Panel Discussion: Blackdom, New Mexico– Its History and Potential Futures


Panel Discussion: Blackdom, New Mexico– Its History and Potential Futures
University Art Museum and on Zoom
Saturday, March 5, 2:00PM

This collaborative panel will explore the history of Blackdom, NM, the first and only all Black community in New Mexico, through the perspective of scholars, artists, and descendants of the founding 13 African American families of the town. The goal of this panel is to facilitate discussion of possibilities for lasting change in Southwest New Mexico for Black and brown people and to make action steps towards gaining public and sustained access to the ruins of Blackdom, NM for future generations. The panel is presented by partnering organizations in Desierto Mountain Time (
Moderator, Kimberly York, a native of Cleveland, Ohio is an Independent Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 20 years of non-profit leadership experience. She is a former Adjunct Professor in the School of Social Work at New Mexico State University and was recently appointed as Interim Director of Black Programs. Kimberly holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Capital University. She earned dual Master’s degrees in Social Administration and Nonprofit Organizations with a Nonprofit Management certification from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). She is a doctoral student at Grand Canyon University completing a Ph.D. in Psychology with an emphasis in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. She founded SO WHO (Serving Others While Helping Ourselves) Enterprises, Inc., a 501 c 3 nonprofit organization in 2005. The mission of SO WHO is to strengthen the lives of youth & young adults and those who serve/support them through resiliency-based character education, leadership, mentoring, professional development, and supportive services. As a Servant Leader, she currently serves as a member of Governor Michelle Lujuan-Grisham’s New Mexico Office of African American Affairs Executive Advisory Committee. She is also a member of The American Association of University Women (AAUW).
Gregory Waits, received his MA in Architecture at the University of New Mexico in 2001, and prior to graduating, he worked at Antoine Predock Architect where he expanded his understanding of large-scale award-winning civic designs. After graduation Waits worked with numerous architectural firms to gain a deeper understanding of the building process and practice, working on civic as well as residential projects until 2014 when he opened his own studio, Waits Studio Works, in the upcoming Siler Road District. Current work is interdisciplinary in nature engaging architecture, fashion, art, and the environment. Coming from a background of chess, multimedia performance, and architecture, Gregory Waits choreographs movement systems that are intent on the creation/activation of form. Waits learned about Blackdom when he was an architecture student at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque the title of his thesis became “Blackdom Memorial Gardens” a memorial he designed to be implemented 15 miles outside of Roswell, NM. 
Lazarus Nance Letcher, was born and raised in the Midwest. They’ve been performing for over twenty years, and love nothing more than sharing the story of their people over the swell of strings. They currently live on the ancestral and unceded Tiwa land also known as Albuquerque, New Mexico. Laz is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Studies with a focus on Black and Indigenous liberation and queer and trans studies. They’ve written about topics like transgender and Two-Spirit migration, intersectional approaches to addiction and recovery, Black and Indigenous solidarity in liberation movements, and transgender connection/kinship through folklore. Laz does freelance DEI consulting and also gives presentations like: the white supremacist history of transphobia, QTBIPOC untold stories, barriers to healthcare for transgender people of color and how to remedy them, and Black liberation history. 
Rita Powdrell, is Executive Director of The African American Museum and Cultural Center of New Mexico. Powdrell received her B.A. degree in sociology from the University of New Mexico in 1968 and served as a social worker in the county welfare system in Fresno, California. Powdrell and her family moved back to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she served as a counselor advisor at the Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute in 1974. In 1983, Powdrell opened and managed a new location of the restaurant Mr. Powdrell’s Barbeque House with her husband, his brother, and her sister-in-law. Powdrell co-founded the Griot Society with Brenda Dabney; and they curated and exhibited “New Mexico's African American Legacy: Visible, Vital, and Valuable,” a pictorial history of African Americans who were brought or migrated to the territory of New Mexico. In 2002, the Griot Society joined with numerous African American organizations in New Mexico to form The African American Museum and Cultural Center of New Mexico. The center, where Powdrell still serves as executive director, exhibited the wealth of African American history in New Mexico at museums and other venues throughout the state and served to increase awareness and understanding of the contributions of African Americans in New Mexico and the southwest. Powdrell has received multiple awards for her work. In 2011, Powdrell received the Outstanding Service Award from the Office of African American Affairs. In 2012, the African American History Museum and Cultural Center of New Mexico received the Heritage Organization Award from the Department of Cultural Affairs, New Mexico Historic Preservation Division. In 2014, Powdrell received the “Living Legend” award from the University of New Mexico Black Alumni Chapter and the state of New Mexico’s Distinguished Public Service Award.
Nikesha Breeze is a Black, Queer, Intersex, and Non-Binary artist and mother who employs performance art, film, painting, textiles, sculpture, and site-specific engagement to create spaces where Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Earth bodies can be seen as undeniably sacred and inviolable. Breeze's current exhibition in the University Art Museum weaves African Diasporic histories, Afrofuturism, and their own ancestral connection to Blackdom, NM, the state’s first all-Black community. In 2021 Nikesha completed their first retrospective at form & concept gallery in Santa Fe, NM. In 2018 they had a solo museum show entitled Within This Skin at The Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, NM. Nikesha has been awarded national recognition at the 2018 International ARTPRIZE exhibition, winning the juried 3D Grand Prize award as well as the Contemporary Black Arts Award, for their sculptural installation: 108 Death Masks: A Communal Prayer for Peace and Justice. In 2019 Nikesha was invited as a contributing artist to the Nkyinkyim Museum, Ghana’s largest African Diaspora Museum, started by international award-winning artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo.