Johnnie Mae de Schweinitz drove from Española to downtown Santa Fe on Monday with a plan to attend an annual celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday at the state Capitol.
But she arrived to find the rotunda empty.
“I haven’t attended in quite a few years, " de Schweinitz tells SFR. “But this time I decided to come, so it’s a shame.”
Santa Fe NAACP Committee Chair Dr. Cedric D. Page tells SFR the group initially paused the event after the onset of the pandemic in 2020 and had not planned a gathering this year.
“To gather in the rotunda with crowds has kind of been a risk, so we refrained from it since the pandemic. This year…we had some members with other obligations,” Page says, adding he hopes the organization will be able to resurrect the tradition next year.
The event—a mainstay for 28 years—was previously sponsored by that organization; the Martin Luther King, Jr. State Commission; the state Office of African American Affairs; and Santa Fe Public Schools. Page notes the state commission held an event in Albuquerque on Saturday, and several events took place in Las Cruces.
Most state and local government offices were closed for the holiday, though Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a statement Monday afternoon noting, “Ninety-five years after Dr. King’s birth, his impact on the world remains as profound as ever. Today, we recommit ourselves to continuing his work by standing up for what is right, even when it is not easy. On the eve of the state’s legislative session, may we reflect on and honor the work of Dr. King to build a more just and equitable world that lifts up all people.”
The state Republican Party also emailed its nod to the holiday earlier in the day, writing “Today, we honor the memory of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and remember his incredible legacy of championing civil rights, faith, justice, and freedom.”
Rita Cash, a Railyard resident who attended alongside de Schweinitz, also made her way to the Roundhouse but left after she realized no events were planned. She says several others did the same.
“It seems like [Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s] message really would resonate at this time because there’s so much strife going on in the world and a lot of unkindness, and we really need it right now,” she tells SFR. “We need to remember that we are our brother’s keeper, and we need to be there for each other, and it’s so divisive right now.”
Find out how to join the Santa Fe NAACP here.