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Top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway to leave White House at end of month
Source:  KOST - Albuquerque News
Monday, 24 August 2020 00:06

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, is leaving the White House at the end of the month to focus on family matters.


Musican Justin Townes Earle dies at 38
Source:  KOST - Albuquerque News
Sunday, 23 August 2020 23:54

Justin Townes Earle, singer-songwriter and son of alternative country artist Steve Earle, has died.


Together Tonight: Hamilton, Jefferson, Burr (Hour Two)
Source:  KUNM
Sunday, 23 August 2020 23:05

Sunday, August 30 6 pm Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and Aaron Burr debate the burning issues of 1799: Unchecked immigration, entanglement in foreign wars, and an increasingly divided electorate. Sound familiar? Legendary radio dramatist Norman Corwin knew that when it comes to politics, some things never change. Starring JD Cullum, Gregory Harrison, Henri Lubatti, and Brian Tichnell. Directed by Alexis Jacknow. Recorded live in performance in Los Angeles in October 2016. From LA Theater Works.

Don’t preach nuclear arms to archbishop
Source:  Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, 23 August 2020 23:02

In response to (the Aug. 13) editorial “Archbishop’s nuclear weapons view needs a homily on reality,� I was one of the speakers at the 75th anniversary commemoration of the Hiroshima atomic bombing, organized by Fr. John Dear, at which Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester eloquently spoke. The editorial declared “neither Wester nor Dear appear to accept the premise there is any deterrent benefit to the nuclear arsenal.�

To the contrary, the Journal perpetuates the delusion that the U.S. nuclear arsenal is just for deterrence, a premise fed to American taxpayers since the beginning of the Cold War. Instead, the U.S. arsenal has always been about nuclear warfighting, starting with the simple fact that we were the first to use it. This continues to this day, as the Pentagon made clear in a 2013 nuclear policy declaration: “The new guidance requires the United States to maintain significant counterforce capabilities against potential adversaries. The new guidance does not rely on a ‘counter-value’ or ‘minimum deterrence’ strategy.�

“Counterforce� is Pentagon jargon for attacking the military assets and leadership of your adversary, in other words nuclear war. Ronald Reagan famously said, “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used.� But the U.S. and Russia each have thousands of nuclear weapons, many on hair-trigger alert, to fight a nuclear war instead of just the few hundred needed for deterrence.

Nuclear warfighting capability is why the U.S. is now implementing a $2 trillion “modernization� program enriching the usual fat-cat contractors while robbing resources from the poor, which is one of the Vatican’s main objections. Our own President Eisenhower said “every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed.�

That $2 trillion nuclear weapons modernization will do nothing to protect us against the global pandemic impacting Americans now. Further, the Sandia and Los Alamos labs may actually degrade national security with planned new nuclear weapons designs that can’t be tested because of the global testing moratorium. Or worse yet, this may prompt the U.S. back into testing, throwing more gas on the fire of the new nuclear arms race.

The Journal’s own homily ignores reality, the real harm done to New Mexicans by the nuclear weapons industry, disproportionally impacting people of color – the uncompensated Trinity Test downwinders, sick Diné uranium miners, contaminated nuclear weapons workers and deep groundwater contamination under Los Alamos Laboratory.

The Journal ignores the reality that sheer luck has kept us from nuclear catastrophe. In 1957 an H-bomb was accidentally dropped 4.5 miles south of the Albuquerque airport. If fully armed, it would have destroyed central New Mexico. We were lucky that one of three Soviet submarine officers vetoed using a nuclear torpedo against a U.S destroyer during the Cuban missile crisis. Robert McNamara said, “At the end, we lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war.� In 1983, we were lucky to have a Russian officer follow his instincts that a radar blip was not incoming ballistic missiles, again preventing nuclear war. There are many other documented near-misses.

With escalating tensions, the possible end of arms control, new low-yield nukes, stealthy cruise missiles and bombers and future cyber and hypersonic weapons, we are now facing the greatest nuclear risks since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. How long can we count on luck? Being real demands multilaterally, verifiably getting rid of nuclear weapons before they get rid of us.

The U.S. should lead in honoring the mandate to do just that, agreed to long ago in the 1970 NonProliferation Treaty. Embarking upon a $2 trillion nuclear weapons-forever program is the wrong direction. The Albuquerque Journal should be exposing that instead of preaching the delusion of “deterrence� to the Santa Fe archbishop.


Dedication, mentorship, vision set some CEOs apart
Source:  Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, 23 August 2020 23:02

It takes a certain kind of vision to be a successful CEO, but today’s occupants of the top chair also need to embed that vision into their employees.

CEOs who can mentor their employees while heading down the road to progress and innovation with tangible leadership and excellence are bound to bring their vision to reality.

Three local CEOs have been recognized for four of these traits by the Albuquerque Journal.

Dr. Mark Epstein

Dr. Mark Epstein, CEO of True Health New Mexico, is the recipient of this year’s Leadership and Excellence awards. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Mark Epstein, CEO of True Health New Mexico earned both the Leadership and Excellence awards as part of this year’s Top CEOs program.

A physician as well as an administrator, Epstein brings a wide-ranging background to his position atop the health insurance company.

“We have an organization that is really focused on taking care of people as individuals who are going through health issues,� he said.

Members may be facing health challenges or financial challenges, but the goal of every True Health New Mexico employee is to make sure its members are properly covered.

“We have a lot of heart – and in that heart, there is great opportunity to care for people, not just caring for members, but caring for each other in the organization,� Epstein said. “As a physician, that is the core of what we do. We support people who are trying to better their lives and better their health.�

Epstein took something of a round-about path to his current position.

“From a career perspective, my approach has been always to be curious and open to discovery and open to creation,� he said. “It has not felt like a linear path. Those opportunities need to be prepared for.�

It may not have been a linear path, but Epstein has proven to be a perfect fit for True Health New Mexico.

And each day brings something different, which he compares to his days working in the emergency room.

“It has a lot of variety to it and that’s a rich experience for me,� he said. “It’s not unlike an ER shift, you’re not sure what is going to walk through the door and all you can do is make sure the team is ready for anything and you can’t ever lose sight of why you’re there, which is to take care of people.�

Debbie Harms

Debbie Harms, CEO of NAI Maestas & Ward, is the recipient of this year’s Mentorship award. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

When Debbie Harms, CEO of NAI Maestas & Ward, first started in the commercial real estate business, she felt a little lost. She said she doesn’t want anyone working under her to have that feeling, which is one reason she earned the Mentorship award.

“Commercial real estate isn’t an easy field to go into,� Harms said. “There are a lot of intricacies. A lot of a very involved industries. Lots of pieces of the puzzle that have to be put together. If you have a new person coming into this field, there is a lot of information readily available, but it’s not particularly intuitive to put everything together and see a reasonable outcome at the end.�

Harms came into the business with a strong background in the construction industry, working as an accountant with home builders and a large construction company that did commercial projects.

“My knowledge in commercial construction helped me dramatically in commercial real estate,� Harms said. “It wasn’t hard, but it would have been so much easier if I had a mentor. If I had someone who really understood what I didn’t know. I didn’t have that for the first two or three years.�

Harms originally worked for the Hines Corp. under Frank and Dolores Hines, for about two years, from 1993 to 1995.

That’s when the Hines took Harms under their wing and really grounded her in the intricacies of the business. When they retired, Harms started her own company, but the Hines remained mentors.

“Somebody has to work with a person that’s new to the industry,� Harms said. “It doesn’t matter what their age is. The fact that they’re new to the industry means that they have to learn this stuff. And the quicker they’re able to learn and the better they’re able to learn, the better they’re going to do. And that’s the ultimate goal, to give good service to our clients.�

Dr. Sanjay Kholwadwala

Dr. Sanjay Kholwadwala, CEO of Albuquerque ER & Hospital, is the recipient of this year’s Progress award. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Sanjay Kholwadwala, CEO of Albuquerque ER & Hospital, thought there had to be a better way to service emergency room patients. His commitment to that ideal earned him the Progress award.

“I was always interested in administration, but I’ve always been a physician first,� Kholwadwala said. “I thought there could be a different way to do this. We’re not spending enough time with patients. We’re moving so fast that we had no time to talk with anyone. Doctors and nurses don’t talk with the patients and patients feel like they’re not being heard.�

That’s not the case at Albuquerque ER & Hospital.

“I felt a small hospital was a good idea,� Kholwadwala said. “I wanted to try something where I can actually speak with patients, sit down with them, spend 30 minutes. We’re a smaller hospital with lower volumes and we spend more time and that makes patients happy. It’s a lot more fulfilling than spending a minute or two with a patient and moving on.�

The success of the new, West Side hospital has been such that Kholwadwala is actively searching for a site in the Northeast Heights to put a second location.

“You always question yourself,� he said. “When you start something new, going against big names in Albuquerque with a small hospital, (I wondered) are we going to be OK? It was tough to start with. But we’re expanding already. Anytime you expand, it’s always nerve-wracking, but that’s also the fun time.�


IRS audits target ‘big boys’
Source:  Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, 23 August 2020 23:02

Jim HamillI have written often about the declining resources devoted to the IRS, and how the agency has been forced to reduce the use of compliance audits. Congress both reduces the IRS resources and directs the agency to allocate more of the less to customer service.

IRS audits have long struck fear in the hearts of the bravest of men (using that term universally). The IRS audit is seemingly interesting. It has been the topic of many episodes of situation comedies. The sitcom character’s fear leads to hilarity.

Ralph Kramden, star of “The Honeymooners,� which ran from 1955 to 1956, was terrified by an impending audit when he learned that the $85 he won in a poker game was unreported income.

Archie Bunker of “All in the Family� similarly had unreported income, this time from driving a cab on Sundays. He told his wife Edith that “what a man does on his Sabbath is between him and his maker.� He also explained “I was exercising my loophole like the big boys.�

A substantial body of research shows that if people think the “big boys� can cheat on their taxes, then why not the regular folk also? So IRS looks to publicize cases where big boys are caught cheating. (See Spiro Agnew, disgraced former U.S. vice president).

Bruce Springsteen had tax issues early in his period of fame. He says he came to the attention of the IRS after appearing on the cover of Time and Newsweek in the same week. He also said, “I never met anyone in New Jersey who paid his taxes.�

I don’t recall doing a lot of individual returns when I worked in Philadelphia, right across the river from New Jersey. Bruce may have been right about those Jersey boys and girls.

From Kramden to Bunker to the early Springsteen, audits have been portrayed in the popular media as the scourge of the common man. The working stiffs just don’t have access to the loopholes of the big boys.

Well IRS says, and we shall see if it aligns with what they do, that the big boys, the really big boys, are in for some heat. By fall they expect to launch “hundreds� of audits of high wealth individuals and thousands of audits of private foundations.

Private foundations are seemingly the charitable arm of the high wealth individual. Seemingly because they, in practice, often lack a charitable heart.

In the past IRS has been challenged in auditing the linkages between the high wealth individual and his or her private foundation. The new plan is to coordinate the efforts to create the tax equivalent of Poe’s tell-tale heart. Some high wealth people may soon be losing their sanity, a la the poor bus driver Ralph Kramden.

Not one of the top “hundreds� of wealthy people in the country? No private foundation? Before you exhale, check your tax return, assuming you are not from New Jersey, to see if you claimed a “Section 199A� deduction or reported income from a partnership (there’s 38 million of you people).

You, too, are in the crosshairs. The Section 199A deduction is the new (2018 on) deduction for qualified business income. It’s a high audit risk item. Partnership tax returns have new questions that will also identify audit targets.

As Mick Jagger might say (“Shattered�), don’t you know the audit rate is going up, up, up, up, up, to be a partner you must be tough, tough, tough, tough, tough.

Now these are, at this time, just the best laid plans of mice and men. It makes sense to target the big boys and their foundations. How many times will Ralph Kramden win $85 in a poker game? How often will Munson need Archie Bunker to drive his cab on Sundays?

But those big boys, now they’ve got some loopholes in the castle wall. Will IRS actually seal them? I actually hope so. Most CPAs do. It’s been a long time coming and the government does seem to need some money.

My only request? Stay out of New Jersey. It drives the New Yorkers crazy to know that no one in Jersey pays taxes.

Jim Hamill is the director of Tax Practice at Reynolds, Hix & Co. in Albuquerque. He can be reached at jimhamill@rhcocpa.com.

 


Leading through crisis
Source:  Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, 23 August 2020 23:02

There is little question that COVID-19 has wreaked severe financial damage on employers across the country, but businesses that emerge on the other side of this economic maelstrom will be those that best cope with the idea that life – and business – has changed, perhaps irrevocably.

Honorees of the Journal’s 2020 Top CEOs program noted that being able to adjust to the fluid nature of the changing times is a key part in leading through the crises so many businesses are facing this year.

Joanie Griffin of Sunny505 said pandemic-related shifts in the way businesses operate will likely be here for the long haul, so companies should adapt. (Courtesy of Joanie Griffin)

“The world that we’re in, it’s a changing thing,� said Joanie Griffin, owner of Sunny505, an Albuquerque-based marketing, public relations and advertising firm and the top executive in that category. “COVID is as transformational for this generation as 9/11 was for us. That changed the travel industry forever. The way people do business is likely going to change.�

So look for that change and adapt to it, she said.

“One of the things you see is more people ordering things online,� Griffin said. “If you’re a retailer, figure out a way to do even more online.�

Sunny505 was in charge of promotions for the American Heart Association’s New Mexico Heart Walk. Scheduled for June, Griffin early on proposed making it a virtual event.

“The corporate entity had never done a virtual event, but we did the whole thing virtually,� she said. “We had an app. Did a half-hour virtual video and had survivors talk and the chairman kicking it off. We got (New Mexico singer) Hillary Smith to sing the national anthem. It was great.�

It worked so well, the organization actually made $10,000 more this year than last, Griffin said.

“They didn’t have all the expenses and burden of putting on the live event,� she said. “So they had that much more go to the bottom line for heart research. And New Mexico ended up being a case study for other chapters on how to do it.�

As a matter of fact, virtual reality may be the new route for many areas of business.

“In February, we didn’t even know what Zoom was,� Griffin said of the video teleconferencing app. “Now we’re all experts at it.�

Tony Zancanella of Opera Southwest said finding ways to keep its artistic teams going has helped it keep going during the pandemic. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Opera Southwest has bought into the virtual reality – not exactly by choice but out of necessity, said executive director Anthony Zancanella, who also is executive director of Chatter, an outlet for ensemble chamber music. Zancanella was the runner-up CEO in arts and entertainment.

“Nonprofits, performing arts, they’re just about the worst industries right now because our core business is being impacted by COVID-19,� he said. “The basic business we’re in is mass gatherings so it’s been pretty challenging for us.�

Finding a way to keep its artistic companies busy, however, was an important part of survival, Zancanella said.

“We converted to livestream work,� he said. “It’s difficult to monetize that, but it has allowed us to keep our staff employed. And that’s critical in terms of the continuity of our artistic team, keeping it engaged and working.�

The show is the thing, however, and getting it in front of live, paying customers is the ultimate goal, Zancanella said.

Still, Opera Southwest has been able to generate a little bit of revenue by turning its wardrobe department into a mask-creating business.

“And we’re exploring other possibilities, maybe even working outdoors and doing extreme social distancing,� Zancanella said. “I’m extremely bullish on the future of the performing arts. … In this line of business, you look back at a 400-year-old tradition. We’ve overcome cholera and the plague and the Spanish flu.�

As a matter of fact, for Opera Southwest and other, similar entities, the future may be quite bright, he said.

“Live, performing arts really tap into a fundamental need, a community gathering and in-person gathering that people require,� Zancanella said. “I think there is going to be tremendous, pent-up demand unleashed on the other end of this. It’s just a matter of can you as a company last long enough to hit that other side? That is one of the reasons we’re finding alternate methods of producing work. It’s not just about serving the audience it’s about keeping that institutional cohesion alive.�

Ernie C’deBaca, executive director of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, said it has been tough watching the lifeblood of the economy – small businesses – bleed away during this time.

“They have so many blood, sweat and tears that go into it,� he said. “They risk their finances, they risk their mortgages on their homes, they risk their retirement. It’s a risky business. And through no fault of their own they’re being run out of business. All of sudden it’s in jeopardy. I can’t feel bad enough for them.�

Ernie C’deBaca of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce said economic diversification is crucial today in NM. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

The chamber has been offering frequent webinars to give members tips to survive and it has actively been trying to create partnerships between compatible businesses to help the cash flow. The chamber has also partnered with several organizations, like the Duke City Gladiators and Twisters, to provide members with personal protection equipment for their workers.

One thing that is abundantly clear, C’deBaca said, is New Mexico cannot continue business as usual.

“We need to diversify our economy,� he said. “We’re so reliant on certain things. The federal government for jobs and oil and gas for revenue and hospitality – that’s an industry that is getting so beaten up it’s unbelievable. Hotels and restaurants have to find a way to survive. They don’t need to thrive, they just need to survive. It’s shrinking our small business base and what we need to do is increase our small business base.�

Innovation is one key moving forward, said Steven Walsh, distinguished professor and spokesperson for the Innovation group of the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management.

“You have to look at this as an opportunity rather than a depression and there are companies in New Mexico embracing that idea,� he said. “Those people that use this as an opportunity versus those people that whine about it are the ones that succeed.�

For instance, Albuquerque-based Build With Robots has created a system to clean and disinfect large spaces safely and efficiently to destroy germs that can cause illness without human interaction.

“They’re going national,� Walsh said. “They’re cleaning everything where COVID was. They focus on factories, Walmarts and airports. And their first big job was to cleanup Albuquerque International Airport.�


Flying 40 event rescheduled for October
Source:  Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, 23 August 2020 23:02

The New Mexico Technology Flying 40 program, postponed earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, has been rescheduled for the fall and is soliciting applications, according to a news release.

The event recognizes the state’s fastest growing technology companies and typically culminates in a celebratory event in June.

This year, ranking companies will be celebrated via social media and at the event’s website.

Company leaders interested in submitting their business for consideration can find online applications and program details at www.flying40.com, and must submit applications by Sept. 11.

Eligibility will be determined in three categories:

• Top revenue growth companies with revenues between $1 million and $10 million.

• Top revenue growth companies with revenues of more than $10 million.

• Top revenue-producing technology companies irrespective of revenue growth.

A list of ranking companies, along with revenue figures, will be published in a special Outlook edition Oct. 26.

The Journal is a media sponsor of the program.

Other program sponsors include the Sandia Science & Technology Park Development Corp., KPMG LLP, New Mexico Bank and Trust, Delta Dental, True Health New Mexico, New Mexico Angels Venture, New Mexico MEP and the City of Albuquerque’s Economic Development department. Community sponsors include the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union and the New Mexico Tech Council.


Congrats, and godspeed, to 2020 Top CEOs
Source:  Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, 23 August 2020 23:02

Gabrielle Porter

Gabrielle Porter
Journal Business Editor

If leadership is best learned under pressure, 2020 has been a master course unto itself.

Honorees of the Journal’s 2020 Top CEOs, like community leaders in every sector, have had to adjust on the fly not once this year, but again and again. They’ve had to find new ways to relate to and communicate with their employees, their clients, their suppliers, their neighbors. They’ve faced an economy in turmoil, and managed staff who have been preoccupied with the same worries so many of us have been experiencing in recent months: What if my elderly parent gets sick? What if I get laid off? How am I supposed to do my job and be a homeschooling parent at the same time? Who are these geniuses who keep buying up all the toilet paper?

Honorees who spoke to writer Glen Rosales for this edition shared that flexibility has been absolutely essential in leading through crisis, as has accepting that the pre-COVID way of doing business is over, at least for now.

Meanwhile, recipients of this year’s major awards – for Excellence, Leadership, Progress and Mentorship – described doubling down on what set their organizations apart. That includes investing in care for their clients (or patients), in their up-and-coming team members, and in their quality of product.

Honorees from this year’s program were nominated over a several-week period, and lead businesses in the healthcare, food service, nonprofit, public relations, business services, construction, hair and beauty, health and wellness, legal, real estate and STEM industries.

All have plenty of challenges left to face for the rest of this year, and in the years to come. So for now, press pause on all the pandemic-related strife and take a moment to join the Journal in congratulating this year’s Top CEOs – and the staff members they lead.


One on One with Cathryn McGill
Source:  Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, 23 August 2020 23:02

One-on-One

with Cathryn McGill

Cathryn McGill, founder and director of the NM Black Leadership Council is seen in her Southeast Albuquerque office. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journa)l

“I’ve been in trouble most of my life.�

Cathryn McGill says her determination to get things done took hold when she was a 6-year-old – “pretty precocious and sure that I knew everything.�

One of the things she knew was that she should be allowed to direct a show at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

“They hung up some canister lights in the social hall and let me direct my first play,� says McGill. “It was a church where everybody was somebody, and so that stuck with me all my life.�

McGill, 59, went on to become a singer, songwriter, actress and producer, all of which she has largely put aside to focus on her roles as founder and director of the New Mexico Black Leadership Council and the New Mexico Black History Organizing Committee.

“In order to do this work, I had to give up being out there performing on a regular basis,� says McGill, who has a gospel background and has shared the stage with Bo Diddley, Grover Washington Jr., and Lyle Lovett Jr.

“Not because of the time constraint, because I’ve been used to working seven days a week for most of my career, but because of the fact that in many cases, Black people are considered to be a monolith,� McGill says. “So if I was showing up in a meeting where we’re talking about politics or strategy, people are looking at me as, ‘Aren’t you the singer?’ It was harmful to the development of this project, and the project is very important to me.�

This summer’s overwhelming response to racism following the “modern-day lynching� of George Floyd in Minneapolis is unprecedented because the global pandemic has meant that many people are at home with few distractions, says McGill.

“In the past, we might have been able to look away, but now there’s been nowhere to go, and in some cases and for some people, no one to talk to about it,� McGill says. “And so it became even more egregious, even more amplified, even uglier. I think for me what we need to do, and what this time has given us the room to do, is face the brutal facts.�

When McGill is asked locally for ways to respond, she tells New Mexicans to frequent Black businesses and “seek out opportunities to change the culture of your business.�

What was your childhood like?

“It was interesting growing up in Muskogee (Oklahoma). I was always convinced that there had been some terrible mistake, and how had I wound up here? Because I was supposed to be living in a penthouse in New York City. Really, I just had no idea how great it was, and now I know. We never even had a key to our house, because the door was never locked. Wide open spaces, green country. Right across the street from our house was this big open space. And what was so great about it was all the real role models that we had growing up. I always say that our church was one of the centerpieces of our existence because it was the place where people could have sanctuary, literally and figuratively, from the vagaries of what was the racist pseudo-South. But when they walked into the Mount Calvary Baptist Church, they were somebody.�

What do you do in your free time?

“I am a gamester. I grew up playing board games. We played cards, we played Taboo, Scrabble, all those games. Most of my friends don’t like to play with me because I’m pretty competitive. And I really like to win. I like wordsmithing, which is one of the reasons why I think I’m a decent songwriter. Figuring out how to put words into the meter of a song is a great puzzle for me. And I guess I just have to admit, I love shopping. Going to thrift stores is one of my favorite things. A lot of people want to tell you how much they paid for something, and I want to tell you how little.�

You’re obviously a person who gets things done. Where do you get that from?

“My mother. She raised five kids on a teacher’s salary in Muskogee – one of the first Black teachers at an all-white high school in 1968 – and she had that drive. She worked tirelessly in the community on behalf of students who were perhaps not going to be seen by the administration and for whom the administration had very low standards. She had very high standards.�

Do you have any pet peeves?

“I don’t like when people are being deliberately obtuse about issues, or if they fail to try to understand, because I believe … that understanding is attainable, and that you have to give it a shot. I just remember when my mother, who was an English teacher, going to her and saying, ‘Mama, how do you spell this word?’ She would say, ‘Look it up, sound it out. How will it be helping you learn if I just tell you? Go learn.’ I think in most situations, we have to say to people, ‘Go learn.’ Critical thinking is, in some cases, a lost art. It’s one of the 21st century skills that I believe we have to ascribe to in order to have a thriving community.�

What are your favorite foods?

“All of them, unfortunately. Doing this interview makes me think a lot of my mom. Even though I’m sure most people would consider it a poverty meal, my mother could make the best pinto beans and cornbread that she would make from scratch. And pork neck bones, a little hot sauce. Whenever I would come home, I would walk in the house and that would be what she had on the stove. That was how she individualized her relationships with us is by, ‘What is your favorite meal?’ And that was mine.�

What makes you sad?

“Sometimes I think I haven’t done enough, that there is not enough time or that perhaps things will never change. Even though I work hard to remain hopeful. There are so many times where I just think, ‘well, a step forward, two steps back,’ and so feeling like that change won’t happen or that I won’t be around to see it makes me very sad.�

What’s on your bucket list?

“My birthday is in October. I want to spend it in Paris, but that’s not happening. On my bucket list has been to perform on Broadway. I would still love to do that one day. Probably not this year.�

What is your dream Broadway debut?

“‘The Sound of Music.’ Maria. Although, right now, at this age, I’d be Mother Superior. That was the first musical that I saw on the screen with Julie Andrews and learned all the words. That was the be-all and end-all.�

What’s most important to you right now?

“That we finally will acknowledge that racism is a pandemic as devastating as COVID-19. That we will face it knowing that we can prevail if we persist and if we have a philosophy that we will do more than pay surface attention.�


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