INAUGURAL LAUNCH AND COMMUNITY CELEBRATION
Contact: Cathryn McGill FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Phone: (505) 407-6784
Cell: (505) 681-7468
New Mexico Black Leadership Council
The New Mexico Black Leadership Council (NMBLC) is hosting an open house this Thursday, January 16th, to present an initiative aimed at building a viable and sustainable social profit sector for the local African American community. The function will happen from 4:30p-7:00p at the NMBLC offices at 1258 Ortiz Dr. SE in Albuquerque, southeast of Nob Hill. It will be led by founder Cathryn McGill and other council board members.
The purpose of the council is to directly address some of the prevalent issues and concerns in the black community. Using a hub-and-spoke model, the council has defined five areas to focus on:
- Cultural Vibrancy – tourism, artistry/creative expression, LGBTQ+ engagement
- Health – mental, physical, and financial wellness
- Positive Youth Development – Roots Conservatory, mentorship projects
- Advocacy & Civic Engagement – 2020 Census, violence intervention
- Leadership & Workforce Development – leaders’ townhall, internships, succession planning
Back in 2014, Cathryn was a part of a local research project funded, in part, by the Kellogg Foundation called AACETS (African American Community Economic Transformation Study). The result of AACETS led to three recommendations: establish a leadership development institute, build a communications network infrastructure, and create a hub organization to act as both a financial and capacity-building support base for the local African American community. The NMBLC is intended to fulfill the last of those recommendations.
Cathryn began organizing the council last fall when she realized that most community organizations are volunteer-led which meant, “You’re working with well-meaning people on nights and weekends, so you have competing priorities. In order for us to change the game for blacks in New Mexico, we need to have [people] whose job it is to go and address some of these prevalent social issues. It can’t be done with volunteer work; we can’t ask people to do it for free.”
Cathryn is joined on the council’s board by Shawna Brown, founder of Young Black Professionals of Albuquerque; Dr. Wanda Padilla, CEO of A Better Life Now; Antavius Greathouse, a professional financial planner; Dr. Stephanie McIver, founder of the NM Black Mental Health Coalition and Director of Counseling at UNM Student Health & Counseling Center; and Dr. Finnie Coleman, President of the UNM Faculty Senate, among other local black activists, intellectuals, and influencers. Cathryn welcomes participation with and on the council and is enthused by the local response so far. “We welcome everybody, from all walks of life. It’s been amazing what’s started to happen.”
In fact, there are plans to work in the future with other local groups like the long-established Office of African American Affairs (OAAA) and the newly-minted African American Chamber. In that way, the NMBLC would fulfill its capacity as part of a well-regarded study about “thriving community structures” which Cathryn references. The study notes that it’s necessary to have government, business, and nonprofit (social profit) sectors working in synch to affect sustainable, cohesive social change. The NMBLC hopes to interact with these other groups for the benefit of the entire local black community.
Besides youth development programs, Cathryn notes another “hot-button issue” is mental and behavioral health of African Americans. “We have to start talking about our mental health issues. Because of [what] we’ve experienced, we’re dealing with depression, with anxiety, and with the trauma of racism inflicted on us by racist policies and being invisible. We’re trying to make the invisible visible.”
Which brings up another crucial concern for the NMBLC—the US Census. A Census projected-participation graph recently distributed by Governor Lujan-Grisham’s office left black New Mexicans out of consideration in what’s arguably the most important sociopolitical experience impacting the next decade. The graph was meant to address Census outreach, compliance, and engagement for historically under-served communities, but black New Mexicans were nowhere to be found on it. Cathryn, who serves on the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Complete Count Committee, asks “If every person counts,” then why weren’t black New Mexicans on the graph? The NMBLC’s response to this persistent negation is to work hard to “convince black people that our participation in the Census is about justice. It doesn’t have to do with helping the government, but helping yourself.”
The road has been long for many of the council’s board members, but the goals are clear. “We’ve been focusing on deficits and we’re now focusing on asset-based strategies. We’re not going to people saying ‘Give us money because we’re black,’” Cathryn insists. “We’re saying ‘We’ll have what they’re having.’ What you’ve been doing for other communities, we expect you to do for us based on our merit,” as a community.
Cathryn and the council want the NMBLC to incite “interventions in the community which aren’t transactional and discrete but transformational,” so that action is taken on the above-mentioned topics, from the Census to behavioral health, to children’s literacy.
Cathryn notes that, “Because of the prevalent tricultural narrative, black New Mexicans have been left out of the political, social, and cultural landscape, just as a matter of course. But there’s been no organized strategic effort to say we must change that narrative and shift the focus so that it includes everyone.” With the efforts of the NMBLC and its allies, Cathryn hopes to affect that change.
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If you’d like more information about the NM Black Leadership Council, or to schedule an interview with Cathryn McGill, please call (505) 407-6784 or email firstname.lastname@example.org