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‘Our Black Lives Are Not A Political Statement:’ Fighting Racism In Rio Rancho

Hannah Colton / KUNM
Barbara Jordan speaks at a Black New Mexico Movement rally in Rio Rancho, Sept. 12, 2020.

Leaders with the Black New Mexico Movement have been out multiple times in the leadup to this election demonstrating for racial justice and working to get folks registered to vote. That’s what they were doing last month at a rally in Rio Rancho when their event was overtaken by counter-protestors. No More Normal executive producer Marisa Demarco spoke with BNMM organizer Barbara Jordan about her priorities this election season and racism in the city she calls home.


BARBARA JORDAN: I came here to Rio Rancho as my last assignment to retire out of the Air Force. I was stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base, and when I got here I was under the impression that I had found, you know, like a nice place to live and raise my child, for him to have his high school years.

MARISA DEMARCO: I attended, to cover, the Sept. 12 Black New Mexico Movement demonstration.

JORDAN: We were met with so much anger, you know, from Trump supporters who were trying to make it a political event. People may have heard me say: my life is not political, our Black lives are not a political statement. But they tried to make it about that.

DEMARCO: Yeah, and it's not lost on me that what we was looking at was a voter registration drive. There's two tables, there's people making speeches and a little PA, there's what, maybe 50 people out there in support of you? We're looking at a rally for racial justice, versus a Trump rally.

JORDAN: Right, exactly. I'm assuming that just because the event was put on by Black New Mexico Movement, that's where the problem lies. These people are out here with their Trump-Pence signs and they're trying to convert the American flag into their racist symbol. You know, I served this country for twenty plus years, so that's my flag. And they love to use the word "patriot." I'm like, "how, where?" Because last time I remember, I was the one in Afghanistan fighting for this country, getting shot at, with bombs going off, to support this country. Not the people who are over there holding up a Trump-Pence flag. If our presence bothers them that much, just imagine what they do day-to-day to people of color. Imagine - if one of them is a teacher - what my child, what other people of color have to go through in the classroom. And so they really showed me what Rio Rancho is all about. And we're going to continue to fight against the raceism here, no matter what. I'm not going anywhere.

DEMARCO: One thing that's happening right now that I'm hearing a lot of people talk about is: [Joe] Biden and [Kamala] Harris, are these really the people who are gonna enact the kind of policy changes that we need to see?

JORDAN: I tell people, we have to get back into the driver's seat of politics, right? And that starts with our local government on up. But right now we have an administration that is not even open to the idea of equality. And that's a problem.

DEMARCO: What are some policies you think people need to be aware of and that need to be part of campaigns on a local level or national level?

JORDAN: Are we going to recognize implicit bias in the medical community? Are we going to recognize that our schools in the lower economic areas, that they need money, too, for improvement? Not just the privileged kids. Are they talking about mental health in these schools? So those are the issues that are dear to me. Of course, along with systemic racism. Defunding the police. People hate to see the word defund, but I often re-explain it like, "Why would I continue to put money into a system that is killing my Black and Brown brothers and sisters?" We need to get back to that community type policing, and I just don't see why any police department needs militarized weapons.

KUNM: If you had one last thing to say about what's at stake in this election, [what would it be?]

JORDAN: We have to make a move to begin to dismantle the blatant, open racism. For those people to say, on September 12, "get out of our city," reminded me of Jim Crow days. And it reminded me that racism has never went away. It only evolved, okay. And so we have got to get out there and vote and dismantle this systemic racist system from the top down, and from the bottom up. Our lives depend on it.


This interview originally aired as part of our show No More Normal. Find the full episode below.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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