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Hispanic activist defends record, program support

As a leader of several organizations at the local, state and national level for many years, I am compelled to set the record straight and bring forward the truth. There have been many misleading and false statements made about me in the media concerning a letter I wrote to UNM President Garnett Stokes on July 20.

An Associated Press reporter wrote many inaccurate articles about me from July 22-July 31 and never once called me to ask a question about my letter to Stokes. I never once called for the elimination or censure of Chicana/Chicano Studies, Native American Studies or Ethnic Studies. In fact, those words or programs were never mentioned. (The reporter) injected his own thoughts in the articles and twisted the facts based on his own agenda.

My letter was simply a request for a meeting with Stokes and her staff. Our meeting would have included representatives from various community organizations. This is how we have held meetings with her in the past. We planned to address a variety of issues concerning our community. We have met with every UNM president since 1995, including Presidents Peck, Gordon, Garcia, Caldera, Schmidly, Frank, Abdallah and Stokes. For example, I called then-President Chaoki Abdallah about ultra conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos being brought to speak at UNM in 2017. We asked Abdallah to cancel this talk because it would raise the level of hate and intolerance at UNM for years to come. Abdallah told me he did not want to cancel the program because he would be viewed as censuring free speech. This discussion with UNM leadership is an example of our efforts in trying to prevent hate.

The July 20 letter to Stokes was only a request for a meeting that would have included many people with input by all participants regarding current issues. We should all collectively call for an end to any activities that promote hate. I never once called to eliminate nor censure Chicana/Chicano Studies, Native American Studies or Ethnic Studies. In fact, I helped to elevate the Chicana/Chicano Studies program at UNM to a full department awarding bachelor’s and advanced degrees. I helped the Albuquerque Public Schools institute its Ethnic Studies program in 2017. We have always advocated very strongly for these programs because we understand the positive impact they have on student life, living and learning.

My record speaks very clearly for itself in always trying to elevate Chicana/Chicano Studies, Native American Studies and Ethnic Studies. I have years of documentation to prove it. My record also speaks very clearly in trying to eliminate hate speech. I will always stand by what I have done in support of our communities.