A large crowd of young people and their parents participate in Wednesday’s New Mexico Youth Summit at Buffalo Thunder Resort. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
A large crowd of young people and their parents attended the New Mexico Youth Summit Wednesday evening at Buffalo Thunder Resort where they heard messages of hope, courage, help and collaboration from several speakers including Pueblo of Pojoaque Gov. Joseph Talachy, James Wahlberg of the Mark Wahlberg Foundation, Roger Montoya of Moving Arts Espanola who is a CNN Heroes nominee and Heather McMurray of the DEA 360 program.
Multiple groups had booths at the event to provide participants with information on everything from the New Mexico Crisis Line to the New Mexico Office of Peer Recovery and Engagement programs Support Worker Training and Development.
Hoop dancers from the Puebo of Pojoaque performed as well as folklorico, Baile Illusione and singer Gabrielle Salazar. Dinner was provided by the Pueblo.
Although solemn and serious messages about the statistics, extent and seriousness of the opioid crisis which took 72,000 lives across the nation last year and the tragic loss of members of the community to drug overdoses were conveyed to the participants, there were messages of hope and encouragement. Governor Talachy bravely spoke of his own recovery and about the need to remove the stigma involved in seeking help for both drug and alcohol issues.
The Mark Wahlberg Foundation movie “If Only” was screened and James Wahlberg described how when the movie premiered some 2,000 people attended. He said the invitations immediately began to come in full force for it to be shown in communities across the country and that five years later he is still traveling around showing it to thousands of people.
Wahlberg openly spoke of how God took “a scoundrel like me” with all his “deficits and shortcomings and brokeness” and used it as an asset. He spoke of a discussion he had with the head of the DEA who told him something he would never forget, that the recovery community plays such a key role in ending the opioid epidemic because it takes “people that can speak with depth and weight that have traveled the road to reach people sometimes”.
“I want you to understand that you can not lose hope. You can’t give up on people. I drive through Albuquerque – there are so many people sleeping on the streets. When I drive by I know that some of those people will get clean and sober and live a life of service. I know this because I am doing it,” Wahlberg said. “And if I can do it, anybody can do it, believe me, because I’m a scoundrel.”
Lupe Salazar, executive director of Barrios Unidos Chimayo said people who lose loved ones to addiction don’t get over it, they get through it. She pointed out on the memorial quilt displayed at the event, her sister, her nephew, her brother-in-law, her cousin and many friends.
” Please don’t let my tears be a sign of weakness. It’s not weakness, it’s frustration. We still have to change the stigma, the shadow of discrimination. Our community is small enough to where we should embrace addiction but instead shame them and many of these people passed away all by themselves,” Salazar said. “Tonight I want you to know they were more than addiction. They were loved and needed and when they were gone they left a big hole in our hearts.”
Salazar said people need to talk, to share and to reach out.
“I reach out to our youth. You are our future. You need to move forward and help us stomp out the stigma…. Where there’s breath there’s hope and we need to remember that. Everywhere we go we need to do those little acts of kindness, to let them know that we need them, that they’re real,” she said.
Baile Illusione adds a touch of culture and a splash of color at the New Mexico Youth Summit Wednesday evening. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Maire O’Neill of the Los Alamos Reporter meets James Wahlberg of the Mark Wahlberg Foundation at the New Mexico Wednesday evening at Buffalo Thunder Resort. Courtesy photo
Jennifer Manzanare, vice chair of the Espanola Pathways Shelter board of directors chats with Rep. Joseph Sanchez at the New Mexico Youth Summit. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Pueblo of Pojoaque Gov, Joseph Talachy speaks at Wednesday’s New Mexico Youth Summit. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
James Wahlberg speaks at the New Mexico Youth Summit Wednesday at Buffalo Thunder Resort. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Hoop dancers from the Pueblo of Pojoaque at the New Mexico Youth Summit Wednesday evening at Buffalo Thunder Resort. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Scottina Holley and Matthew Taylor of the DEA 360 Community Outreach Program at Wednesday’s New Mexico Youth Summit. Photo by Maire O’Neill/loslamosreporter.com
Tewa Women United had a table at Wednesday’s New Mexico Youth Summit. Photo by Maire O’Neill/loslamosreporter.com
Cisco Valdez of Barrios Unidos was one of many volunteers on hand at Wednesday’s New Mexico Youth Summit. Photo by Maire O’Neill/loslamosreporter.com
Singer Gabrielle Salazar performs at Wednesday’s New Mexico Youth Summit. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Chatting with James Wahlberg, third from left. are Espanola Community Matanza chair Ralph Martinez, Roger Montoya of Moving Arts Espanola and Floyd Zamora of Reroute. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com