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‘Pushing forward’: New Mexico Black Leadership Council honors five with Asante Awards

Kumbuka celebration in 2020. (Courtesy of the New Mexico Black Leadership Council)

Despite the pandemic, Shawna Brown kept pushing forward.

As the deputy director for special projects of the New Mexico Black Leadership Council, she knew it was important to keep the message of community moving forward.

That’s why the organization is presenting two events that celebrate Black leaders in New Mexico.

“I’m happy we continued the journey,” Brown says. “It’s important. We, as a nation, experienced a lot and justifiable civic unrest. Our projects are representative of that and pushing forward.”

The organization will host “Asante Awards: Barrier Breakers” virtually at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21. Registration is at

The New Mexico Black History Festival – now a program of the New Mexico Black Leadership Council – launched the Asante awards in 2015, when the Powdrell family was recognized for having one of the first Black-owned restaurants in New Mexico.

This year’s recipients are New Mexico Court of Appeals Judge Shammara Henderson; District Attorney Gerald Byers of Doña Ana County; state Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins; Sen. Harold Pope Jr.; and US Eagle Federal Credit Union President and CEO Marsh Majors.

“This year is also important to us because it’s the 10th annual New Mexico Black History Festival,” Brown says. “We’re proud of that fact.”

With the celebration of the festival’s first decade, the organization will also present “Kumbuka Celebration: Decades Deep” at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 26 virtually.

Brown says the Kumbuka celebration will reflect on the past 10 years of the New Mexico Black History Festival and recall the theatrical performances that the community came to know and love.

“Though we can’t yet gather in our favorite theaters, we’re bringing theater to you,” Brown says.

The event will include access to a celebration featuring the past cast and crew members of “For Colored Girls” and “Roots Revival,” as well as highlights from “The Wiz.”

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