SALT LAKE CITY — At the Young Women’s Christian Association, local female activists of color recently met to discuss racism and the fight to end bigotry, as well as the way they have been inspired to keep fighting.
Lex Scott, founder of the Utah chapter of Black Lives Matter, started the night off with high expectations for our future: “I have a goal to ending the oppression of black and brown people in the USA in our lifetime.”
Demonstrating how strongly Scott feels, she commented on a time when her daughter told her she wants to be a civil rights activist. Scott emphatically told her that no, she won’t be because Lex plans to end racism before then.
“Why is it that my great-grandfather fought [racism] and then my dad and then me?” Scott said.
The panel was moderated by Itzel Hernandez from the Utah Coalition of La Raza, a coalition that fights for Hispanic and Latinx rights. Members of the panel included Scott from BLM Utah; Margarita Satini, chair of the Utah Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Coalition; Tinesha Zandamela, founder of the Women of Color Club at Brigham Young University; Andrea Valverde, constituent affairs and volunteer services coordinator at the Salt Lake County Mayor’s office; and Ermiya Fanaeian, student organizer of March for Our Lives SLC.
The panel held the attention of the audience with stories that most of Utah may not believe could happen today. Satina described how her family had been treated by the police in her own neighborhood of Cottonwood Heights.
“I happen to be one of a very few black or brown families that live there … [the police] have probably raided my home three or four times,” Satini said.
Satini told the audience of an incident involving her son who was in the driveway of her house talking with friends.
“He needed to use the bathroom, and he jumped out of the car and sprinted to the house, and just as he opened the doors, the police drove by, flashed him with their lights and jumped out of the car in pursuit of my son and ran into my house,” Satini recalled.
Tired of situations like this being created around her family, Satini was inspired to create a police review board in her city. When told that she wouldn’t have any power to create such a board, she decided to run for office. Despite losing, her engagement remains a large part of her life, and Satini has spent a lot of that time getting other people of color into office.
Zandamela spoke about how important it is to support one another’s fight, and how the support of others at BYU helped her start a club that she hoped would provide women of color support in the future.
“When I first started at BYU I asked, ‘can we have a Women of Color Club? I think that would be a really great idea,’ and was shut down very quickly. They were not happy about the idea and I was told that, basically, BYU is not ready for you to do that so, I don’t see that happening here,” Zandamela said.
After years of promoting her idea and even running for office in Provo, Zandamela finally succeeded last year, a year before she is to graduate.
“This is about the future … this is something that’s not just about while I’m at BYU, but when I leave, is this something that’s going to be sustainable, is this something that people can continue?” Zandamela said.
Providing that support for the future seemed to be important for these women.
“For me, it’s about the young people that are becoming more civically engaged now and embracing them,” Valverde told the moderator. “Sometimes, I think as the establishment, we tend to kind of shy away from younger people and those new ideas and what they bring to the table. It’s so important to open the doors and bring people with us.”
Zandamela felt it was important to address how those who are white and have power can help people of color change the norms of government and the way our society has been working. She expressed her gratitude to “the white people who utilized their resources and privilege to bring me to the table.”
The need for women of color aiming for positions of power was mentioned throughout the evening, citing the problematic issue of people representing them who cannot relate to their experiences as women or as racial minorities.
The panel finished the evening on the importance of supporting the movements of the disenfranchised and especially the movements of other women of color.
Zandamela spoke of the importance of “encouraging other women of color to run for office and to get involved. I’ve met so many amazing women of color who are like ‘I could never do that’ or ‘I can’t do that’ because they haven’t seen themselves [represented] in those leadership positions.”