1/19/2011

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Residents r…

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Residents reflect on rights abuses overcome — and work ahead
By Sandra Baltazar Martinez | The New Mexican 1/17/2011 Christine Johnson still remembers when a Woolworth Five & Dime store in Richmond, Va., refused to serve blacks. "We went to Woolworth's for a soda, and they refused to serve us on the counter," said Johnson, now treasurer of the Santa Fe chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Back then, she was a student at Virginia Union University, an all-black college. Between 1954 and 1958, she participated in sit-ins at the store that catered to everyone but her and her dark-skinned

Photo by: Jane Phillips/The New Mexican

college friends, she said. Despite humiliations and name-calling, her spirit was not crushed. She sang "We Shall Overcome," adapted from a gospel song titled "I'll Overcome Some Day." On Monday, during the 25th annual Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration at the Roundhouse — some 54 years later — Johnson again sang the lyrics. But this time she was joined by Native Americans, Hispanics and Anglos — all holding hands and singing in unison. The annual gathering is organized by the NAACP. In New Mexico, former Gov. Toney Anaya signed a proclamation that made Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday here on third Monday in January, and for the past 25 years, dozens of people — young and old — have gathered at the Roundhouse for an observance, always emphasizing King's dream to end racism and his philosophy of nonviolence. Political and religious leaders were among the dozens of New Mexico residents at the gathering. Among the crowd was Diese Graves, an office specialist at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, who moved here from Chicago nearly 26 years ago. Attending Monday's event was a way to reconnect with African American culture, she said.
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1/19/2011

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Residents r…

"It's culturally grounding for me," she said. "Everybody likes seeing themselves." Keynote speaker Kimberly Ross-Toledo, executive director of the Coalition for Healthy and Resilient Youth in Gallup, reminded people such as Ro King and Paulette Frank, both Santa Fe residents, how far America has come and how much more work needs to be done, the pair said. "We are one nation, one dream. The question is, whose dream?" Ross-Toledo asked in her speech. "Be ready to be bound together ... we cannot walk alone." A few miles south of the Capitol, at least a dozen people chatted about Ross-Toledo's message while they ate curry black-bean soup, a traditional West African dish, cooked by chef Ahmed Obo, owner of Jambo Café off Cerrillos Road. Christine Johnson sat surrounded by friends. "It was worth it," Johnson said of the civil-rights movement as she looked around the busy restaurant. Jambo Café owner Obo, a native of Lamu, an island off the coast of Kenya, said he believes realizing his dream of becoming a professional cook and entrepreneur was possible because people who came before him, such as Johnson and King, "sacrificed for us." Contact Sandra Baltazar Martínez at 986-3062 or smartinez@sfnewmexican.com. COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD Martin Luther King Jr. preached helping others, and for the past several years the local NAACP chapter has recognized young people for their service. Anna Diaz and Sarah Romero from Capital High School and Jermaine LeDouix from Santa Fe High School received this year's award for the hours they've spent at shelters helping feed the homeless, collecting clothing for the needy and helping classmates.

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