Locals help out with Harvey relief efforts

Originally published by the Daily Lobo
By Celia Raney

One month after Hurricane Harvey struck southern Texas, a local business is planning a second trip to Houston with trucks loaded with supplies for the victims.

The Tuesday after the Category 4 hurricane hit Houston, Chris Brahs, president of Brahs Solutions, realized he needed to do something to help the people suffering in Texas.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Brahs said. “I got up at 2 a.m. and was sitting outside drinking some coffee looking at the stars, and God told me to just go do it. So I created a Facebook post and the rest was history.”

Gaining momentum, the post found its way to another local business, Golden Crown Panaderia. The bakery’s owner, Chris Morales, was tagged on the post by a friend and called Brahs to offer the help of his bakery and staff.

“Once I heard about it through a mutual friend, I told him that I would figure out something to do, and the idea I came up with was a 24-hour event to bake as many loaves of bread as we can to send out there,” Morales said. “There’s no food; any bread that was out there was totally soaked in the water. We just needed to be able to get people to survive with the materials that they needed.”

“It was amazing,” Morales said.

After baking all day Wednesday and through Thursday, Morales called in loyal customers to help cut and pack more than 500 loaves of bread.

“It just started creating this energy, and it kind of kept on building with each batch of loaves of bread, and then we asked for volunteers from our customers to come down to be able to pack the bread,” he said. “Our customers came in and sliced it all within about an hour and had it all packed up.”

When Morales called Brahs to offer his support, Brahs was more than excited.

“I said, ‘Right on, we’ll take it. I’ve got plastic totes I can deliver to the bakery, and you can load them up,’” he said.

The more attention the campaign picked up, the more donations were made.

“Bluewater Linens donated 12 pallets of linens, NAPA Auto Parts donated pallets of water and dry goods, people were bringing dog food, cases of water, diapers, wipes, socks and underwear for male and female and adult and children,” Brahs said. “It was everything, really. Gatorade, Clorox, cleaning supplies, a lot of stuff. A shoe store in the mall, they donated a lot of new shoes. It’s hard to remember everything we took, because we had so much, and we did it so fast.”

When the fleet of trucks arrived in Houston close to midnight on Friday, the local lieutenant who had helped coordinate the drop-off and the unloading of supplies was met with a big surprise.

The lieutenant was shocked when he saw just how big the caravan of donated supplies was, Brahs said.

“(The lieutenant) looked down the row, a quarter mile of trucks and trailers, and he went and got his wife and they were pretty emotional,” he said.

Brahs and his team of volunteers met the lieutenant on the outskirts of the city, where major roadways were still intact, but damage was still evident.

“We got there at 11:30 at night, so we didn’t get to see any devastation until the next morning,” he said. “We were on the north end of Houston, so we were really on the outskirts. We saw some devastation, some houses with roofs collapsed, just groves of trees that had been knocked down by the wind and the water, dirt and sand and stuff on the roads.”

Even with 10 trucks and trailers, a few pallets of water had to stay behind due to lack of space, but will be sent along on the second trip, which will leave Albuquerque on Oct 6.

“It was gratifying to be able to help somebody,” Brahs said. “There’s a lot of people in need, and we’ve got a company here in town who is donating enough sheetrock to do a couple houses, so we’re taking that down next trip.”

Brahs and his team hope to deliver things that will help people rebuild and restart on their second trip.

“Paint, we’re looking for kitchen cabinets, if someone is remodeling their house and has pretty decent cabinets, we’ll accept those and take them down,” he said. “If any companies have scratch and dent appliances like an oven, or a refrigerator or a microwave, we’ll take them down.”


Do you ever turn the ring on your showerhead

Until it isn’t water

But thousand of needles

Striking your back

And stand under the needles as they tattoo the hurt of humanity across your skin.


Students rally behind Black Lives Matter march

“I never thought in my life that I would ever have to do this.”

Originally published by the Daily Lobo
By Celia Raney

“Shoot us in the arm, shoot us in the leg, not in the heart and not in the head.”

The words of many and voices of hundreds rang out over a Black Lives Matter march on Central Avenue Friday, organized by Albuquerque native and University of New Mexico graduate Nikki Archuleta.

After the crowd gathered outside the Cinemark 14 Theater in Downtown Albuquerque, the march took off down Central Ave., united in chants of: “Hands up, don’t shoot,” “Whose streets? Our streets,” and “No justice, no peace, no racist police.”

Marchers carried a slew of signs sporting slogans such as: “De-militarize the Police,” “#BLM,” and “End Police Brutality,” as they traveled west.

Tearing up as she lifted a megaphone to address the growing crowd, Archuleta looked for her mother, who came to stand by her side with an arm around her shoulder as she spoke and read a poem she had written titled “Black Boys.”

When Archuleta, 23, began planning the event in April, she had no idea it would draw hundreds.

While the time and date of the march changed several times over the months leading up to Sept. 22, “any day is a perfect day for a Black Lives Matter march,” she said. “No one ever supports black lives, nobody ever does. So this is absolutely beautiful to me, absolutely beautiful.”

Amazed by the turnout, Archuleta still worried for her safety and said she shouldn’t have to organize a march just to affirm her humanity.

“People tell me I’m a domestic terrorist, because I want to come out here and affirm my existence and affirm my humanity and say that I matter and that my people matter,” she said. “I never thought in my life that I would ever have to do this, you know, to tell people I am a human being, and I deserve to be treated better than this.”

The march stopped at a roundabout on Eighth St., where the group wrapped around a concrete wall from which Archuleta stood with a megaphone, sharing her story and inviting others to do the same.

The first one to seize the opportunity was another UNM graduate, Skye Gullatt.

“Black lives matter is not a challenge,” Gullatt said to the pulsing crowd before her. “N—-, savage, (those) are titles that are not human. I challenge you to see us as just human, that’s what Black Lives Matter is all about.”

Other UNM students who showed their support Friday, including senior Danielle Moore, were angered by an event that took place on the University’s main campus Thursday when a conservative group held an anti-affirmative action bake sale — and charged people based on their race.

“Free speech can only go so far — that’s not free speech that’s hate speech,” Moore said. “Not only did (the conservative group) come to our campus but they had the audacity to do a bake sale that would put minority groups in jeopardy.”

Many problems surrounding racism lie within the educational institution, she said, adding, “We need to find a way to demolish the institutional racism in the educational systems. I should not have to go to school in fear for my life. My education should not be on the line. I pay tuition just like everyone else at UNM pays tuition. I have a right to be here just like everybody else has a right to be here.”

UNM graduate student Christopher Rivera was also shaken by Thursday’s bake sale.

“What happened yesterday with the affirmative action bake sale, that was ridiculous,” Rivera said. “Sometimes on campus, I don’t feel safe.”

Seeing the march as a space where he could join and appreciate fellow citizens supporting a movement he believed in, Rivera was comforted but also wary of the strong police presence.

“Right here, I feel safe for now, but I’m always looking around,” he said. “I’m pretty nervous about the cops; I don’t like cops in general, especially with them surrounding us all the time. It’s really terrifying.”

Law enforcement did not interfere with the march, but as a precaution, the National Lawyers Guild provided legal observers and advisors to assist participants as a show of support for the movement.

“We’re in a world right now that is divided between us and them, and there’s a real necessity to come together to find peace in the streets, in people’s hearts,” said Eric Sirotkin of the NLG. “Any role that I can pay to demonstrate that black lives matter, that we are not a society that needs to demonize people.”

At its peak, the event drew close to 400 people — a number that overwhelmed Archuleta, who has seen similar protests over the past few years with dismal turnouts.

“It means a lot to me,” she said. “I worked really hard on this. I would have been happy with 10 people.”

Her mother, Charlene Archuleta, marched alongside her daughter and sons, pumping a golden pom-pom toward the sky.

“My mom never gets to go to these events, because she works like crazy,” Archuleta said. “It actually comforted me. She cried, so I hope that was a good cry.”

“It’s profound, it’s world-changing,” Charlene Archuleta said. “It’s going to be pivotal, and (Nikki) is going to be pivotal in this community, I feel like she is going to bring our community together as a whole.”

Many who took the chance to speak through the megaphone to the crowd thanked the community for standing together to prove that they could not be divided or “turned against each other.”

Shortly before the march began to travel to its origin point, Lynn Munn, a 54-year-old Native American who identifies as bisexual, asked anyone in the crowd who earned more than $100,000 a year to raise their hand.

“We have to look at the bigger picture,” Munn said. “My husband is black, and I support the Black Lives Matter movement, but our people are turned against each other.”

People need to step back and look at more than just one movement, Munn said, because humans are being put in a caste system, adding, “as people, we need to support each other. We have to look beyond all the barriers that the media shoves in our faces. There are people here to support you that will support you with their lives if need be.”

“I will fight to my death with you,” she said. “The movement is beautiful. It’s like an onion; you have to peel back the layers and figure out the core.”

Brief: Baby socks combat abortion

Originally published by the Daily Lobo
By Celia Raney

Laundry baskets filled with 6,276 socks were on display Friday at the University of New Mexico’s Main Campus as part of a tabling event held by Students for Life of America.

“That’s how many abortions happen at Planned Parenthood each week, Monday through Saturday,” said Jessica Roseman, one of the event’s hosts.

The UNM branch of the national group set up under the Alumni Presidents’ Clock on the south side of the Duck Pond to “educate and inform” people about what abortion really is.

“We’re trying to educate people on we don’t need abortion and there’s better ways, and we want to be here to help women,” Roseman said.

The group distributed flyers, engaged with passers-by and encouraged students to sign up to join Students For Life.

“We believe in the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception,” said Olivia Johnson, UNM freshman and Students for Life member.

“We’re talking about the violence of abortion today, so a lot of different methods of abortion are super duper violent,” Johnson said. “Today we’re just kind of trying to get the message out about the violence of abortion and trying to empower women to know that they don’t need abortion. I believe women are stronger than that, and we don’t need abortion.”

New Mexico does not have any state laws or restrictions regarding abortion, and several clinics across the state perform late-term abortions.

“In New Mexico, it is legal up to the day of birth to have an abortion, so that is also a very violent and painful procedure, not only for the woman, but it also kills a baby that could have sustained life outside of the womb,” Roseman said.

Students For Life hopes to educate women on the resources available to them and caters specifically to pregnant or parenting students.

“We also offer resources for pregnant and parenting students, and we try to refer them to places that will help them so that they can have their baby even if they decide not to keep (the child),” she said.

In Planned Parenthood’s 2015-2016 annual report, they announced that 3 percent of all services they provided for that fiscal year were abortion services.

Affirmative Action Bake Sale charges customers based on race

Originally published by the Daily Lobo
By Celia Raney

A bake sale held by conservative group Turning Point USA drew more than 100 students Thursday to the north side of the Student Union Building on the University of New Mexico campus — but it wasn’t the baked goods that drew the crowd.

The group was selling muffins, cookies and other snacks, charging Asians $1.50, Caucasians $1.00 and African Americans and Hispanics 50 cents, which is meant to mirror affirmative action, according to a sign made for the sale.

“This replicates affirmative action in the way that Asians are most affected by affirmative action because they perform the best in society,” said TPUSA Secretary Christian Portilla. “They are the richest population, and they perform the best on tests and that kind of thing, so if an Asian and a Hispanic, both having the same test scores and that kind of thing, the Hispanic will often get in over the Asian, because (admissions committees) just think they’re oppressed.”

Group President Jacob Traunero said the intent of the event was not to anger the community, but to “poke fun” at racism.

“It’s basically to poke fun at the affirmative action and be like, ‘Hey this is wrong,’ so it’s wrong to charge people different based on their race, so is it okay to do that on the government level?” he said. “A Hispanic with the same grades as an Asian will get in every time at certain universities.”

Video by Celia Raney/Daily Lobo.
By hosting their bake sale and engaging in conversations with the community, TPUSA wants to draw attention to what they think is an unfair system.

“To the public eye, it doesn’t look very catering, and I think that was kind of the point, to create this shock,” said new TPSA member Raquel Lopez.

Lopez and Traunero said affirmative action is wrong, because it uses an “unfair” system that is not based on merit to admit minorities to universities.

“Affirmative action is wrong, you can’t just assume by the color of someone’s skin that they’re worse off than someone who’s white,” Traunero said. “A white person could be in poverty, and then a Mexican could be really well off, you can’t just assume that because of their race that they’re automatically worse off in society, that’s very racist.”

Portilla, who identifies as Mexican, thinks that affirmative action laws victimize minorities.

“I grew up in a very good household, and I think it is kind of wrong that I have to be almost treated as a victim; you know you’re a Mexican, so you’re deemed as already poor and not as smart as other people in society,” he said.

Students should not be accepted to college based on the color of their skin, but by their character, meritand qualifications, Portilla said.

Tensions in the crowd grew when Oliver Baker, graduate student at UNM, among others, came in contact with the event’s organizers and threatened to knock down the TPUSA’s signs. Baker then asked if the group was going to call the police if the signs were knocked down.

Baker said the group was supporting white supremacist views.

After threating to knock down the signs several times and yelling over the crowd at the organizers, Baker said the views they held were “irrational,” adding he did not incite or commit violence.

“The viewpoint this group held was irrational in terms of advocating against equality,” he said. “So when you’re dealing with an irrational point of view it is not rational to debate it, the next move is to try to not give it a platform.”

Baker said he was “weaponizing a certain space” that was available to him “in self-defense of the people that that group targeted on campus,” adding he did not incite or commit violence at the event.

UNM’s campus is a place to feel safe, and Baker was trying to defend that space, he said.

“People are advocating for dismantling of measures that would protect people of color, so I’m going to do what I can do to get them to leave these spaces as a way to defend people of color, who are going to be the victims of what they want to do here,” Baker said.

TPUSA is not an officially chartered UNM student organization and the event held on Thursday was not approved by campus officials, according to a UNM spokeswoman.

The group ended their bake sale early when UNM Police Department officers arrived on scene and one of the group’s signs was stolen by a woman on roller skates.