Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cheering on SWOP!

Maggie says:
Feeling despondent, powerless, and uninspired today? I've got two fixes for you:

  • People's Freedom Caravan Photos. These photos are so great, and really capture how the group has been engaging across the South toward Atlanta. Go SWOP, go!

Hurray for Planning! (And the residents that make plans work!)

Mikaela says:

HUGE news today. North Valley residents have successfully fought a supercenter Wal-Mart, thanks to a persistent, dedicated, organized grassroots citizen effort and the City's backbone to make a decision according to its own adopted plan!

But you don't have to take my word for it...

Dear North Valley Friends and Neighbors:

In case you haven't heard, Wal-Mart has decided not to appeal the recent decision by the City's Environmental Planning Commission (EPC) to deny the company's application for a Supercenter store at Osuna Road and Vista del Norte Blvd. One of the reasons the EPC cited for denying the application was its inconsistency with the North Valley Area Plan (NVAP). Consistent application of the North Valley Area Plan is important to residents of the Valley and is fundamental to the original mission of the North Valley Coalition. Thus, both the EPC's decision to deny the permit and Wal-Mart's decision not to appeal represent a victory not only for the residents of Vista Del Norte, but for the principals of the NVAP and all North Valley residents.

Please join me and the North Valley Coalition in extending a great big CONGRATULATIONS to the Vista Del Norte Alliance, the residents of the Vista Del Norte Neighborhood, and everyone else who spoke, wrote, or otherwise participated in this tremendously successful grass roots effort! For the past year and a half residents stepped forward to demand appropriate development at this location. Our efforts have raised the bar for citizen and neighborhood involvement in zoning decisions in our communities. Democracy only works when citizens are paying attention... so: GOOD WORK TEAM! And don't forget, there is more to be done to secure the site for large balloon landings and a multi-use recreational area.

For more information, please visit the VDN website:

You may also wish to contact:

Chris Nyman Weller
President, North Valley Coalition


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Because it's on my mind...

Mikaela says:

I heard this quote in church, actually, and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since. It's in tribute to both m's, and to the three ms, and others out there in the world doing what needs to be done.

It's from Starhawk...

We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been — a place half-remembered and half-envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time. Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Heading to Atlanta

marjorie says...

I've been on the road since Friday with almost 100 people from New Mexico, on the "People's Freedom Caravan" heading to the US Social Forum in Atlanta. We're stopping in a number of cities along the way, where other community groups are sharing their history and current realities with us, not to mention taking great care of us! Yesterday we had an incredible day in San Antonio. We toured the communities surrounding Kelly Airforce Base, which have been incredibly polluted by the base and Union Pacific railroad. We then had a great rally at the Alamo for immigrant rights...which really made me happy. I grew up going to the Alamo pretty's a big (problematic) part of Texas history. So it was great to return in this context. After the rally we marched to Senator John Cornyn's office to protest his racist "enforcement only" stance during the current debates on an immigration bill. Before we left, we made sure he knew some of the names of those who've died trying to cross the desert they've been pushed into by the militarization of our border:

Memorial crosses, June 23

After we had our say, we went to San Pedro park for barbecue and relaxation, then later had a great dinner at Ruta Maya coffee shop near the river walk. It's been a long time since I spent time in San Antonio. What a great was very nice to be back.

In the coming week, I'll mainly be putting up posts at Swopblogger, but I'll also try to keep m-pyre posted as well. Now we're on the road to Houston, with a third bus from San Antonio having joined us. By the time we get to Atlanta we'll be 8 buses strong with many cars and vans with us. Over 75 community based organizations from the southern U.S. are participating, and there will be almost 1000 of us when we drive into Atlanta.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The long goodbye

Maggie says:
I’m finally writing something I’ve been waiting months and months to be able to say, and it’s been coming for such a long time now that it almost feels like old news. But here it is: I am leaving Albuquerque. And I can honestly say that I’m more excited about what’s next than I’m sad about leaving what’s been.

The toughness of writing this goodbye is in thinking I need to say everything at once, so I'll get over that right now. I thought I needed to take on the mind-numbing frustration of being a planner in a city that hates planning. I needed to say how desperately I’ve wanted to scream and vent about local politics and planning issues the last nine months, but how work meant that I had to keep quiet. I needed to take pains to celebrate everything I adore about this community, because there’s more of it than I could ever list. I needed to explain how heavily this choice has been hanging over everything, so that writing about politics or food or community or gender or place or all the other non-Albuquerque topics I usually write about has been next to impossible, given my absolute preoccupation with what I was going to do next.

But now, finally, I know.

I’ve spent five years in Albuquerque learning, listening, connecting, and being part of the uniqueness of this place, and for that I'm deeply honored and grateful. I’ve spent time learning from some of the most insightful, committed faculty members I’ve ever known. I’ve spent time talking with communities about how they might balance their spirit with the crushing growth charging at them from every direction. I’ve made some of the most amazing friends I will ever have, met some of the most incredible, inspiring people I will ever know. There have been amazing highs and heartbreaking lows here, but there has always been connection, and there has always been laughter, and there has always been strength in unexpected places. New Mexico has a part of my heart forever.

Earlier this month, I spent a week of twelve-hour days in Bernalillo, getting to know amazing folks who showed me left and right why being a planner matters, and why it’s about love of place and family and community first, and why it’s an honor when you’re able to do it right, for the right people. I knew that would be my last planning project in New Mexico, and it felt like an appropriate end to my work here, with shared values rising above differences of opinion and turning into something tangible. I wish planning could always be like that.

But meanwhile, home calls me stronger than ever. My family is on the other side of the country, and they’re getting increasingly restless that I’m so far away. I have a niece who’s less than a week old, and I’ll get to meet her next month at the beach. It makes less sense than ever to stay in the desert when little Taylor Rae lives by the Atlantic.

So it’s a pit-stop, then. Halfway between here and there, I’m going to hole up in a city I never, ever thought I’d live in to work on transit-oriented development projects on a scale that neither New Mexico nor North Carolina can offer, a city where conversations about transit and walkability start at square one rather than negative one hundred. Transit and sustainable development are increasingly what matters to me, and what I’m convinced will make or break Albuquerque’s legacy. But that’s not my fight to win or lose; not here, not now. In my next stop, I’ll be a time zone closer to home, a flight closer to Taylor and the rest of the fam, and I'll be able to jump into good projects that are already off the ground.

I’m almost being dishonest not mentioning the rest of it, though. See, one night over a year ago, I found myself in a terrible mood at Anodyne, accusing a charming, imported campaign staffer of representing why we would lose a big election in the fall. Not my best night, trust me. But all this time later (and an election lost through no fault of his own) he continues to be amused (and dare I say equally charmed) by my weird, optimist self, still finding my way between world-changer, connection-maker, word-shaper, and place-lover. He’s waiting in the new city, the one with the kind of TOD projects that are decades away from happening in Albuquerque, with the baseball games, with the halfway-thereness to home, and with that charm of his that even my terrible Anodyne mood and my most obnoxious utopianism somehow aren’t able to dampen. I love that we met each other in this quirky place of anything goes, and even though I’m leaving, it’s a sentiment I hope I’ll carry on with me forever.

So in August, I will leave Albuquerque in the capable hands of Marjorie and Mikaela. With those two in the mix, this town is bound to be charged through and through with the seeds of community-based, transformative change. Lucky for all of us, they'll still be here to talk us through it. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hey Q! What makes you?

Mikaela says:
Ah, that's the question.

Eric Bodwell and Adam Rubinstein, members of our eminent and vibrant poetry community here in the Q, are putting together an "underground guide" to Albuquerque for poets visiting from nearby states as part of the Southwest Shootout, a regional poetry Slam competition in July (more on that later).

Here's the challenge Eric poses for all of us insiders:

In the next 48hours, please email me what you would do, eat, or not miss that is quintessentially ABQ. I'm looking for 5-10 items. Thank you in advance for any thoughts.

Okay, you've got your assignment. Top 10 lists of things not to miss if you're in the Q for two days.


Feel free to leave a comment, and I'll forward to Mr. B, or e-mail him directly at

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Heinrich Fundraiser tonight

Maggie says:
If your inbox looks anything like mine, you've been e-mailed more reminders about tonight's Martin Heinrich fundraiser than you can count. So to come full circle, here's my little reminder to everyone else:

You are Invited
to a
Young Professionals Fundraiser
Martin Heinrich
Democratic Candidate for Congress

Tuesday, June 12, 2007
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

O'Neill's Pub and Grill
4310 Central Ave. SE
(Central and Washington in East Nob Hill)

$100 Suggested Contribution
(all contributions accepted)

To contribute on-line go to:

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Margaret Randall: Woman We Love

Maggie says:
I'm so proud to have been part of an amazing night for change last Friday. Amidst friends, music, and community, the SouthWest Organizing Project hosted a Silent Art Auction at the Central Park Deli in the Silver Moon Lodge for a very special cause.

Late next week, a delegation of 100 New Mexicans will travel together across the Deep South, with very special stops along the way to pick up fellow grassroots organizations, arriving in Atlanta for the U.S. Social Forum at the end of the month. The trip's going to be powerful, taking many folks through communities they otherwise might never see first-hand. The Social Forum itself will be an event to be remembered, and I love that the organizers chose the South as their host. Lucky for us, we'll get to experience the tour and the forum through one M's blogging (leave it to Marjorie to ensure wireless internet access on the bus!).

The highlight of Friday's auction was a collection of 19 Margaret Randall photographs from Nicaragua. I'd seen these photos in the shape that SWOP found them in previous to the event - a little bit dusty, a little bit disorganized, and basically the best "under the couch" kind of find a grassroots organization can hope for. That said, I was unprepared for the impact of seeing them displayed together, beautifully matted and framed, and signed by Randall herself. The photos were taken in 1979, just after the Sandinistas came to power, and the imagery is overwhelming. Take a look at the link above to see the entire collection and I think you'll agree.

In addition to the Randall photographs, the other highlight of the auction was a room full of political posters from all over the world. The variety was really amazing, and the collection was pretty outstanding.

For me, though, it had to be a Randall. Right away, one jumped out at me, and sure enough, the bidding escalated... but my shopping instincts took over (not to mention my texting instincts to a favorite co-buyer), and I won it in the end. Here's what I took home:

Tonight, I spent some time adding some nuance to what my winning bid got me (although owning an original photograph that I really adore is enough in itself). What I discovered was truly incredible, because I had no idea just how amazing a woman Margaret Randall is. (It's outrageous this woman doesn't have a wikipedia entry, by the way!) Her story - as told in a documentary I'd love to see, "The Unapologetic Life of Margaret Randall," takes her through chapters of poetry, photography, activism, art, and fiction so "subversive" that the U.S. government tried to deport her. The author of more than 70 books, "Sandino's Daughters: Testimonies of Nicaraguan Women in Struggle," is considered a classic. Happily, I discovered that my photograph appears in her book "Women Brave in the Face of Danger: Photographs of and Writing by Latin and North American Women."

Finally, the photo itself has a wonderful story of its own. Here's what Randall says about the moment she took it:

There was the day I spotted those lines from Leonel Rugama’s poem, jumped out of the jeep and raised my camera to capture the wall with the words “Los heroes, nuestros heroes, nunca dijeron que morĂ­an por la patria sino que murieron . . .” Three women carrying loads of wash walked into the picture plane, and turned and posed just as I snapped the shutter. Rugama had been a 20 year old seminary student when he was assassinated in 1967 by Somoza’s National Guard. Had he lived, he would have been one of his country’s finest poets. Many ordinary Nicaraguans know his poetry by heart.

I'm appalled I'd never before heard of Leonel Rugama, but reading more about him online and knowing the full context of this amazing photo, not to mention the woman who took it, makes me one satisfied SWOP contributor.

For more information on Margaret Randall, head over to the Center for Southwest Research at UNM. The Margaret Randall Papers are housed there, and include a significant amount of material and correspondence from throughout her life, much of it related to her lawsuit against the U.S. government over her immigration status. Now aging gracefully (and spunkily, I'm sure) in New Mexico, Randall recently signed all the mats at SWOP and was generous enough to write a reflection supporting the delegation to the U.S. Social Forum. No question about it; Margaret Randall has officially become one of m-pyre's "Women We Love."

For more information on how you can still contribute to the SWOP delegation, contact the office. And don't forget about SWOPblogger, too! Jo Ann, another woman we love, has been doing an incredible job over there. And I continue to give all the credit in the world to SWOP for being able to pull off such a fantastic night; I can only imagine the goodness that'll come out of the delegation.

PS: I swear the Central Park Deli has the best falafel sandwich in town. I know, who would've guessed?! They also have really kick-ass fries for when falafel's not going to cut it. Go support them when you're craving something good; they were extremely generous to SWOP in hosting the event and couldn't be nicer folks.