Diana Fletcher of the Kiowa tribe sits protected within the University of Oklahoma's Western History Collection Library. The photograph preserving her image shows signs of age—curled and frayed edges, dappled discoloration—but her face is strongly in focus and as bold as the day it was printed.
People tend to think there's no African-American presence in New Mexico, says Rita Powdrell. The only time you might catch an exhibit about their history in the Southwest is during Black History Month, she adds. "But it's not in your school systems," she says. "We've been here since as long as the Spaniards have been here. We've had quite an influence on the culture of the state."
Susan Luna spent several months last year traveling around New Mexico, photographing African-American families. She snapped shots of them in their churches, schools and homes to create a portrait of the Black community across the state. Starting in February, her artwork will be on display at the African American Performing Arts Center and Exhibit Hall at Expo New Mexico to celebrate Black History Month.
The thing about Black history is that it’s not just Black history. Africans and the African Diaspora have interacted with and had an influence on every culture and country on Earth. The history of Black people is also the history of America, inextricably linked through good times and bad since before our nation was a nation.