Clovis youths plan trip to see Legislature

By Tova Fruchtman: CNJ staff writer

Natasha Beachum is interested in seeing how laws are made first hand.

The Yucca Junior High eighth-grader will be one of about 90 Clovis students scheduled to leave at 4:30 a.m. today for a trip to the state capitol fourth African-American Day.

“You can learn about it in books and stuff, but to see that first hand, I think that’s kind of cool,” Beachum said.

Beachum also looks forward to learning about the role African American’s played in American and New Mexican history. She is particularly interested in learning more about the Buffalo soldiers.

“I know a little bit about them and I want to learn more about them, because it’s kind of part of New Mexico history and American history and how the state was founded; and because it’s kind of interesting to me,” she said.

Local activist Selmus Price said the annual trip enables blacks — mainly youth — from around the state to learn about their culture and the contributions blacks have made to New Mexico and America as well as seeing how government works.

A handful of students will be serve as Legislative pages will others will meet with state lawmakers in their office.

Approximately 600 students from around the state will be attending the event.

Organizer Ronald Hinson of Albuquerque said he hopes it will serve as an educational tool and an inspiration for black youth.

“Black achievement is not historically recorded correctly. It’s a matter of record, but it’s not recognized … We bring them to a place where they can see black people who are working in the government, who have responsible positions,” Hinson said. “We give them something to hope for, something to shoot for.”

The students will learn about Estevanico, the black man who discovered and founded New Mexico, and about other towns across the state that were founded by blacks.

Price said in the past he’s only taken one bus of students and is excited about taking two this year.

“It makes me happy to be able to do this,” Price said. “I’m sure it will be an experience that they will remember for years to come as well as they learn more about their own culture and have a better sense of what actually takes place at these sessions.”

Kendra Chretien, 16, is a member of a Bethlehem Baptist Church praise and dance team that will perform gospel music and mime for the Legislature.

Chretien performed at the third African-American Day in 2003. She said she was glad to meet peers from around the state who were interested in their culture.

“There are different groups there, like kids, that do care about their heritage and like to show it,” she said.