Story and photos by IASIA BEH

With the latest photos to come out regarding placement of racist banners and posters on the “Block U,” it raises a lot of questions: Who are they? Why are they doing this? Why do they feel so emboldened that they show their faces when spreading clearly racist rhetoric?

One reason behavior like this is possible is because the University of Utah campus itself is isolated from communities of color. Tucked away on the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains in neighborhoods only few can afford, many white students are never introduced or interact with people of color on a meaningful basis.

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Wendy Vazquez pictured at the annual MEChA High School Conference on Feb. 27, 2019.

Wendy Vazquez is taking a criminal justice class this semester as part of her sociology and criminology degree. While the class material has proven to be interesting to her, Vazquez believes her fellow classmates have not.

Sitting on the couches with her sister in the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs in the A. Ray Olpin University Union, Vazquez talked about a white male student she has class with. Even though they have had some classes together previously, he still won’t sit next to her. This confused her until he mentioned in class that he was fearful of people of color.

“At that point, I understood why he didn’t talk to me,” Vazquez said.

She said he works in the library, which also confuses her.

“It kinda doesn’t make sense because he has to give directions to all students,” she said. “Do brown students come up and he just turns around?”

He isn’t the only classmate who has made her feel excluded. A white female student in an in-class group discussion spoke about how building the wall would stop crime.

“She basically implied that as long as the country stayed white, crime would stop because minorities are the ones who commit crimes,” Vazquez said. “She also said we need to ‘have to put these people in their place.’”

Students of color have experiences like this every day on predominantly white universities across the country. William Smith, who is the department chair of the Education, Culture and Society program at the U, describes racial battle fatigue as “the physical and psychological toll taken due to constant and unceasing discrimination, microaggressions, and stereotype threat.”

Smith’s presentation on the subject through the MUSE luncheon lecture series at the Sill Center on Feb. 7 brought the discussion to the CESA office that afternoon about times students themselves had felt drained.

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The Center for Ethnic Student Affairs is a space on campus where many students of color meet to study, socialize and meet with advisers.

One Latinx student, Ariel, talked about how it was hard for him to study with his study group because they were Trump supporters. Ariel said he stopped even talking about it with them because it just “wasn’t worth it.” Multiple students mentioned how white people, mostly women in the examples they gave, would cry when confronted about  “problematic” comments. The Latinx students looked both frustrated and relieved when telling these stories, showing that they had been holding those feelings in for some time.

How are professors reacting to situations like these?

Vazquez said her professor only calls out overtly racist comments while letting ones that “aren’t as bad” slide through the cracks.

“It seems to [the students] like he’s validating their opinions when he shouldn’t be,” she said.

Karen, her sister, then spoke about her experience working at the news station at the school. She said she has been prevented from getting into events even when she had the correct credentials.

“My white male coworker even came out and said ‘she’s with me’ but they still wouldn’t let me in,” she said.

What do these stories have to do with anything? Well, everything.

If a student doesn’t feel comfortable and safe on campus, how will they ever be able to reach their full academic potential? The answer is they can’t. That is why the university has created spaces such as CESA for students of color to be able to meet and talk about their experiences in an area where they do feel safe. But is that enough? How will students be exposed to each other if they are only staying in certain places on campus? That then brings the question of whether it’s the job of students’ of color to teach white people how to be culturally sensitive.

Is it enough for the university to call out certain acts of racism but not what is happening in the classroom on a daily basis? How will it implement that? The university has begun to realize that something needs to be done, as they have added many new programs in recent years, but is it working?

 

Centro de la Familia de Utah, promoting healthy and engaged Latino(x) communities

Story and photos BY BRIANNA WINN

“We pursue what we see,” said Rebecca Chavez-Houck former member of the Utah state of Representatives. “If children do not see people that look like them representing their communities in positions of higher power, then they don’t see that as an opportunity for them.”

Rebecca Chavez-Houck is also a member of the Latino(x) community and an advocate for the community.

“I was in my early thirties, I’m looking at the legislature and I’m thinking about my neighborhood and amazing people I know with accomplishments. I’m wondering why we’re considered a representative democracy when none of the legislature looks like our state or our community,” she said while reminiscing.

This, she said, is what motivated her to run for office.

Chavez-Houck used to be employed Centro de la Familia de Utah before she ran for state.

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Centro de la Familia de Utah means “Utah Family Center” in English. It is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for children’s educational success and fostering healthy and engaged communities.

According to their website, Centro works with Utah families, most in rural and difficult situations, to help them with resources to improve the outcomes of their children.

“Sometimes the families were Latinos, sometimes they were from other communities, sometimes they were white, but most of them were from the Latino community,” says Chavez-Houck.

Centro impacts underserved communities through services founded on parent engagement, providing standardized year-long programs in rural communities, and engaging staff in meaningful professional development, as stated on the website.

According to the website, the program originally was incorporated in April 1975 as the Institute of Human Resource Development during the Chicano movement in Utah. The agency has now taken an interest in serving youth.

During the eighties and nineties, programs were incorporated into the agency’s mental health services to prevent substance abuse and its associated problems. Centro initiated its Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute (HYLI) program as well as several other programs.

The HYLI program provided prevention services to more than 300 high-risk Latino youth.

In 1994, the board and staff decided the name Institute of Human Resource Development no longer exemplified the mission of the agency, and changed its name to Centro de la Familia de Utah, according to their website.

Centro operates Head Start, Early Head Start, and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start programs.

Kari Moore, program design and community impact manager, facilitates the execution of grant communications, the community assessment, self-assessment, annual reports, ongoing monitoring of the Head Start program services, and data driven-demonstration of community impact.

“Hispanic families are mostly the families we see throughout the program, but it really depends on what program and what location,” Moore said over a phone interview. “Up north and south of Provo we tend to get a higher number of Hispanic families.”

In 1991, the federal government implemented the Migrant Head Start Program for the state.

Head Start is a program dedicated to promoting school readiness among economically disadvantaged and underserved children through the provision of educational, health, nutrition, and other services,” according to the website.

“We tried to help the families learn to advocate for themselves,” Chavez-Houck said, “we wanted to give them tools to work within the Head Start program for their children.”

IMG_2510For instance, in the Head Start program they have parent policy committees. The idea behind these policies is that there is no hierarchy of teachers and administrators. “Parents come and decide for that center what their priorities are going to be,” said Chavez-Houck.

According to the Utah State Board of Education, Hispanic/Latino students have increased significantly with their graduation rate over the past five years with increases of 9 percentage points since 2013.

Will Gonzalez, a member of the program and father of three said through an interpreter, “This organization has had a huge impact on my family. We have learned to get along better— we have learned many things.”

“The primary changes I’ve seen is in the behavior of my children,” Will said, “it has helped the children get along better.”

Centro has provided over 41 years of community service focused on increased individual and family self-reliance in Utah.

“I started off as a family service specialist basically going out and recruiting families to join the program,” Moore said. “I really fell in love with the work and I’m just so blessed in my own life for the different opportunities I have to help educate families and give resources to help encourage parents in their children’s education.”

Today, Centro operates five rural Head Start centers and nine Head Start childcare partnerships, according to the website, as well as a portfolio of outcome-based programs for elementary, middle and high school students.

It also offers programs for adults that provide necessary tools and skills for self-sufficiency. Centro continues to fulfill its mission by helping the neediest populations in Utah.

According to the website, Centro annually serves more than 700 Early Head Start and Head Start children throughout the state of Utah in both rural and urban areas.

Centro de la Familia is just one program that is helping Latino families all around the state of Utah. If you want to get involved there are many ways you can support this program.

IMG_2511You can donate online on cdlf.org to help provide stronger programs and broaden the impact in the community. You can also volunteer and/or intern by downloading this file. You can also contact Kari Moore, her email is posted on the website as well.

Centro’s corporate office is located on 525 South 300 West in Salt Lake City, Utah. They have locations in Providence, Honeyville, Genola, Mount Pleasant, and Centerfield.

Children pursue what they see,” said Chavez-Houck, about her Latino(x) community. Families at Centro de la Familia learn and implement best practices to care for their individual health and for each other. In return, children learn this as well, and make their communities a better place.

Multilingual churches of Utah, Spanish-language growth in LDS community

Story and photos By BRIANNA WINN

It’s a snowy, dreary mid-January Sunday in Springville, Utah. A group of Hispanics is gathering outside the Kolob Stake just off of 1230 South and 500 East, with their families dressed in their suit and ties, fancy dresses, and normal church attire. They are holding copies of the Book of Mormon, translated into Spanish.

They enter a welcoming, snug room full of other members of their faith whilst “Holas” and “Cómo Estás” are instantly spread around the room. The hymns start and everyone can sing along.

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Imagine living in a world where there is a mass amount of viewpoints, and no place to find truth, express your faith or worship your God because of a language barrier.

The Book of Mormon Alma 29 says, “For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have…”

The Mormon religion was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon, sacred and holy text of the church, was originally said to be written in Egyptian, according to the church’s official website. Today, it offers scriptures in over 90 different languages and plans on translating scriptures in 34 more languages.

The LDS church has grown immensely in Spanish-speaking countries and the Spanish-speaking LDS community is growing substantially in the state of Utah.

Church officials say the presence of Mormonism began to first grow in Mexico in 1875. Brigham Young, president of the church at the time, called on six missionaries from Salt Lake to bring Spanish-language materials about the church to Mexico according to LDS.org.

Salvador Gonzalez is a bishop for the LDS church at Kolob 14th Ward in Springville, Utah. Gonzalez moved to the United States from Spain where he joined the church in 1982.

“There are 58 Spanish-speaking wards and branches in the state of Utah,” Gonzalez said in an interview via email.

A ward is a single congregation, containing 300 or more members. A branch is smaller, typically having 200 or more members, according to Mormon.org.

Pew Research Center says the Church has more than 15 million members worldwide. Seven percent of those members belong to the Latino(x) community and the number is only growing.

“The Latino(x) community have a connection with the Book of Mormon and the history,” says Gonzalez. “Hispanics in other countries are connected with the history written in the text. When missionaries go and teach in these countries, the people recognize the history and are drawn towards the church. They have a connection within the church.”

Bret Ellsworth, manager of Immigrant Services Welfare Department of the Church, said in a telephone interview “The Hispanic community has been coming to the church, and to Utah in particular, in record numbers. The Hispanic growth rate is growing quite rapidly, he said for example, in West Valley the Latino population is up to 28%.”

According to LDS.org, Spanish is the second largest language group in the church. By the year 2020, it is presumed that Spanish will be the largest language group.

Ellsworth works with immigrants every day, especially Latinos. “The Immigrant Services program reaches out to Hispanics and helps them by giving them free and reliable resources and information he says, and by ensuring they’re not taken advantage of in any way.”

Missionary work has had a great impact on the increase in the Hispanic community. The Mormon News Room says missionaries serve in pairs, teaching the gospel and baptizing believers in the name of Jesus Christ. They travel to many different Spanish-speaking countries.

Gonzalez says, “Missionaries travel to over 21 different Spanish-speaking countries.”

The Missionary Training Center, or MTC, is a training center to prepare missionaries before they go on their mission. This is where they learn Spanish language if needed or required.

After serving a Spanish-speaking mission in the country of Ecuador in 1994, Bryon Buchmiller didn’t want to give up his association with the Spanish-speaking community. “Serving my mission in Ecuador was an incredible experience, he says. “Everything about it was great, from the language to the people, to baptizing new members. I would love to go back.”

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Buchmiller says he tries to keep up with his Spanish language, although it is hard. He tries to attend a Spanish-speaking ward every once in a while, to keep up on his Spanish and speak with the other members.

He said being immersed into the culture and being around the natives was really the easiest way to pick up the language and continually improve at it.

“Sometimes when I drive, I try to speak Spanish to rekindle my memory, Buchmiller says, “since it’s been so long since my mission, I don’t get to speak it every day.”

The article on LDS.org, How Can I Better My Mission Language, is a useful resource for returned missionaries looking to improve on their language skills or keep up with their learned language.

“There are more Spanish-speaking people being converted than English-speaking people in the church,” Gonzalez says.

Today, all LDS scriptures are available in Spanish.

Spanish-language is becoming one of the prominent languages in the church next to English. There is a staggering amount of Latinos(x) being baptized causing Spanish-speakers to take up a huge chunk of the church’s worldwide membership, according to Mormon.org.

Cultural diversity has long been a part of the American experience. The way the church is growing, Mormonism continues to lean heavily towards diversity, specifically in the Latino(x) community.

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints located on 1230 South and 500 East in Springville Utah.

Kolob Stake in Springville is just one of the many Stakes in Utah that offer a welcoming religious place to the Hispanic community. Find a Meeting House or Ward is a helpful resource that shows where different wards/branches are, including Spanish-speaking wards and branches.

Now, Hispanic families all over the state of Utah can worship and read scriptures in their own native language.

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