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NMSU minority programs make awards at Martin Luther King

New Mexico State University College of Arts and Sciences Dean E. Rene Casillas and retired Las Cruces police detective and community activist Joe Bob Sellers were the recipients of the NMSU's 2001 Racial Harmony Awards during the Martin Luther King Memorial Breakfast in the university's Corbett Center Friday, Jan. 12.



NMSU Dean of Arts and Sciences E. Rene Casillas received a Racial Harmony Award at the university's annual Martin Luther King Memorial Breakfast, Friday, Jan. 12. (NMSU photo by Michael Kiernan) Former Las Cruces police officer and community activist Joe Bob Sellers received a Racial Harmony Award at NMSU's annual Martin Luther King Memorial Breakfast, Friday, Jan. 12. (NMSU photo by Michael Kiernan)

NMSU Vice President for Administration Juan Franco told an audience of 400 who attended the breakfast that recipients are selected each year for their efforts in promoting racial harmony in the community. NMSU students pick nominees for the awards and recipients are selected from that list by the directors of the university's three minority programs: Black Programs, Chicano Programs and American Indian Programs, he said.

Casillas has taught chemistry and molecular biology at NMSU since 1982 and was named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1991. Franco said Casillas's eminence in chemistry has encouraged many minority students to enter that profession. The dean also is noted for treating everyone he deals with in an equitable manner, he added.

Casillas said he was honored to be in the presence of so many former Racial Harmony Award recipients, who attended the breakfast. He highlighted his acceptance speech by telling the story of a woman he said was one of his personal heroes -- a young Native American woman who overcame several hardships and misfortunes to earn a medical degree.

Sellers, whose father was a Las Cruces constable and whose son is a Las Cruces police officer, said that, on receiving the award, he especially wanted to remember his mother, Mary D. Sellers, who raised six boys alone without the benefit of welfare.

"I thank God for her. She's the one who reminded us to stay clean and do right," he said.

Sellers, who spent part of his career as a juvenile officer and since retiring has served as director of the Police Athletic League, said being able to work with young people was what kept him in police work.

Las Cruces School Board member Clarence Fielder announced this year's recipients of the Andrew L. Wall Scholarship, named after the first director of Black Programs at NMSU and awarded to area high school seniors who plan to attend NMSU in the fall semester. The nominees also must earn good grades and show good citizenship. The recipients are Joyce Birdsong, Onate High School; Berenice Carrillo, Brittany Fielder and Edward Hamilton, Las Cruces High School; and Dana Ramzy, Mayfield High School.

As another part of the memorial celebration, students in Dona Ana County elementary, middle and high schools were asked to write essays on the topic "Standing Up For What Is Right." The essay contest winners were introduced at the breakfast. They are Ruby Hernandez and Kimberly Hubbard, Fairacres Elementary School; Fara Al-Anazi and Amanda Carden, Hillrise Elementary School; Levi Roof and Diane White, Camino Real Middle School; Matthew Acosta, Paul Neff and Tatiana Stewart, Zia Middle School; and Anthony Oveide, FYI-STAY GED program.

The breakfast's guest speaker, Hilary Shelton, director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Washington bureau, said that, in considering his remarks for the breakfast, he asked how Martin Luther King would have celebrated his birthday if he were still alive. Jesse Jackson, a former assistant to King, told him that when King was alive he celebrated by continuing to work for civil rights and racial equality, he said.

Shelton said the NAACP's current agenda includes eliminating police brutality, achieving proper health care for all, eliminating the stereotyping of minorities in the justice system, the implementation of hate crimes law, a moratorium on the death penalty and the passage of a bill that mandates uniform national standards for allowing those convicted of a felony to vote.

He also said the NAACP opposes the selection of John Ashcroft for U.S. attorney general. As a senator, Ashcroft voted against federal provisions for aiding disadvantaged businesses and for reporting on court sentencings which might show disproportionate minority confinement. He also voted to eliminate funding for the U.S. Justice Department's Hate Crimes investigation section and against the expansion of the federal hate crimes law to explicitly include crimes against minorities and gays, Shelton said.

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Photos are available at
http://kiernan.nmsu.edu/newsphoto/kingbreak1.jpg.
CUTLINE: NMSU Dean of Arts and Sciences E. Rene Casillas received a Racial Harmony Award at the university's annual Martin Luther King Memorial Breakfast, Friday, Jan. 12. (NMSU photo by Michael Kiernan)
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http://kiernan.nmsu.edu/newsphoto/kingbreak2.jpg..
CUTLINE: Former Las Cruces police officer and community activist Joe Bob Sellers received a Racial Harmony Award at NMSU's annual Martin Luther King Memorial Breakfast, Friday, Jan. 12. (NMSU photo by Michael Kiernan)

Jack King
Jan. 12, 2001