From local government officials to philanthropic stakeholders to Living Cities staff, this story is one in a series that demonstrates the impact Living Cities has across the U.S. — connecting individuals and highlighting successful initiatives.

Michelle Melendez
Inaugural Director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion for the City of Albuquerque, New Mexico

“I fight racism everyday.”

Three years ago, my department didn’t exist — I serve as the inaugural director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion for the City of Albuquerque, New Mexico. As a native of Albuquerque and a Chicana, it’s been liberating to see our city government’s investment in fighting systemic racism and to have the opportunity to bring my personal experiences and perspective as a Mexican American to the space.

Not only does my team service our community’s immediate needs, like improving access to city resources, but we help shape and provide tools so that our city is better equipped to address systemic racism. We want Albuquerque to be inclusive, not only in name, but in who we hire, do business with and where we invest as a city. Living Cities has been a critical partner in this and to how we accomplish this vision. Through the Integration Initiative, we were able to provide support to more people of color who are business owners and connect with like-minded individuals across the U.S. that are working to end systemic racism in their city.

My family has been here for generations, since before New Mexico became a part of the U.S. — I envision my city as a place where race is no longer a predictor of outcomes. Where education level, wealth, homeownership and health status are less and less tied to race and ethnicity. Where a child’s race or ethnicity does not determine their chances in life. That’s the future of Albuquerque, my city, my community.

Published: March 9, 2021