exploited to do jobs others will not do or do not want to do.

The El Paso Times reported: Low-level inmates from El Paso County detention facility work while moving bodies wrapped in plastic at one of ten refrigerated temporary morgue trailers in a parking lot of the El Paso County Medical Examiner’s office on November 16, 2020, in El Paso, Texas. The inmates, who are also known as trustees, are volunteering for the work and earn $2 per hour amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in El Paso. Texas surpassed 20,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths today, the second highest in the U.S., with active cases in El Paso now well over 30,000.

The recent surge in labor performed in prison has led to more people laboring in captivity than were enslaved 200 years ago. The surplus value that is created by the labor of prisoners takes a system that theoretically exists to protect society and turns it into one that steals the work of individuals and lowers the market value of all labor.

However, in the late 1960s and 1970s, the government increased its criminalization of dissent in America, which caused the skyrocketing of incarceration rates. Richard Nixon started his war on drugs, which was first used to crack down on Black activists. This led into the Reagan administration increasing the penalties for the possession of crack cocaine and other narcotics. Then in 1994, the Clinton Crime bill, championed by Joe Biden, resulted in the largest increase of incarcerated people in the history of the United States.

During this surge in mass incarceration, state and federal governments also started loosening the restrictions set in the 1920s and 1930s on private corporations using prison labor through the Private Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP), which was authorized by Congress in 1979. This program. which allows private industries to form partnerships with prisons to use inmate labor, is supposed to follow certain requirements, including paying a prevailing wage. However, wages under the PIECP program have been reported to be as low as 0.16 cents a day.

Over 4100 corporations use the PIECP program to profit from prison labor made available by mass incarceration. 385 of these are publicly traded, and include companies such as 3M, ACE Hardware, Amazon, Microsoft, and Northrop Grumman.

The connection between prison labor and racial discrimination is also clear in immigration detention. Immigration detainees are at particular risk of modern slavery; according to the International Detention Coalition, immigration detention tends to have extraordinarily little oversight and is “among the opaquest areas of public administration” worldwide. This lack of oversight allows for widespread human rights abuses against immigration detainees—including forced labor.

In the United States, immigration detainees, including refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants, are especially vulnerable because they are often held by private prisons. Whereas over 90 percent of the American prison population is held in state-run facilities, more than 70 percent of people in immigration detention are held in private detention centers.

Because they are for-profit and receive a fixed income from the government, these facilities are incentivized to cut costs and rely on detainees for much of their operation—paying them as little as a dollar a day.

Freedom United an organization that is fighting to change the 13th Amendment and is currently campaigning against Core Civic—the second-largest private prison and immigration detention company in the United States—which has been the target of several lawsuits for subjecting detainees who have not been charged with any crimes to forced labor, sometimes even under the threat of being sent to solitary confinement.

Per The Case Against Private Detention Facilities in New Mexico, Authors: Margaret Brown Vega, Lynne Canning, Nathan Craig, and Else Droof with contributions by Sarah Manges October 2020

In the 1990s, New Mexico witnessed one of the nation’s biggest surges in the use of private prisons, a national trend for which New Mexico was an epicenter. Privatization was intended to address overcrowding and poor conditions and accelerated when the State of New Mexico began to view private prisons as a development tool in rural areas. In New Mexico, the shift to private prisons came on the heels of the state’s worst prison riot, and one of the worst in the nation. Evidence of corruption in the state prison system, promises of reform, and cost cutting fed the private prison building boom.3

Additionally, the new facilities were built under the untested pretext that rural prison hosting would drive economic growth and create jobs. The early promises of improved conditions, cost savings, and economic development for New Mexico, however, were not realized by privatization. Department of Justice and Government Accounting Office reports show that private prisons provide almost no cost savings and what meager “savings” are achieved is accomplished by reduced staffing and lower wages both problems that have plagued New Mexico.

Otero County plays host to 2 for profit prisons – The Otero County Prison Facility and The Otero County Processing Center.

A recent study shows that Otero and Cibola counties, the two non-metro counties that host the largest number of private prison beds, do not have significantly lower unemployment rates than adjacent non-metro counties. The presence of multiple large private prisons in these counties objectively produces no meaningful change in unemployment. The majority of those employed at the two Otero County facilities live in El Paso, Texas, not Chaparral or Alamogordo, New Mexico. The employment boom that was promised when facilities such as the ones in Otero were built simply has not materialized.

In Chaparral, New Mexico advocates who visited the Otero County Processing Center spoke to individuals detained at the facility who did heavy landscaping work, laid foundation, and built a shade structure for staff, 20 performed welding, maintained, and repaired the building, and cleaned inside the facility, in addition to cooking, doing laundry, and providing haircuts.

These activities are all performed as part of the work program, in which individuals are paid $1 per day for 8 hours of work. Most if not all these tasks could easily provide much needed work for Chaparral or Alamogordo Otero County residents, but it is difficult for residents to compete with such cost-saving wages paid to detained immigrants.

The risk of incarcerated people facing forced labor is heightened dramatically during times of crisis. Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, state governments in the U.S. have relied on prison labor to produce essential medical supplies, including hand sanitizer and face masks, and stacking bodies as mentioned in El Paso. Those incarcerated face consequences for refusing to participate and typically earn less than a dollar a day, and are at high risk of infection given the low levels of sanitation and overcrowding in American prisons that makes social distancing impossible. The exploitative practices have been decried by critics as “nothing less than slave labor.”

Thus, the impact or repercussions of the 13th Amendment are even felt locally in Alamogordo and Otero County today. Those repercussions of low wage prisoners exploited by for profit prisons and doing many of the jobs that should be offered to local residence of Otero County at a living wage. But instead, what is happening is prisoners are exploited and those jobs in welding, construction and maintenance are not offered to the local citizens of Otero County and the promise of good paying jobs for the locals is lost.

Last week Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and Georgia Rep. Nikema Williams reintroduced legislation to close the prison loophole in the 13th Amendment. We challenge the congressional leaders from New Mexico Representatives Yvette Herrell, Melanie Ann Stansbury and Teresa Leger Fernandez to join the effort. We challenge New Mexico’s two Senators to lead the charge on the Senate side of the Legislature.

Why? Because it is the right thing to do, for profit prisons are exploiting the incarcerated.

Why? Because for profit prisons are exploiting the incarcerated and keeping good paying and skilled jobs away from the local citizens of Otero County and other counties in New Mexico for which these jobs should be offered.

Why? Because this is not just about civil rights, or human rights but it is about jobs in the state of New Mexico and throughout the nation that should be offered as livable wage jobs to the public for which these institutions have settled for business operations.

Author Chris Edwards, Sourced and quoted content from: MSNBC, US Constitution, Wikipedia, Freedom United, Freedom United Project, The Real News.com, The Case Against Private Detention Facilities in New Mexico, Authors: Margaret Brown Vega, Lynne Canning, Nathan Craig, and Else Droof with contributions by Sarah Manges October 2020. Oxford, Andrew. “New Mexico Trying to Recover $3.6m from Private Prison Company.” News. Santa Fe New Mexican, August 20, 2018. http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/new-mexico-trying-to[1…, Julian. “Lawmakers Want Answers from Ice, Contractor Regarding Covid-19 Outbreak at Nm Jail.” Border Report, August 18, 2020. https://www.borderreport.com/hot-topics/migrant-centers/lawmakers-want[…. El Paso Times, Alamogordo News, Prison Legal News

About Chris Edwards author of Removing Barriers to State Occupational Licenses to Enhance Entrepreneurial Job Growth: Out of Prison, Out of Work Paperback, speaks from the point of view of criminal justice reform and there are significant references to the impact on post incarcerated individuals of the existing framework of Occupational Licensing and how reform will assist in job creation. The proposed reforms come from a standpoint of job creation and improving entrepreneurial opportunities within California and beyond. This book is fact based with significant documentation and research and is a personal plea for reform to not only California legislators but those across the nation.

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