According to its website, “The African American Performing Arts Center & Exhibit Hall is the nerve center for comprehensive communal activities of research, preservation and nurturing of the intellectual and cultural histories of people of African descent in New Mexico and the Southwest.”
Yet, Governor Susana Martinez line item vetoed the entire $349,000 appropriation for the center, which just so happens to be named after Sheryl Williams Stapleton, in what appears to be an act of retaliation against the Democratic House Majority Whip, the highest ranking Black legislator in New Mexico,
The center not only puts on cultural programs relevant to the Black community, but houses multiple education programs including one designed to identify students needing extra help in reading and math. It is also home to the Sickle Cell Anemia Center. Why put all of these programs at risk by eliminating its funding?
Martinez initially submitted funding for the center at the start of the 2011 legislative session, just as Governor Bill Richardson had in prior years. However, during the legislative session, Williams Stapleton opposed Martinez’s efforts to privatize New Mexico’s public education under the so-called “Florida Model”.
Martinez then appears to have made the political calculation that the best way to harm Williams Stapleton was to punish the entire Black community by attacking the Center that bears her name.
As ISPAC has already shown, the Public Education Department sought the advice of legal counsel on how to make an “English Only” end run around New Mexico law that allows people pursuing an alternate path to a high school diploma to do so in Spanish and Native American Languages as well as English.
Martinez has been recognized as the national Republican who can bring minorities into the Republican fold. Yet, her actions prove that she is no friend to the minority cultures of New Mexico…