Local Albuquerque community found joy in resistance at Mesa Verde Park – gathered to eat, provide resources and build connections on the Fourth of July in protest of the holiday.
In 2022, 1.2 million people were incarcerated in the United States, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Based on a survey, the ACLU administered about 24,000 incarcerated people – 76% reported being forced to work or facing punishment.
Selinda Guerrero, a local organizer, spoke about the event's intent to resist state exploitation in prison systems and by police on the Fourth of July – the nation's Independence Day, a celebration of freedom and the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
“(We are here) to show that we are much stronger as a collective. Everybody here is coming for free today. We have endless resources for our community, we have crime reduction teams out here,” ” Guerrero said. “We have medics out here, we have just joy and music and laughter together out here.”
The park itself is a part of the systemic issues they are resisting, Moneka Stevens – another organizer – and Guerrero said. The Park’s grass was poorly watered with little shade, the event mostly taking place under carried-in awnings and tents during a local heat advisory.
Last July, Coronado Park was closed, forcing the encampment of about 100 unhoused folks to leave, followed by a flood in mid-August, according to Source New Mexico. The poor maintenance of outdoor space – specifically in low-income and communities of color – hurts those who live around it by not maintaining public places to gather, like Mesa Verde Park, Guerrero and Stevens said.
“Look at the conditions of even our parks that are public spaces – that everybody should be welcomed whether we're housed or not. They're destroying our communities systemically,” Guerrero said.
Gathering and sharing resources to form a community, Stevens said, is a part of protest against inadequate city support for affordable housing and open space.
“We're having these conversations, and we're telling the truth about what's occurring — where we're able to see how we can come together to dream, to build something more,” Stevens said.
The event was organized by a coalition of organizations including ABQ Mutual Aid, John Brown Breakfast Club, The Hook Up and AAPRP Southwest amongst others. Working in coalitions, Guerrero said, allows a community to work together to provide resources for each other and lets people focus on specific needs rather than tackle everything at once.
The Brown Breakfast Club served food free of charge at the event and regularly serves food on Saturday mornings. The Hook Up provides hygiene supplies, haircuts and safe use supplies, around Albuquerque. Both of these groups act as mutual aid, which is different from a charity, K. Fox said – an organizer with The Hook Up.
“Mutual aid thinks that you should have autonomy and be able to decide to do what you want with your own life, and just give you the resources to do that as safely as possible,” Fox said.
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Guerrero said her takeaway, from the event, is the hope that those present, find power in community and organize together.
“Building community together is what keeps us safe. We don't want the police. We resist all of those structures of violence because they're the ones that bring violence to our communities,” Guerrero said.
The main goal of the event, Guerrero said, was to come together in celebration and happiness. “We know that the word can feel really heavy sometimes. And that's why we need events like this for us to have joy,” Guerrero said. This is one of several events Guerrero said she and ABQ Mutual Aid are involved in, including other celebrations on Malcolm X Day, the People's Juneteenth and Black August Month.
“We come together to show our power to resist and to experience joy,” Guerrero said.
Maddie Pukite is the editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org on Twitter @maddogpukite