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 Feb 17 - 23, 2005 


African-American Day at the State Legislature

Supporters and activists converge on Santa Fe for a celebration of Black history and culture in New Mexico

By By Stacey Adams and Gwyneth Doland
Students watched from upper levels of the rotunda, and endured near-constant shushing from the grownups. They probably took more blame than they deserved, as the voices of the many staff and lobbyists mingling behind them carried throughout the echo-prone room.

Black community members, activists and dignitaries gathered early Friday morning in the rotunda at the state capitol.
Buffalo soldiers Tom Johnson, Ken Doss, Victor Smith and George Carter present the U.S. and New Mexico flags. All four men are retired members of the Air Force who dress in the uniform of the Buffalo soldiers and bring living history into classrooms and events. (Buffalo soldiers were 19th century regiments of black soldiers assigned to duty on the frontier; They were nicknamed Buffalo soldiers by native Americans who noted their wiry, dark hair and fiery demeanors.)
Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D-Albuquerque), chats with Bishop W.C. Green after his invocation in the Rotunda. Williams Stapleton is one of two African Americans in the Legislature. The other is Jane E. Powdrell-Culbert (R-Corrales).
Santa Fe Postmaster General Ruben Romero and African American Day Program Chair Lanthia Gillespie unveil a poster of the new Marian Anderson commemorative stamp, the 28th in a series of Black Heritage stamps released by the U.S. Postal Service. Students gathered in the rotunda listened as Romero spoke about how, in 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Anderson, the nation's first classically-trained singer, to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. He went on to recount how Eleanor Roosevelt then resigned from the DAR and arranged for Anderson to sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a concert that was attended by 75,000.

In the Roundhouse lobby, Charles Powell admires a display of plaster casts made of famous Blues musicians' faces. A postal worker from Albuquerque, Powell said he usually works the night shift, but asked for Feb. 11th off so he could come to Santa Fe for the celebrations.
Members of West Mesa High School's Black Student Union gathered on the Roundhouse patio after lunch.
Legislators and guests were amazed by the sight of the Bethlehem Baptist Church mime group, as they performed a silent accompaniment to a gospel song about the sacrifices of Jesus. Here Andre Johnson (left) and Kalod Gardely (right) act out Jesus dying on the cross.
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