Gov. Susana Martinez zeroed out funding for the African American Performing Arts Center and Exhibit Hall with a line-item veto on Friday, April 8. “We were very surprised,” says Joby Wallace, president of the center’s board of directors. “We had no idea this was going to happen.”
No one had come from the Governor’s Office to look at the programs, she says, and when the funding was dropped, no one called the center. “We had to read it in the paper like everyone else.”
It took about 12 years of diligent work and lobbying before the center opened its doors in June of 2007. It got a $379,000 yearly operating budget from the state, which Wallace points out, is the least that any museum receives. “We just started, so all our money was from the state.”
The center was home to performances as well as art and cultural exhibits. It also served as a meeting spot for a variety of African American groups and hosted several academic programs, including tutoring, reading, science and robotics, Wallace says.
Three employees may lose their jobs.
The move is a slap in the face to African Americans, she says. “We’re 3 percent of the state’s population, and we’re excluded from a lot of things. This is just another thing to add on and say, You don’t count. We can no longer sit around and accept it. We have to do everything we can to get her attention and let her [Martinez] know, we don’t like the way we’re being treated.”
The funding runs out in June, but the foundation has raised some money, and the center is going to try and stretch it as long as possible. Community members are going to ask Martinez to restore the funding at a budget hearing in September. In the meantime, they’re raising awareness with demonstrations.
Tomorrow at 11:30 a.m., protesters will gather at the corner of Central and San Pedro and march to the center at 310 San Pedro. Joining the march will be the Commission on the Status of Women, which also lost its state funding, labor unions, teachers and LULAC.
The demonstration is the first in a series. Wallace says they plan to also hold events in Hobbs and Alamogordo, and they’ve requested a meeting with the governor.