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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

MLK group never asked City for "free" lunch

Jewel Hall, the president of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Task Force, vehemently denies requesting any monetary support from the City of Albuquerque for it's annual celebration much less sponsoring a full meal for the event. The celebration, held on Jan. 16, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, honors high school students by awarding individual $1000 college scholarships. Students compete for the scholarships by entering an essay contest sponsored by the MLK group. The City recently withdrew it's support of the event claiming that they could not meet the groups demands for sponsoring a full meal for the event and that they were going to start "bundling 'black events'". Hall claims her organization never made any monetary demands whatsoever on the City or  the Mayor's office.
"In previous years there was a liaison from the City named Joyce Pullian who helped coordinate the "Unsung Heroes" (an award given to outstanding unrecognized community heroes) portion of the program," explained Hall.

Last June the organization received a letter from Pullian stating that she was resigning as City liaison and would no longer be participating in the event. Pullian retired shortly afterward. Hall called Tito Madrid, Constituent Services Director to Mayor Berry, and asked who would be taking Pullian's place.
"He said, 'No one as long as Renetta Torres is on the Board of Directors'," claims Hall.
Torres, who's been on the board of directors for 20 years, has had a successful relationship with the City until her son Christopher Torres was shot in the back three times by Albuquerque Police Officers last April. APD claims that the two APD officers involved in the shooting, were in the process of serving Christopher a warrant for road rage. An altercation ensued in the backyard of  the Torres house in which Christopher allegedly reached  for one of the officers guns. Hall alleges that the information she received from the Torres family stated that Christopher was first handcuffed, laid face down on the ground, and shot in the back three times until dead.
The grieving family promptly filed suit against the City and filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Hall claims Renetta even offered to resign from the board so that the City would continue it's sponsorship of the event.
"I said, 'No! You've been on the board for 20 years!'", says Hall.

In a phone interview, Madrid stated that Hall expected for the City to foot the bill for the MLK celebration's lunch. "They wanted more than just a snack tray and we weren't prepared to do that,".
Hall firmly states that all the organization asked was that the City provide program folders, a welcome letter from Mayor Berry, letters of recognition for the 29 scholarship recipients, and help serve refreshments.

According to Hall, Madrid's replacement, Doug Luzt informed her that the city would be "Taking care of all of the 'black events' in one bundle.". When asked what was meant by 'bundling black events' and if the City was going to start "bundling" "Mexican or Hispanic events" both Gardner and Madrid were at a loss for words.
"We are a multicultural group, not just a 'black group'", exclaimed Hall, "This celebration is about community and coming together to celebrate cultural diversity.".

At a recent City Council Meeting, the city awarded a group run by former city employee, Catherine McGill and "New Mexico Need to Know" Journalist, Gene Grant, $10,000 to promote Black History Month.

The City is currently embroiled in a discrimination lawsuit filed by the Albuquerque Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

This year's Martin Luther King Jr. celebration will be held on Jan. 16, 2012, from 1 to 3:00p.m., at Congregational Albert on 3800 Louisiana NE. Admission is free.


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