It was quite a sight to see – a procession of men cautiously walking around Jordan Park in high heels. Some wobbled and a couple rolled their ankles, others walked alongside women (called “blister sisters”) who were there in case the men needed to grab their arm for support.
The gender roles were intentionally reversed at this domestic violence awareness event last October.
Organized by the Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources (PIK2AR) non-profit, their annual event called “In Heels to Heal” raised awareness about the problem of domestic and sexual violence against women.
“We are trying to understand how it feels to walk in their shoes,” said Simi Poteki, director of KAVA Talks, a program within PIK2AR that educates Pacific Islander men about domestic violence and sexual abuse issues.
KAVA Talks (Kommitment Against Violence Altogether) is a men’s group that meets monthly to discuss violence prevention within the Pacific Islander community. (In case you were wondering, this has nothing to do with kava drinking, but they do use the Kava circle platform for open discussion.)
A Women’s Empowerment Group, which meets weekly in Glendale, was recently added to the programing to provide a safe environment for Pacific Islander women to share their unique perspectives and experiences concerning their wellbeing. Women are invited to come for “REST,” which stands for Resources, Education, Support & Talanoa (Talk).
Poteki and his wife Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou started up the KAVA Talks and women’s groups to address the domestic violence that is prevalent not only in their community, but the community at large. No cultural group is immune.
“In the islands, we tolerate violence so much that we think it is part of our culture. It is not. Abuse does not belong in any culture, especially ours,” said Poteki.
“When little kids grow up and see their dad hit their momma, they just turn their heads the other way, because it’s beyond their control. They are not supposed to say anything. Well, it’s time for some of us to stand up and say something,” he said.
PIK2AR also organizes film screenings and panel discussions as part of their domestic violence prevention efforts.
To find out more about PIK2AR and KAVA Talks, visit www.pik2ar.info, contact Executive Director Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou at , or attend one of the following meetings:
KAVA Talks: Meet other men who work towards eliminating violence on the 2nd Thursday of each month at Jordan Valley Medical Center West Valley Campus, 3460 S. Pioneer Pkwy, West Valley City.
Pacific Island Women’s Empowerment Group: a peer support group that meets every Wednesday at the Sorenson Unity Center, 1383 S 900 W. from 6 – 7:30 p.m. Free child care available.
Much learning takes place outside of the traditional classroom.
Outdoor enthusiast Dan Potts teaches three popular classes in West High School’s Community Education program during the first part of the year – Ice Fishing, Fly Tying, and Wild Food Foraging. Mr. Potts also teaches Intensive Gardening later in the spring, about growing the most food in the smallest available space.
The Salt Lake City School District’s Community Education Program has a flexible system that allows the public four ways of registering for a multitude of different classes at the three different sites at East, Highland and West High Schools. Brian O’Neal, who manages the program at West, stressed how well online registration worked, and how popular and efficient it was compared to mail-in registration, phone registration, or rare cases of in-person registration.
Instead of mailing out bulky paper catalogs this year, the district mailed postcards with the web address of the online catalog. Classes vary in duration, beginning and ending throughout the semester, with other classes replacing them. To access the printable catalog, go to www.slcschools.org/departments/community-education/documents/17-18-winter-catalog.pdf
Online registration helps everyone by keeping a person’s chosen class from being cancelled, or even over-booked. For instance, there are only ten kits readily available for Fly Tying. Classes are cancelled if there are less than five students. Online registration starts on January 3 and classes start the week of January 16.
There’s a category called “Enrichment” in the catalog, but O’Neal said, “Everything we offer is an Enrichment Program!” He mentioned the importance of word of mouth recommendations, as Potts also pointed out, which drives many students to try his classes.
O’Neal spoke about a Hip Hop class and an eight-week Zumba class, both taught by Chelsea Fernandez. He also mentioned a Bollywood Dance class taught by Divya Narayanan. Youth Karate is also well-attended, as are computer software classes like Quick Books, Excel, Power Point, and Word. O’Neal said he is always on the lookout for new teachers with good ideas.
Potts’ Ice Fishing class meets in Room 200 on the second floor of West High School’s Main Building, starting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday January 22. There are 4 sessions of two hours each. Potts teaches how to enjoy getting above the winter inversions to bask in the sunshine while catching your evening meal on nearby mountain lakes.
Potts’ Fly Tying class meets the next night, Tuesday January 23 in Room 200 as well, but it meets five times during the course. His Wild Foods Foraging class meets twice a year in spring and autumn for six sessions each and roughly 30 people sign up for the experience. It costs $50.00, but the demand for this process mean that class sizes are limited to just over two dozen people. There’s a strong element of fun in all of Pott's classes as well, and he says “I intend to make it that way.”
Many educational, cultural, and civic activities are done at the neighborhood level. These activities create some brilliant individuals and leaders, as in the case of Teresa Organista, who has worked tirelessly to empower her community.
Organista has always had a desire to help others in her community in Mexico and the U.S. “All this work started by taking my children to school. I searched for good resources, and by finding them, I passed them to my neighbors,” she said.
One of her first projects was a grassroots initiative that she called No More Dropouts. It started by knocking on neighbors’ doors and spreading the word. From there, Organista began meeting respected people in the community, such as elected officials and community council leaders.
Organista began looking for grants and a location for her non-profit. With the help of University Neighborhood Partners and their entrepreneurial incubator program, Casa Quetzalcóatl (pronounced “ketz-all-CO-ott-ul”) was launched. The organization’s mission is to expand the precious knowledge of each member of the family in three ways: by obtaining a higher education degree, becoming culturally sustaining individuals, and becoming empathetic agents of change. Achievement of these three pillars – formal knowledge, cultural knowledge, and civic knowledge – are possible through family, school, and community partnerships.
In the area of formal education, students learn how to craft resumes, scholarship essays, college admission essays, and to prepare for the ACT.
Organista is an active force in public schools around Salt Lake City’s west side. She has held numerous posts with the Salt Lake City School District including Backman Elementary and West High. She has served on the advisory board for University Neighborhood Partners. She has received recognition for her work representing her community, notably, one from the governor and another from UEN (Utah Education Network) from the KUED television station.
Last year, she ran for school board. Although she lost, she won in other ways. Organista affirmed her sympathizers: “I didn’t lose. I won 2,500 votes. Before I had zero votes. And I won many allies in the process. That’s winning for me.”
Organista stresses parent involvement in everything that she does throughout schools: “Parents are the most important element for a child’s success,” said Organista.
She also wants her students without a sense of belonging to feel the opposite at Casa Quetzalcoatl. “Many students don’t know who they are, so they get involved with bad groups. That is the aim of Casa Q; rather than joining bad cliques, why not join an educational clique?,” said Organista.
At the end of the day, Organista seeks to find students with a leadership demeanor and strengthen their sense of resilience. Organista claims: “Good leaders are those who find good stuff and share them. Bad leaders find good stuff and keep them to themselves.”
Although it is focused on the Hispanic and Latino/a community, Casa Quetzalcoatl is open to anyone. Organista envisions the day when they have their own space to pool resources for students. For now, they meet Wednesdays from 3 - 4:30 p.m. at the Salt Lake Public Library Marmalade Branch.
Madre de cinco crea organización sin fin de lucro que fortalece líderes jóvenes
Por Atticus Agustin
Muchas actividades educativas, culturales, y cívicas se hacen al nivel de vecindario. Incluso crea individuos y líderes brillantes, como en el caso de Teresa Organista, quien trabaja incansablemente para empoderar a su comunidad.
Organista siempre ha tenido el deseo de ayudar otros en su comunidad en méxico y en los EE.UU. “Todo comenzó cuando yo llevaba a mis hijos a la escuela. Al encontrar buenos recursos, se los pasaba a mis vecinos.” dice Organista
Una de sus primeras iniciativas fue una iniciativa orgánica llamada No más abandonos escolares (ITALICIZE) (No More Dropouts (ITALICIZE) en Inglés). Fue lanzada tocando puertas de vecinos y pasando la luz. De ahí, Teresa comenzó a conocer gente respetuosa en la comunidad. Años después, Casa Quetzalcoatl fue creada.
Organista comenzó buscando fondos para su organización sin fines de lucro. Con la ayuda de UNP (University Neighborhood Partners) y su programa emprendedor, y logró lanzar Casa Quetzalcoatl. La misión de la organización es ampliar el valioso conocimiento de cada miembro de la familia de tres maneras: obteniendo un título de educación superior, convirtiéndose en individuos culturalmente sostenibles y convirtiéndose en agentes empáticos del cambio. El logro de estos tres pilares – conocimiento formal, conocimiento cultural y conocimiento cívico – es posible a través de asociaciones familiares, escolares y comunitarias.
En el área del conocimiento formal, los estudiantes aprenden cómo elaborar currículos, ensayos de becas, ensayos de admisión a la universidad y prepararse para el ACT.
Organista es una fuerza activa en las escuelas públicas alrededor de las áreas del oeste de Salt Lake City. Ha ocupado varios puestos dentro el distrito escolar, incluyendo escuelas como Backman Elementary y West High. Ella ha servido en el consejo de UNP. Fue premiada con varios logros por su trabajo representando a su comunidad; uno del gobernador y otro de UEN (Utah Education Network) por parte de la estación KUED.
El año pasado, se lanzó como candidata presidencial del consejo escolar. Aunque perdió, ganó mucha experiencia, beneficios y aliados. “Gané 2,500 votos. Antes tuve cero votos. También gané aliados en el proceso. Para mí eso es ganar.”, asegura Teresa.
Organista subraya que al involucrarse los padres en todo lo que hagan entre las escuelas. “Los padres son lo más importante para que sus hijos sean exitosos.” asegura Teresa.
La misión de la organización es fortalecer a la familia en el vaivén educativo formal, aprendizaje cultural y cívico. La realización de esos tres pilares sólo son posibles mediante la familia, la escuela, y la comunidad.
Ella también desea que estudiantes sin un sentido de ser, se sienten al revés en Casa Quetzalcoatl. “Muchos estudiantes no saben quiénes son, y se involucran con pandillas. Ese es el objetivo de Casa Quetzalcoatl; en vez de unirse con malas juntas, ¿porqué no un grupo educativo?,” dice Organista.
Al fin del día, Teresa sólo busca estudiantes con un lente de liderazgo, y les fortalece sus sentidos de resiliencia. “Buenos líderes son los que encuentran buenas cosas y los comparten con los demás. Malos líderes son aquellos que encuentran cosas buenas y se las quedan para ellos mismos,” dice Teresa.
Aunque el enfoque de la organización está dirigida hacia estudiantes hispanos, Casa Quetzalcoatl está abierto para cualquier de la comunidad. Organista imagina el día en que tenga la manera de poder consolidar todos estos recursos para sus estudiantes. Mientras, se reúnen los miércoles a 15 - 16:30 en la biblioteca Marmalade.
If you stop by the University Neighborhood Partners office in Glendale on a Friday night, you just might find the lights on and the office filled with families: children playing in the basement, older youth keeping an eye on them, parents gathered in a circle discussing a community project or sharing concerns about their children’s schools. In the midst of this activity you will undoubtedly find Almaida “Alma” Yanagui, staff member at University Neighborhood Partners and organizer of this group, the Community Advocate Network (CAN).
Born in Texas to a family of migrant workers, Alma moved all across the US in her early years, settling into Salt Lake City in her early teens. As she grew, she took on increasing responsibility for her six siblings as well as her mother, who was battling mental illness. Even though she enjoyed school and did well at it, she found herself missing it for months at a time. “As I got older it got to be too much, too stressful. I had a lot of other things on the table that I needed to worry about more than school.” Alma’s caregivers over the years did not focus heavily on her schooling. “The people around me that cared for me were more worried for my physical survival than my education…and they never really stopped to think that education was a part of that survival.” She stopped attending after 10th grade.
When Alma’s first child entered school, Alma was more involved, making sure her daughter was at school every day. Like many parents, particularly from outside the U.S., she saw her role as ending at the school door. “I was raised to give a lot of respect to teachers. They know what they’re doing, and it is no place for parents to tell a teacher how to do their job…I kept a very strict distance from the schools.” In the end, though, this did not work for her daughter, who struggled in school and experienced harassment from one teacher in particular who seemed to think very little of her.
It was in her search for counseling for her daughter that Alma met UNP staff member Anita Watson, who was working out of the Northwest Rec Center where Alma worked in the preschool. Anita referred Alma to a new parent leadership class that UNP was helping to start. There, Alma began leaning about how to navigate the school system and her rights as a parent. “The first day I went to class,” she explains, “I learned that as a parent I had the right to walk into any school and ask what was happening with my daughter, and that my daughter had the right to feel safe and comfortable, and that the way her teacher had been treating her was not right…It had been in my hands all along to support my daughter and guide her.”
Alma committed to educating herself so that she could play this guiding role with all five of her children. Meanwhile, she began working as a community advocate with UNP, supporting parents one-on-one. Alma was passing on what she had learned. “Parents sometimes need empowerment. They need to know that it is okay to speak up, that as parents we are the only ones that can advocate for our children, no one knows them like we do…The education system has been designed for one type of student, not all types of students. So we have to advocate for them.” One of the biggest barriers parents face in playing this role, Alma says, is confidence, but Alma believes that “education brings confidence.”
As the group of community advocates Alma worked with grew, she no longer had the bandwidth to meet regularly, one-on-one, with every parent. She began dreaming of a formal course for parents, similar to the one she had taken years ago. She worked with Geri Mendoza, a faculty member in Family and Consumer Studies at the U, Liz Player from the Salt Lake City School District, and a group of community advocates to develop a three-credit university course called Community Leadership in Education. “The number one thing that got me thinking of putting a course together was giving parents a space where they can learn together and from each other, but also giving them the tools they need to advocate for their students, for their community.” Education students from FCS also take the class, which has been taught in the summers for three years now, learning how to reach out and make real connections with families.
Alma has never stopped educating herself. Before long she will be finished with her bachelors degree. With her support, her children have navigated their own education while playing leadership roles in the neighborhoods just like their mother. This year her daughter, Ida, entered her first year at Salt Lake Community College. And still, Alma is ready to pick up the phone every time a parent needs support.
Paul Kuttner works at UNP as Education Pathways Partnership Manager & Engaged Faculty Director
As a 58-year-old disabled student, I graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies in 2016. The value of education is something that my parents — Tongan immigrants — instilled in me from an early age and throughout my life.
I am passionate about my education because I believe in making a difference in my community.
I draw energy from my children and their will to further their education; after sending seven of my own children to college, I returned to the U to complete the degree that I started 30 years ago.
I used to work for the university as a maintenance supervisor. Thirteen years ago, I became disabled because of health issues — I’m dealing with lupus, diabetes, heart and lung problems. I had to stop working. Ironically, though, the disability gave me the time to study. Instead of staying home to complain about my ongoing poor health, I chose to go back to school.
Not many people at the university know that I am struggling physically. Fewer know that I am on a waiting list for a kidney transplant. Being sick was very distracting and discouraging as I worked to finish up my degree. My health care requires a lot of time, including constant doctors visits. I often felt like I didn’t have the stamina to fulfill my assignments. Even walking to the library was exhausting — I had to stop two or three times to rest. During school, I had to find time to give myself insulin shots and to sleep between classes. Nevertheless, I made it. My strategy was straight forward: I remained positive despite my physical ailments, because I could not afford to look and feel sick on the road to my degree.
With my degree, I look forward to working to solve the problems of inequity in the United States. As an American-Pacific Islander, I can contribute to the research and solutions of many complex societal issues facing people of color, immigrants and transnational residents.
When President Trump came to Utah on Dec. 4 to announce the drastic shrinking of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase National Monuments, he took a quick tour of Welfare Square on Salt Lake City’s west side.
On the way to the state capitol building, President Trump’s motorcade very well may have driven by a large public mural of the former Bears Ears National Monument painted on the side of a building on the City Fleet block at approximately 325 W. 800 South.
Over a period of nine days during late October, Artist Josh Scheuerman worked on the mural to depict the vast beauty of the Bears Ears area, which includes Indian Creek. He enlisted the help of others.
Sixteen kids from the Children’s Synergistic Learning Collaborative, a non-profit organization serving kids of all abilities, helped Scheuerman get the painting started by painting whatever they wanted on the bottom of the wall. He then later painted over it, but said, “It’s underneath there…all their love.”
The mural was painted with exterior, weather-resistant, acrylic Behr paint, with 9-inch and 4-inch rollers and a 2-inch brush, and it was dedicated by Carl Moore and other members of Pandos, a Native and environmental activist group, one week before Pres.Trump signed the two controversial proclamations shrinking the monuments and dividing them up into five smaller portions of land.
Scheuerman and fellow artist Renya Nelson hope to work with the city to create many more murals throughout the Granary District in the future.
In the spirit of honoring some of the hard work our contributors provide to The West View, we'd like to recognize some outstanding work. Please submit your nominations on the form below. Winners will be announced at the West View Holiday party, Wednesday, December 6 from 6-8:30 p.m. at Rico Warehouse.
Please nominate submissions from any of the 2017 Issues
Owners of the Red Iguana, Bill Coker and Lucy Cardenas have commissioned a large iguana art piece that they named Xochitonal after the mythical Aztec guardian of the underworld. After two years in the making by Utah artist Stephen Kesler, this 12 ½-foot tall, 1,000-pound sculpture now resides in the parking lot behind the Red Iguana 2 restaurant at 866 W. South Temple.
The impressive sculpture was unveiled before a group of employees, friends and west side community members on October 31. The unveiling commemorated 50-plus years of the Cardenas Family owning restaurants in Salt Lake City. “To be operating continuously in this environment requires community and people who care about us. We are really appreciative of that [support] and this is a reflection of how we feel about that,” said Coker.
Coker invited local community leaders whose “personal sacrifices are often unrecognized” to participate in the unveiling. “We are standing on their shoulders and in their shadows,” said Coker.
As a symbolic recognition of family, some of the ashes of Lucy’s beloved brother Ramon Cardenas Jr. and a photo of her parents are encased in the belly of Xochitonal.
By Julianna Clay (Charlotte Fife-Jepperson contributed to the story)
Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a time when many Mexicans honor their ancestors in colorful, joyful celebration. In Mexico, some people celebrate near the graves of their loved ones in cemeteries. But here in the United States, they carry on the tradition mainly at community festivals.
Dia de los Muertos is thought to have originated during the time of the Aztecs in the 12th century, but some evidence suggests the tradition predates the Aztecs as far back as 3,000 years.
During the ancient Aztec period, Dia de los Muertos was celebrated during the month of August. It wasn’t until the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Americas that it was later moved to coincide with All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints’ Day at the end of October and in early November. Upon discovering that they couldn’t eliminate the rituals from the people, the Spaniards embraced the holiday and added it to their own.
According to azcentral.com reporter Carlos Miller, the Aztecs kept skulls as trophies and used them during the holiday’s rituals as symbols of death and rebirth. “The natives viewed it as the continuation of life. Instead of fearing death, they embraced it. To them, life was a dream and only in death did they become truly awake,” Miller said.
Today, those skulls are incorporated into Dia de los Muertos celebrations in different ways. Miller stated that people wear wooden skull masks called ITALICS calacas and dance in memory of their dead relatives. Celebrants also elaborately paint their faces to resemble skulls. The making of sugar skulls are another way this tradition has carried on. People make them with sugar, meringue and water and then decorate them in memory of a loved one with names and bright colors.
Like in the time of the Aztecs, people will make altars and shrines dedicated to their dead, and place on the altars sugar skulls, food, drink and flowers that the deceased liked in life. Orange marigolds and pan de muerto (sweet bread) add to the festivities.
In past years, Day-Riverside Library, Rico Warehouse, Mestizo Coffeehouse and Mestizo Arts and Activism in Salt Lake City have hosted activities honoring this holiday and its traditions. Activities included paper cutting (papel picado), sugar skull making, altar decorating and an open-mic night where people sang, danced, shared stories and poems and prayed together in honor of Dia de los Muertos.
Jarred Martinez, Kearns native and former co-director of Mestizo Arts and Activism, elaborated on the meaning of the Day of the Dead.
“In Mexico, I know the celebration is much more widespread, and there are additional traditions that various communities follow, so, there can be a lot of diversity in how Dia de los Muertos is celebrated,” he said. “The general idea is honoring loved ones who’ve passed.”
The spirit behind Dia de los Muertos is that life and death are linked and both should be causes for joyous revelry.
One fall afternoon about 14 years ago, we drove past the haunted house, Nightmare on 13th. When my one-year-old daughter, Meesha, saw the gargoyle guarding the entrance she grabbed me and held on tight. I assured her that everything was alright. By the time we arrived at home, I had forgotten all about the gargoyle, but Meesha jumped out of the car and was looking in the sky for it. She was hardly talking at that age, but she must have recognized the gargoyle had wings.
The gargoyle eventually became a part of our everyday lives. He was positioned between our house and Meesha’s daycare. We started telling her that the gargoyle was friendly and during the few months that he was actively moving, we would make up words that he was saying. We would say in our gargoyle voice, “Meesha, I’m going to tickle you!” In the next year or two, she started making up words that gargoyle was supposedly saying to us.
A decade later my youngest, Marcelina, also became fascinated with the guardian of the entrance, only then it was a dragon. We told Marcelina, “Dragon sees you. He said, ‘Hi Marcelina!’” Of course we used our deep dragon voice.
When Dragon was not moving, we told Marcelina that he was sleeping. After the Halloween season, Nightmare on 13th covers the creature over the entrance. I explained to Marcelina that Dragon is hibernating.
One year, the covered Dragon disappeared for a few months. We drove around town calling his name out of our car windows. Three-year-old Marcelina determined that the other haunted house in the area had taken Dragon and chained him up. He needed to be rescued. She asked her older brother for swords. One day after passing the other haunted house, Marcelina turned to me and said, “I’m not going in there, Mom. Will go by yourself to rescue Dragon?” I bravely agreed.
A couple of months later I saw that Dragon was back at Nightmare on 13th. I was so excited to tell Marcelina. I picked her up from daycare and told her that I had rescued Dragon. We drove by Nightmare on 13th and she saw him. I told her that Dragon is no longer red. He turned greenish-blue. She told me that I rescued the wrong dragon!