The first time my son was handcuffed and humiliated by the police, I was right there, but I could do nothing.
Andrés was in 7th grade. The dark hairs of a budding mustache stood out against his deep brown skin.
We were at my work. As a single mom, I often had my kids with me at the Young Women United office on Morningside, not far from where we live. That evening the teenage girls of YWU, my kids, and the staff were working late preparing for a celebration the next day. My kids played outside with other children while we worked inside. I could watch them through the window.
Suddenly, my daughter ran into the office yelling, “The police have my brother!”
We all ran outside and saw my son being dragged by a police officer and thrown into the backseat of a cop car, lights flashing.
I was right there, but I could do nothing.
We ran toward Andrés, but another officer rushed toward us, shouting warnings.
I gathered my senses. I was not new to “how to behave” around the police. We tried talking calmly, but the officer insisted that we back away or we--a small group of moms and teens--would be arrested.
I pleaded for answers while one of the YWU women picked up my daughter and took her inside because she was crying and screaming for her brother. An officer insisted there was good reason for them to have my son, who just 15 minutes previously I had been watching run around with his sister and eight other teen girls.
I was right there, but I could do nothing.
The officers forced us to wait at a distance. I was trembling. Finally, an officer called me over and said that they were responding to a call that people were fighting. He pointed to the group of kids of color and singled out the two black girls for questioning too.
The police took the two young women and Andrés, made them take their shoes off and sit on the curb on Central. I knew this humiliation tactic. I had seen it used many times on my male cousins for driving while brown.
Finally, without explanation or apology, the police officers let the kids go. I saw my son walking toward me with a look that haunts me. I could already see the change.
I was right there, but I could do nothing.
Before that day, I was everything my son needed. He believed that I could and would move mountains to save him. Yet, when faced with these cops and their guns and their badges putting my son in handcuffs for playing, I could do nothing, even though I was right there.
We went home and my son went to his room. I gave him space, then went to talk with and hopefully comfort him. I walked to his bedroom door, peeked in and saw him sitting on his bed, fists clenched, face red, holding back tears. I went to him and felt his whole body shaking from the pounding of his heart. All he could say was that he wanted to be left alone.
I felt broken. I knew it could have gone much worse, but still I felt guilty because I was right there, but I could do nothing.
Just a few months before, we had attended the inauguration of President Obama in Washington, D.C. On the plane home, Andrés had told me, “I want to be the first Chicano President, Mom!” I knew leaving his room the night the police handcuffed him for no reason that being president was no longer something that he thought was possible for him. He would also no longer believe in the super strength of his mom to save him or in the power of justice that I tried so hard to instill in him.
He lost his innocence and hope that night. The police took it from him. He was checked--put in his place.
That wasn't the last time he was harassed, and it wasn't the only time the cops had no reason to stop him: for being at the bus stop, for riding his bike in our neighborhood, for walking near a school.
My son is still alive. I am grateful, but I shouldn't have to be.
Black lives matter.
We have a racism problem in Bernalillo County and in this country. We must change. I refuse to become so accustomed to biased policing, over-policing and police brutality that I do nothing. I refuse to ignore the constant struggle of black and brown people, the injustices we face at the hands of police and law enforcement, and our communities’ unanswered pleas.
I will keep fighting for all of us, for our whole community. I will take these experiences with me to the Bernalillo County Commission. It’s time our voices were heard.
When I am your Bernalillo County Commissioner, I will always be right there. And I promise you that I will do something.
I try to live my New Mexico values everyday. Here's my story. It's not perfect, but my lived experiences have prepared me to be the voice our communities need. Our work to rebuild the world we want to live in starts here in Bernalillo County. I hope I can earn your support.
On this Earth Day, I am thinking of the many generations of my family that have had their hands in this soil, and utilized this land and water to sustain our family and our community. It is in my upbringing and cultural traditions to respect, defend and protect New Mexico’s land, energy, air and water.
As your next Bernalillo County Commissioner for District 3, I will be a steward of our environment. I will shape policies and budgets that not only protect, but also advance our environmental protections now and for generations to come.
In keeping with my heritage and traditions, I will:
This is important. Voting is one of our most-cherished rights as Americans, but with COVID19 impacting every aspect of our lives, we have to plan now to ensure that we can safely cast a ballot in the June 2 primary election.
Fortunately, there is an easy way to stay safe and exercise your right: voting by absentee ballot.
This year, the Bernalillo County Clerk will be mailing an absentee ballot application to every eligible voter in the county. To request an absentee ballot to vote safely by mail, you just need to fill out the application and return it by May 28. Then, an absentee ballot will be sent to you that you can complete and mail in with your choices in key elections—like Bernalillo County Commission District 3.
You can also request a ballot online so you don’t have to wait to get an application in the mail. Follow this link to request your absentee ballot today!
I’ll be voting absentee, and I hope you will too.
Yes, in-person voting will still be an option in the June 2 primary—and I’ll be sure to get you information on when and where to vote. But, to be safe, request an absentee ballot today. You can vote from the convenience and safety of your home and return your ballot by mail, in keeping with all recommended social distancing guidelines.
Now, more than ever, we need strong leadership in all our elected offices, leaders who share our values and represent the lived experiences of our communities. By ensuring that you have a plan to safely vote absentee in the June 2 primary election, you will ensure not only that your voice will be heard on Election Day, but also every day if I am elected to represent you on the Bernalillo County Commission.
I hope that you and yours are safe and healthy. Together, we will get through this difficult time and we will work together to make our communities even stronger.
Once you’ve requested an absentee ballot online, be sure to share the link with at least three friends or family members! The more people who participate in our elections, the stronger our democratic process is—and the more responsive and community-based our leaders are!
The past few weeks have been challenging for all of us. Limiting contact, worrying about loved ones and figuring out how to pay the bills while our state battles COVID-19 can take its toll. That’s why I wanted to check in on you to make sure you have what you need to take care of yourself and your family.
We know that too many in our community don’t know where their next meal is coming from even in the best of times, and we must change that. But if you or someone you know is having trouble putting food on the table today there is help.
With businesses closing, many in our community have lost their jobs and lost their pay check. This is especially hard for minimum-wage workers who were already in need of a pay raise to give them a true living wage. Fortunately, there are programs to help everyone make ends meet through this crisis.
And my commitment to you hasn’t changed. It’s more important than ever that we have strong, community-focused leadership on the Bernalillo County Commission. My campaign continues to connect with voters. We need strong solid leadership in all levels of our government. As a mom, head of household, and Director, I can provide the experience needed now and into the future, when times are good or when the road gets rough. I’m rooted and ready!
Please take good care and don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help finding additional services. I’ve always been here for you—and I’m certainly not going anywhere now!
Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay connected. Even at a distance, we can stand together!
Bernalillo County needs public safety policies that are based on justice instead of on reinforcing injustice.
I am running for Bernalillo County Commission to advocate for thoughtful and effective policies that ensure that everyone feels safe in our community.
We need policies that include:
Like too many people of color, I have repeatedly suffered at the hands of a criminal justice system more interested in making money than delivering justice. I have been pulled over for “routine traffic stops” more times than I can count. I’ve been frisked, frightened, bullied and dehumanized. Whether it’s the fear of seeing police lights in my rear-view mirror or the panic that a late-night phone call could mean that this brown mother’s worst nightmares have come true for her children, I’ve felt the unintended consequences of our existing public safety policies. Our community deserves a voice like mine—that will speak out against systems I personally know are broken—on the County Commission to ensure a balanced approach to public safety.
Let me tell you about my experiences.
As a single mom, working to raise my kids, I racked up a lot of parking tickets. From extra time with my kids in a doctor’s office to running late from work meetings, time ran out the parking meter. It happens to everyone. But I simply didn’t have the time or the resources to pay the tickets right away. Fees and additional fines piled up, making it harder for me to pay the bills and impossible for me to figure out the system. Next thing I knew, following a “routine traffic stop,” I was put in shackles and hauled off to jail because of unpaid parking tickets. That is not justice. That’s criminal. I will work to reform our system of fees and fines to ensure that poor people and people of color—and everyone else in our community—don’t end up in jail for not having enough money to pay a parking ticket. Bernalillo County can be a leader in this social justice movement, which is led nationally by groups like the Fees and Fines Justice Center.
The City of Albuquerque has been a leader in decriminalizing cannabis. The County can take that further and legalize cannabis so that we can generate revenue for much-needed community programs and so that no one goes through what my friend and I did while driving in Arizona in 2018 when a “routine traffic stop” led to handcuffs and thousands of dollars of fees, fines and legal bills because less than two grams of cannabis were found in the car. Cannabis-related criminal laws have a long, sordid history of racial bias and they don’t make us safer. We must do better.
For those struggling with addiction, the Metropolitan Assessment and Treatment Services (MATS) and other innovative programs have given non-violent offenders in Bernalillo County a more just way to take responsibility for their actions and to start to heal and recover. Our County has a record of providing substance abuse treatment for non-violent offenders. We must build on that foundation.
But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to enforce the rules. Fourteen years ago, I had a DWI. I was rightly held accountable by law enforcement. Our tough laws worked and I’ve never driven under the influence again. There are laws on the books that make sense and that work. We must keep and enforce those laws, even as we take a hard look at the ways that systemic racism has impacted the way that even the good laws have been enforced.
Look, I’m not perfect. But neither is a criminal justice system that puts a mom in jail for parking tickets and leaves too many people of color and poor people living in fear of the very people and system that are supposed to keep them safe. Our criminal justice system should not be used as a tool to look down on people, especially people of color.
I am running to represent District 3, the community I grew up in, where I went to school, where I’ve raised my son and daughter. I’ve sung lullabies to my kids here and I’ve buried both my parents here. I’ve been arrested here and I’ve been free to build a better life with a college education here. Now I’m ready to have tough conversations and to share my imperfect story so that I can give back to this community.
Public safety is about our values. It’s about our future. And it must always be about justice.