The WAVES Project was born in 2016 through the Westside Leadership Institute course. Our group was interested in a project that celebrates the customs, traditions and cultures of New Americans in Utah. Therefore, we created an online academic journal with a collection of true stories written by people who have overcome challenges associated with becoming New Americans.
We chose the name WAVES for this collection of stories because waves dynamically change and shift in new directions and horizons, while still forming part of the ocean – a representation of strength and life. The acronym WAVES stands for Wonderful, Accomplished, Visionary and Emerging Storytellers.
Oftentimes when New Americans resettle or migrate to the United States, it becomes a challenge for them to preserve their customs, traditions and culture, especially as they integrate and acculturate into mainstream society. This project addresses cultural preservation, which involves the need to protect, restore, and honor all forms of cultural diversity. This is an important element for the growth and expansion of all communities.
The WAVES Project allows community members to share ways they have been able to overcome barriers to retaining their culture, and how they have preserved their autonomy. This collection of different voices speaks to diversity, social justice and non-western views of the world.
The WAVES Project is still in development, but if you would like to learn more and/or get involved, email Elizabeth Gamarra at .
Elizabeth was born in Lima, Peru. She is graduate student at the College of Social Work, University of Utah. After graduate school she hopes to work toward advancing human rights. She is the former Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major Award.
In today’s tumultuous socio-political climate, diversity is at the forefront of political discussions. It can create discomfort for those with power as well as those without. Who wants to live with such a complicated subject in their head all the time? As someone who is deeply interested in linguistics and political science, and who was raised in diverse west Salt Lake City neighborhoods, I do!
Growing up here left a permanent impression on me. As I walked through various west-side neighborhoods, I heard a wide-range of languages: Somali, Kawa, Hmong, Croatian, Navajo, Farsi, etc. I have managed to learn a few phrases and words from each language just by talking to speakers of those languages.
I am also part of that diversity. I am second generation Mexican, so I am perfectly fluent in Spanish, and some French. My religious affiliation isn’t in line with the dominant LDS faith to further cement that diversity; I identify as reform Jew. A Mexican Jew is very much a 180-degree-turn from a blonde, blue-eyed Latter Day Saint.
Everyone, including other Mexicans, has a hard time grappling with the fact that there exists such a thing – a Mexican Jew. But the reality is that Jews have been living in Mexico, and parts of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and California since the sixteenth century. It is believed that several Jews arrived on Hernan Cortes’ ships in Veracruz and began working their way up to the Southwestern United States. Most of them being genetically Sephardim, meaning they can trace their lineage from Spain or North Africa.
If you look closely at the numbers, there’s not only an ethnic diversity in our neighborhoods, but also a religious one.
There is a sizeable Muslim community in Salt Lake City as well as Buddhists and Hindus. My elementary, junior high, and high schools were extremely diverse. My Tibetan classmate at Franklin Elementary once explained how Imperialist China made Tibet subordinate. I even learned a Tibetan word while we were at it – desho, meaning “come here.” A different classmate once joked that Rose Park has “every race and language known to humankind.” My sixth grade class memorized a song in Maori. I can still sing it.
Everyone on my street in Poplar Grove knew about diversity - not only concerning race and language, but socioeconomic position, culture and attitudes as well. My next-door neighbors in my elementary years were an alternative lesbian couple who cooked, thought, and acted in alien ways, but I was intrigued with their lifestyle.
Another neighbor once stopped me as I rode my bicycle to ask me the most efficient way to say “car leak” in Spanish (mi auto gotea). I assumed they were on their way to the local auto shop where the mechanics speak Spanish.
I didn’t need to be taught diversity growing up, because I was surrounded by it. Once, during a discussion about Utah Native Americans, I said “Oh, the Indians.” My wonderful neighbor, who was single and lesbian, added that “everyone is an Indian from somewhere.” I understood it to mean that every nationality has some original or indigenous beginning, and that the word “Indian” doesn’t just mean indigenous people of this continent.
Diversity is a virtue. I’ve heard many stories of how things are thought, said and done around the world. While some of the best conversations I’ve had with Croatians, Somalis, lesbians, Asians, and Latin Americans were about politics and language, observing and talking about the diverse customs on the west side has also made me an unofficial cultural anthropologist.
Some of my best encounters with diversity occurred while I rode my bike. I once rode down Redwood Road and stopped at the tiny Somali Mart and found some of the best oblong-shaped cookies I’ve ever had. Another bike trek took me to Cottonwood Park (just off of Redwood Road and 350 North) where the Karen community was performing from far away what looked like a ceremonial dance, everyone lined-up in perfect columns and rows, prancing back and forth, left and right to the beat of a drummer. I regret not sticking around to watch the rest.
Many outsiders who visit Salt Lake City don’t usually think of this city as a potpourri of different races and faiths unless you’re venturing to the west side. This area hasn’t been afforded the positive image that I think it deserves, but in my opinion, people who don’t hang out here are really missing out on something special.
As anxious children wait outside the cafeteria doors for breakfast at our neighborhood school I spot Mr. Kjar, a third grade teacher with his camera, snapping portraits. “I’m collecting faces,” he says. He’s working on a painting that will showcase the spectrum of skin tones at our school. “I want to show that we are all shades of brown, from the darkest to the lightest. Aren’t they beautiful?” he says as he scans the portraits.
A poem by Shel Silverstein called “No Difference” ends this way:
Red, black or orange, Yellow or white, We all look the same When we turn off the light. So maybe the way To make everything right Is for God to just reach out And turn off the light!
This strikes me as both absolutely right and yet wrong. Sure, in some ways we are all the same when we turn out the light, but who wants to live in a world without color and variety? I returned to Glendale to raise my children because of the colors here. For the variety in people, not just how they look, but how they see the world through their unique eyes of experience.
In addition, this poem opens up a larger conversation for me. Why would we want to “turn out the lights”? What is it that makes us afraid to see the differences in our community? When we recognize our differences, it affords us the opportunity to recognize our privileges and the innate injustices therein. For instance, an April 2016 article in the Salt Lake Tribune stated that a woman in Utah will only make sixty seven cents on every dollar a man will earn, for equal work. This is a privilege that is easy for me to call out. However, it is hard for me to recognize my own inherited privileges, like white privilege.
In a Washington Post blog Christine Emba explains white privilege as “the idea that just by virtue of being a white person of any kind, you’re part of the dominant group which tends to be respected, assumed the best of, and given the benefit of the doubt. That just isn’t the case for people of other races, no matter how wealthy, smart or hard-working they might be.” That brings up “white fragility,” a term coined by Robin DiAngelo. A currently relevant concept, white fragility is a concept that explains why white people get uncomfortable or upset when we talk about differences and racism.
DiAngelo says “White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress…white fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation.” DiAngelo (2011)
DiAngelo says that we can all recognize some form of racism within ourselves and when we do, we have the opportunity to change our ideas, thought patterns, and practices.
Recently, The West View held a series of community conversations on the topic of diversity. At the first conversation, a group of women pointed out the micro-aggression of asking, “Where are you from?” Through my blue-eyed lens I was genuinely confused how this was an offensive question. I love to learn about people and their stories. How could it hurt to ask something so innocent? My friend Gabby patiently explained that when I ask where she is from I assume that she is not from here, that based on the amount of melanin in her skin she is assumed an outsider. I responded, “no one ever asks me where I’m from.” That’s when it really hit me. No one asks me that question because I’m white. Somehow that means I belong here. The irony made my stomach turn, standing on land stolen from indigenous people. How does my light skin make me the rightful heir to this place, to call it mine?
These “aha” moments are hard but people who live with the negative effects of naive remarks deal with racism every day. When we do the hard work of recognizing our assumptions and privileges, especially when it is uncomfortable, we take a step forward towards a unified community.
It is easy and comfortable to “turn out the light” pretending that we are all the same enjoying the same privileges and opportunities but where does that get us? When we turn on the light we see the beautiful colors of diverse thoughts and ways of being all around us. We gain the benefits of more voices with more solutions to problems. We also gain the ability to see barriers to connections with those who are different from us and we can choose to break down the barriers to make truly meaningful relationships in our lives.
Amy is a devoted mother of four beautiful children, who are fourth generation Glendale residents. She has and continues to serve in various positions in her LDS ward, organizes community and school gardens, and works as an American Sign Language Interpreter.
My mother moved my four siblings and me to Salt Lake City, Utah from San Diego, California on December 19, 1994. We had three suitcases of clothes in our possession. Our ages ranged from two to 16 years of age. My mother wanted to get away from the dangers we were exposed to in San Diego. Thinking back, she had to have been the bravest person I know to love herself and her children so much that she would go to an unknown community in search for a better life.
Soon after arriving in Salt Lake City, I began attending the Guadalupe charter school. It was where I learned to speak English, where I met my first friends, and where I began to admire my first mentors.
As a single mother, my mom did her best to raise us the only way she knew how. At times she had three jobs and would work sixteen-hour days. She would come home only to make sure we were all there and to cook us a warm meal, then she would head back to work. There were times I would hardly see her, but when I did, I felt safe and secure. I knew nothing would ever happen to me as long as she was around.
She instilled in us the foundation of hard work. In 1996, she bought our first home on Montague Avenue (near 900 W. 900 S.). We felt as though we were beginning to live the American Dream. We loved our community and became close to all of our neighbors. We still had to share bedrooms, but were thrilled with the idea of our own backyard and being able to play outside until dark.
As my oldest brother was serving his second tour in Iraq, my mother decided it was finally time to petition for her citizenship. On July 12, 2006 she went with him to the local United States Citizenship and Immigration Services building only to learn with shock that she would never again return to the home she bought, nor live with all of her children under one roof. She was handcuffed and deported within days.
I felt as though the government I supported and learned to love had failed me. How could someone who has given 25-plus years to this country, whose son is a veteran of the Iraq War, whose children are law-abiding, contributing members of society, be kicked out like a dog in handcuffs? She only wanted to find hope and opportunity for our family by coming here.
At this time our six siblings’ ages ranged from six to 26. Life as we knew it changed before our eyes and that feeling we once had of reaching the American Dream was lost. I was 16 years old and in the prime of my adolescence, arguably the most important time to have your mother by your side.
I was confronted with a choice of whether or not to move to Mexico with my mom. I had to pray and listen to my heart, and I chose to stay in the U.S. under the care of my older siblings.
I found a full time job and focused my energy on academics. I was awarded an academic scholarship that allowed me to attend Judge Memorial high school. I took AP and honors classes, was the Vice President of the National Honors Society, served as a peer minister, and was a member of the Lacrosse team.
All the while I was searching for my identity away from my mother. I was afraid and became very depressed. My only sense of security was taken from me and I didn’t understand how to deal with it. I hardly knew myself.
I continued pushing myself and after graduating from Judge Memorial, I began college at Westminster and then completed my Bachelors degree at the University of Utah. I was able to obtain grants and scholarships that I am forever grateful for.
At a young age I learned the value of having dreams and goals. I used the foundation of hard work that my mom taught me, the support of my family, the guidance of mentors in my community and my social networks. I actively keep a vision board of all the things I want to accomplish and I have faith that I will.
In the wake of this new presidency, the fear I once had reigns true for a lot of people in the U.S. Currently, I am still in the process of bringing my mother home and am hopeful that soon she will be back by our side. Let’s all continue to share our stories to drive change in our communities and across our country.
Persiguiendo mi ‘Sueño Americano’
por Lilly Ceceña
Mi madre trasladó a mis cuatro hermanos y a mí a Salt Lake City, Utah desde San Diego, California el 19 de diciembre de 1994. Teníamos tres maletas de ropa en nuestra posesión. Nuestras edades oscilaban entre los dos y los diez y seis años de edad. Mi madre quería alejarse de los peligros que estaban en San Diego. Recordándolo lo bien, tenía que haber sido la persona más valiente que conozco para amarse a sí misma y a sus hijos tanto así que estaba dispuesta a mudarse a una comunidad totalmente desconocida en busca de una vida mejor.
Poco después de llegar a Salt Lake City, comencé a asistir a la escuela charter de Guadalupe. Fue allí donde aprendí a hablar inglés, conocí a mis primeros amigos, y empecé a admirar a mis primeros mentores.
Como madre soltera, mi madre hizo todo lo posible para criarnos de la mejor manera posible. A veces tenía hasta tres empleos y trabajaba diez y seis horas al día. Ella sólo volvía a casa para asegurarse de que estábamos todos allí y para cocinar; después volvía a trabajar. Había veces que apenas la veíamos, pero cuando la veía sentía una emoción inexplicable. Su sola presencia me hacía sentir segura. Sabía que nunca me pasaría nada mientras ella estuviera cerca.
Ella nos inculcó el principio de trabajar duro. En 1996, nos compró nuestra primera casa en la avenida Montague (cerca de 900 W. 900 S.) Todos nos sentimos como si estuviéramos empezando a vivir “el Sueño Americano”. Nos encantaba nuestra comunidad y nos llevávamos bien con nuestros vecinos. Todavía teníamos que compartir habitaciones, pero estabamos encantados con la idea de tener nuestro propio patio y poder jugar afuera hasta que caía la noche.
Como mi hermano mayor estaba sirviendo su segunda gira en la Guerra de Irak, mi madre decidió que finalmente era el momento de solicitar su ciudadanía. El 12 de julio de 2006 fue con él al edificio local de Ciudadanía e Inmigración de los Estados Unidos para descubrir con sorpresa que nunca más volvería a la casa que había comprado, ni viviría con todos sus hijos bajo un mismo techo. Fue esposada y deportada a los pocos días.
Sentí como si el mismo gobierno que yo apoyaba y amaba me había fallado. ¿Cómo podia ser que alguien que había dado más de 25 años a este país, que su hijo era un veterano de la guerra, que había criado a sus hijos para que respetaran las leyes como miembros contribuyentes de la sociedad, fuera expulsada como un perro encadenado? Sólo había querido encontrar esperanza y oportunidades para nuestra familia al venir aquí.
Para esta época nuestras edades estaban entre los seis y los veintiseis años de edad. Ya éramos seis hermanos. La vida como la conocíamos había cambiado ante nuestros ojos y ese sentimiento que una vez sentí de haber alcanzado el Sueño Americano se había perdido. Yo tenía dieciséis años y en plena adolescencia; quizás el momento más importante para que una hija tenga a su madre a su lado.
Me enfrenté con la opción si ir o no a México con mi madre. Tuve que orar y escuchar a mi corazón. Decidí que México no era una opción para mí, así que decidí quedarme bajo el cuidado de mis hermanos mayores.
Encontré un trabajo de tiempo completo y centré mis energías en mis estudios. Me concedieron una beca académica que me permitió asistir a la escuela secundaria Judge Memorial. Tomé clases de honor, era la Vicepresidenta de la Sociedad de Honores Nacional, y jugaba en el equipo de Lacrosse.
Durante todo este tiempo estaba buscando mi propia identidad lejos de mi madre. Tenía miedo y entré en una gran depresión. Mi única sensación de seguridad me había sido quitada y no entendí cómo lidiar con ello. A penas me conocía a mí misma.
Me seguí esforzando por progresar en mis estudios y después de graduarme de Judge Memorial, ingresé a la universidad de Westminster y luego terminé mi licenciatura en la Universidad de Utah. Pude obtener becas y estoy muy agradecida por esa oportunidad.
Desde una temprana edad aprendí el valor de tener un sueño y tener metas. Utilicé el principio del trabajo duro que mi madre me había enseñado, el apoyo de mi familia y la orientación de mentores en mi comunidad.
Con la elección del actual presidente, el temor que yo misma tuve una vez, se ha hecho realidad para una gran cantidad de personas en todo el país. Presentemente, estoy en el proceso de traer a mi madre de regreso a los Estados Unidos y espero que pronto esté a nuestro lado. Continuemos compartiendo nuestras historias para así impulsar cambios positivos en nuestras comunidades y en todo nuestro país.
I was born and raised in Korea. I started cooking, I mean seriously cooking for family, at about 8 years old with a keen interest in food and its preparation. As I grew up I took as many cooking classes as my time allowed – from baking to Korean Royal Palace cooking. Before I came to the United States in 2003, I agonized over two options: pursuing a Master’s of Social Work in the U.S .or attending culinary school in France. Well, I came to the U.S., obtained the MSW degree, and now I am a professor at the University of Utah’s College of Social Work, but my personal passion is still physical and spiritual healing through food.
Living in the U.S., I have learned how to cook Western food, but I always go back to the traditional food that I learned from my mom and grandma. I am so happy to share a recipe for Korean Cabbage Kimchi, which is Korea’s signature fermented dish and touted for its health benefits.
There are many legends about how Korean Kimchi started. About 3,000 years ago, an ancient dish that was similar to the current form of Kimchi was mentioned in a book, but who knows, it is possible that Kimchi was already made well before written language was used.
In the United States, Korean Kimchi brings an image of red cabbage, however, there are about 100 different kinds of Kimchi. Koreans eat Kimchi in every meal, fresh, or as an ingredient for dishes. Kimchi’s health benefit began to gain attraction in 2002 when the SARS infection was widespread throughout the globe. China and Japan were heavily hit by the epidemic, but Korea, which is located between the two countries, did not have anyone affected. These days, you can find Kimchi in Smith’s, Trader Joe’s, Whole Food Market, and other major grocery stores. But, homemade is always THE best. Here is a simple recipe you can try today. You won’t ever need probiotics supplements, if you eat Kimchi regularly.
Korean Kimchi Recipe
1. 1 big Nappa cabbage (Most major food stores have them. Choose one that is similar in size to a small loaf of sandwich bread.)
2. 3 C Korean ground chili pepper (Make sure to buy chili powder for Kimchi in a Korean market.)
3. 1 head of garlic
4. Half of an onion (white or yellow)
5. 2½ C Sea salt (2 C for soaking + ½ C)
6. 2 Tb sugar
7. 2 Tb fish sauce (Any kind of fish sauce is good from an Asian market. Omit this for a vegan recipe.)
8. 3 Tb cooked rice (Sticky rice is better, but any rice would work.)
9. One bunch of chopped green onion
1. Cut a Nappa cabbage in bite sizes and put them in a big bowl.
2. Sprinkle 2 C sea salt onto the cut cabbage and mix well. Keep them soaked for half a day, mixing well every hour.
3. Rinse the salted cabbage in cold water.
4. Blend chili pepper, garlic, onion, ½ C salt, sugar, fish sauce, cooked rice, 1 cup water
5. Mix the chili mix, cabbage, green onion well and put them into a glass container.
6. Keep the fresh Kimchi at room temperature until you begin to see bubbly fermentation action.
7. Keep Kimchi refrigerated for about two weeks and then start to eat. When it gets too sour, you can make a delicious Kimchi stew.
Keep making Kimchi and adjust the ingredients according to your desire for spiciness and saltiness. Enjoy!
by Gabriela Serrás, interpreted by José Bernardo Fanjúl and Charlotte Fife-Jepperson
When I was a young girl in Mexico, my mother always cooked for our family. I was often in the kitchen watching her cook and sometimes I was allowed to help with small tasks. When I was about eight years old, I surprised my mom by preparing an entire meal – pasta soup with vegetables – for the whole family.
From this moment on, I continued to improve my skills by asking my mom and grandparents their cooking secrets. They passed on their traditions and taught me the value of not wasting any food.
Our custom was and always has been to cook with fresh ingredients. I have noticed different eating habits here in the U.S. Most of the time, Americans cook with processed foods and are wasteful. Also, it is more common to see families eating out or eating fast food. It seems that Hispanic families have adopted these less healthy eating habits.
Nowadays, families eat few meals per day, yet the portions are large and less healthy. In comparison, in my grandparents’ day they would have up to five meals a day and they were healthier. First, there was breakfast, where you would only drink coffee or hot chocolate, with bread. Second, there was lunch; this was usually soup, an empanada, or scrambled eggs with refried beans. The main meal, or second lunch, usually took place at around 2 p.m. This is the largest meal of the day with a variety of food. Following this would be the afternoon “merienda,” which would simply be a sandwich, bread and hot chocolate, or a chunk of “chorizo,” spicy pork sausage. The last meal of the day would be a dinner similar to the second lunch, but not as large. The family would gather to eat each meal together.
Today, life is more hectic and it is almost impossible to maintain customs from the past. But, in my home, I try to maintain the tradition of cooking from scratch for the sake of my family’s health. Preserving my family traditions sets a positive example for my children, as well as provides food that is healthy, delicious and rich in natural ingredients.
Mealtime is very special in our family. We know that when we sit down at the table, we won’t use our cell phones. We usually talk about our day. During the conversation, we act respectfully and give eye contact to the person we are talking to. Some of our other customs are to thank the person who cooked. Our phrase is “Thank you for this delicious food.” We give a hug and a kiss when we ask, “May I be excused from the table?”
Having at least one meal together as a family will strengthen our family bonds, improve communication with our children, and if the meal were somewhat healthy, it would be even better.
Manteniendo las tradiciónes de cocinar y comer saludable
por Gabriela Serrás
Cuando yo era niña en México, mi mamá cocinaba todo el tiempo para nuestra familia. Yo la acompañaba siempre en la cocina y algunas veces podía colaborar con pequeñas cosas. A la edad de ocho años sorprendí a mi mamá haciendo una sopa de fideos con verduras para toda la familia.
A partir de ese momento continué adquiriendo más conocimientos preguntando a mi madre y abuelos sobre sus secretos de cocina. Ellos me legaron sus tradiciones y el hábito de no desperdiciar nada de comida.
Nuestra costumbre fue y ha sido siempre cocinar con alimentos frescos. A diferencia de México las costumbres en los Estados Unidos, donde muchas veces se cocina con ingredients procesados y se desperdicia partes de los alimentos. Es más factible y común ver a las familias comer fuera de casa. Debido a esto las familias hispanas están adoptando el hábito de comer menos saludable.
Hoy en día, las familias comen menos veces aunque las porciones sean más grandes pero menos saludables. En comparación con los tiempos de nuestros abuelos donde se hacían hasta cinco comidas diarias y eran más saludables. Primero era el desayuno, donde sólo se tomaba café o chocolate con pan. Segundo, era el almuerzo; esto era usualmente una sopa, una empanada o huevos revueltos con frijoles refritos. La comida principal o un segundo almuerzo se hacía alrededor de las dos de la tarde. Esta comida consistía de raciones más abundantes y un menú más variado. Después seguía la merienda, la cual era un simple bocadillo como pan con chocolate o un trozo de chorizo. Por último seguía la cena, la cual era similar al segundo almuerzo pero no tan abundante. La familia se reúne para participar de cada comida.
Hoy en día, se vive más de prisa y es casi imposible mantener las costumbres de antes. En mi casa, yo trato de mantener la tradición de cocinar todo con alimentos frescos cocinados por mí misma para la salud de mi familia. Al conservar mis tradiciones familiares les doy un ejemplo a mis hijos, además de proporcionarles una comida saludable, deliciosa y rica en ingredientes naturales.
La hora de comer es algo muy especial para todos en nuestra familia. Sabemos que al sentarnos a la mesa, no se debe utilizer el cellular. Por lo regular hablamos de cómo nos fue durante el día. Al converser, demonstramos respeto y atención viendo a los ojos de la persona con la que conversamos. Otra de nuestras costumbres es que agradecemos a la persona que cocinó. Nuestra frase es “Gracias por esta deliciosa comidita.” Le damos un abrazo y un beso a la vez que preguntamos, “¿Me puedo retirar de la mesa?”
Con al menos una comida al día juntos en familia, enriqueceremos nuestros lazos familiares, mejoraremos la comunicación con nuestros hijos y además si es algo saludable, será todavía mucho mejór.
The keynote speaker at the Fall 2016 Westside Leadership Institute (WLI) graduation told an inspirational story of how hard work and determination helped his family achieve the “American Dream.” His family emigrated from Somalia in the late ‘80s, and became the first black family to live in their affluent neighborhood in Cache County.
Mohamed “Mo” Abdullahi told WLI graduates and their families and how he, his mother and brother came to Logan, Utah in 1989 to join his father who was studying at Utah State University. Their early days in the U.S. were challenging. His father was a full-time student and worked full-time to support the nine people living in their two-bedroom apartment.
That hard work paid off when Abdullahi’s family bought their first home in Logan. Eventually, after his father became the Director of Environmental Engineering at Logan City, they moved to a more affluent neighborhood.
Abdullahi’s message was especially relevant to this class of fourteen graduates, because most of them are immigrants and New Americans wanting to create better lives for themselves and their communities.
Since 2004, the WLI has offered community leadership training, in both Spanish and English, to almost 400 west side residents who work on projects that make a positive difference in their community. Past projects include Mestizo Institute of Culture and Art, Projecto Autismo (an autism awareness non-profit), West View Media, The People’s Market (now the 9th West Farmer’s Market), and the Jordan River Community Initiative, to name a few.
Many graduates of the WLI have gone on to become more civically involved, to run for political office, to start up their own non-profit organizations, and some have even returned to help teach WLI classes.
Three projects came out of the Fall 2016 cohort. One group of students focused on mental health and depression, particularly in the Latino community. They learned that suicides are among the leading causes of death among young Hispanics. They held focus groups to answer questions with the ultimate goal of preventing suicide and its impact on society.
Another project involved providing job skills training for new refugees. They developed a pathway to employment for new arrivals aimed at boosting their employability and helping them to get their first job in the United States.
Another group of students started the WAVES Project – an e-journal containing a collection of true-life stories. The authors come from diverse backgrounds and hope to demonstrate the resilience of many New Americans who struggle to adapt to life in the U.S.
Graduates of the WLI learn about project management and leadership, and can even earn U of U credit for completing the 12-week course. The WLI operates as a partnership between local nonprofit NeighborWorks Salt Lake, University Neighborhood Partners, U of U Center for Public Policy and Administration, the U. Gender Studies Program and Salt Lake Education Foundation.
To find out more about upcoming WLI courses offered in the spring and fall, visit the Westside Leadership Institute page on Facebook.
Salt Lake City’s west side is home to a great variety of ethnicities and cultures; we are an international community made up of people from all over the world, from different religious, political, and socio-economic backgrounds. We are people of different ages, gender and sexual orientation. Diversity is touted as one of our community’s greatest assets.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 65.9 percent of Salt Lake City's west side population in the 84104 and 84116 zip codes consists of minority groups. This means that well over half of west side residents are people of color – something demographers refer to as a “minority-majority” – compared to a 19.6 percent minority population in the state as a whole.
The census tells us that the majority of west side residents are Hispanic/Latino, at 49.8 percent, 34.1 percent are White, and the next two largest racial groups are Pacific Islander, at 5.1 percent, and Black at 3.9 percent.
Our racial and ethnic diversity is only expected to increase. “Given that the west side has historically been a gathering place for New Americans and ethnic enclaves, we expect this synergy and dynamic to continue into the future,” said Pamela Perlich, Director of Demographic Research at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.
The West View is a forum where some of the most diverse voices in Utah can be heard. In this special issue, funded in part by Utah Humanities, contributors wrote about topics that explore our diversity and who we are as a community. There are stories about growing up surrounded by diversity, enduring hurtful interpersonal interactions (micro-aggressions), recognizing our privilege, why and how people immigrate to this country, how cooking traditional food helps retain culture, and how one family was torn apart by deportation.
Over the years, through monthly community newsroom meetings and numerous interviews, people of all walks of life have challenged my ideas of power structures and decision-making – bright high school and college students, middle-aged professionals and retirees with strong opinions about such issues as race-relations, social inequality, the environment and affordable housing.
With these diverse viewpoints, I gain a wider perspective of the world and learn to recognize my own biases, prejudice and privilege. It causes me to become more thoughtful about the language I use and content that we publish. It makes The West View a more inclusive space and platform.
During the winter, West View Media hosted a series of community conversations about diversity. In the first session, community members came together, shared meals, and listened to one another speak candidly about personal struggles associated with being different or marginalized. People told stories of discrimination based on age, ability, education, race/ethnicity, language, gender and religion.
In the second session, we discussed sources of pride associated with different social identities. We celebrated our mothers, our resilience in overcoming various struggles, our journeys in reclaiming our cultural heritage.
In the final session, we discussed some of the stories with the authors and identified ways to support one another and increase cross-cultural understanding and inclusivity.
The following ideas were highlighted: getting to know people who are different from us, visiting a mosque, recognizing and using our privilege for good, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, being willing to engage in difficult exchanges in order to learn and to build relationships, holding more events to engage in meaningful dialogue about diversity and social justice in our community.
This issue reflects the spirit of those exchanges.
“Wow, you’re so articulate,” notes a pleasantly surprised classmate, implying that I am somehow special for speaking the way I do. “Is that your real hair?” a stranger asks as they reach out to feel a kinky-coiled lock, assuming I will not mind being touched and questioned by someone I’ve never met at the grocery store. “You don’t need sunscreen,” insisted a co-worker in a previous workplace, the suggestion being I am immune to cancer because of the melanin in my skin. Well-intended comments and seemingly harmless exchanges like these are examples of the micro-aggressions I experience almost daily.
Micro-aggressions are subtle, casual and sometimes unintended slights leveraged against marginalized people: the differently-abled, queer people, the poor, people of color, to name a few examples. The term, originally coined by the late professor Chester M. Pierce in the 1970s, has become one of those words spoken so regularly and out of context that it inspires eye rolls and irritated accusations of fragility.
I hesitate to write about micro-aggression because I do not want to be misconstrued as starting petty arguments in a time where our social-political conversations are focused on age-old tensions. Many people I interact with day-to-day seem surprised by the resurgence of these tensions and are praying them away. The prayer is to focus on our similarities, not our differences, to put the unfortunate injustices of the past behind us and move forward “as one.” Others are filled with outrage and drawn to righteous protest, when as recently as several months ago the impulse was to minimize and deflect.
In his 1974 essay, “Psychiatric Problems of the Black Minority,” Pierce argues that micro-aggression, like any assault, can have lasting mental and physical impacts on one’s health. Micro-aggressive behaviors like those I mentioned signal that I am not “normal,” that black people are not normal. Micro-aggression keeps me constantly aware of how I stand out in a room, struggling to reconcile who I am as an individual with misconceptions about a group I belong to, weighing my personal boundaries against accommodating the good-intentions of a stranger.
In Salt Lake City, our lack of diversity creates blind spots at a community level and often means we are largely unwilling to protect and support people in meaningful ways because we would rather believe in “good-intentions.” When I question the suggestion I am not normal, when I draw personal boundaries, when I deconstruct strange assumptions about black people as a whole, my concern is often dismissed as dramatic and divisive as opposed to met with an honest reflection on the bigotry at the root of those assumptions.
As a result, I find myself incapable of surprise at the criminally misogynistic behavior of my president, land protectors hosed down in freezing temperatures, images of dead black bodies in the street. We are incapable of becoming a more accountable community when we dismiss the experiences of marginalized people and refuse to draw connections between local interactions and global tensions.
We all have blind spots – areas of another’s experience outside our immediate understanding. I have many blind spots. I am imperfect and I do not understand everything. Sometimes I say things that reinforce hurtful and prejudiced ideas.
For example, a good friend of mine expressed frustration in dealing with unwanted advances from a man in one of her classes. We texted about the issue back and forth for a week or so, and I made a joke of the situation; it was beyond me why she felt uncomfortable simply turning him down. She reluctantly explained that her anxiety was rooted in the fact that turning a man down might reveal she is a lesbian. Outing herself could result in a negative reaction that I as a woman can understand, but as a straight person was missing a layer of.
My actions, even if they are well meaning, can have negative consequences. Accepting these shortcomings has been liberating and challenges me to act in ways that embrace and protect the beauty in our diversity, dismantling what it means to be normal. I hope, moving forward in this tense time, we look inward as individuals and choose to be better in defense of each other.
Gabriella Huggins currently works as the Community Programs Mentor at Spy Hop Productions and is an undergraduate student at the University of Utah. A Salt Lake City native, Gabriella hopes to apply her education to working on issues of food justice and environmental racism. Gabriella enjoys long naps, cold beers, and working with young people in her community.
If you have been searching for a local restaurant that serves mouth-watering Taco Al Pastor, a central Mexico-style marinated pork dish, you will find it at Chunga’s restaurant.
After tasting their unique style of cooking, friends encouraged Roberto Contreras, his wife, and his brother Horacio to share their culinary talents. Using Horacio’s nickname, Chunga’s opened about seven years ago at 180 S 900 W. It replaced the former eatery, Freeway Pizza.
Chunga’s is a popular spot for people who live and work in the area, including police officers, firefighters, and even Utah Jazz players. Chunga’s recently experienced a spike in business after George Hill, a new point guard for the Utah Jazz, raved about it on Instagram when he posted, “By far my favorite place to eat…”
Owning and operating a restaurant is hard work. The day-to-day operations are shared by the brothers as they work long hours six days a week, making sure that quality products are used in the preparation of every meal. The eatery is closed on Sundays so that they can spend time with their families. Both Roberto and Horacio live near Chunga’s and their children attend local schools.
At their take-out or dine-in establishment, food is prepared daily and one can watch as workers meticulously prepare orders to each customer’s specifications. The menu selection is varied to appeal to all appetites. If Al Pastor is not your thing, there is a choice of other meats: grilled chicken, spicy chicken, grilled steak or chorizo.
Meals are reasonably priced. For $7, a huge burrito dinner is available with your choice of meat, flour tortilla, rice, beans, cilantro, onion and spicy ranch. For a nominal additional fee it can be made smothered enchilada-style.
For those who would rather have a vegetarian menu, mushrooms, zucchini flowers and cactus are available.
Providing great tasting food is the Contreras family’s number one priority. They truly live up to their business ideals, which are posted in acronym form above their grill: Comida, Higiene, Unico, Negocio, Gusto, Abilidad and Servicio. In short, Chunga’s is a restaurant that provides authentic food in a clean environment with outstanding customer service at a great price.
Located at 180 S 900 W, Chunga’s is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. On Friday and Saturday they are open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Telephone orders: (801) 953-1840.