What have you done that makes you qualified for Mayor of SLC
I first became civically active in Salt Lake City over a traffic issue in my neighborhood. After organizing our neighborhoods and successfully defeating UDOT, I found I had a real passion for neighborhood activism. I became chair of my community council, then chair of the community council network (no longer in existence). From there, I served two terms on the Salt Lake City Council, spending most of my time in leadership positions. In addition to my time serving on various councils, I spent the last two decades as Executive Director of the Utah AIDS Foundation. I have 25 years of bottom-line experience, managing an organization that served a severely marginalized population. I managed staff, a tight budget, limited resources, multiple constituencies, and vulnerable clients by building relationships and coalitions in the community.
What do you plan to accomplish during your first 100 days in office?
My top priority is No Fare for Clean Air. I want to provide a no-cost Hive Pass to Salt Lake City residents. It will decrease congestion on our streets, reduce tail pipe emissions, and is fundamentally an equal access and social justice issue to help residents with tight budgets.
We need to make a commitment to funding and completing the Folsom Trail. In my time on the City Council, we secured the initial TIGER Grant to pay for paving the, but I want to see it fully funded. I also want to prioritize the Jordan River Parkway in the Parks budget to improvement access and maintenance.
How will you help get west-side residents more engaged in city planning and decision-making?
It’s about meeting people where they are, not making them come to you. It is critical that the mayor spends time on the west side to discuss the issues affecting them. I am proposing a neighborhood grants program that gives residents the ability to better promote the character of the neighborhood they call home. These funds could be used for public art programs, community gardens, historic street signs – the sky is the limit. It’s about getting the community involved in shaping the kind of neighborhood they want.
How will you address the city’s homelessness issues and the negative impacts on west-side neighborhoods, especially near North Temple and along the Jordan River?
As Mayor, I will make housing and homelessness a top priority. I have an ambitious goal of adding 10,000 affordable housing units by 2025 dispersed throughout Salt Lake City. I will embrace common-sense ideas like the housing first approach. It’s a simple concept gives people a roof over their heads. Once they have housing security, we can surround them with the critical services necessary to stay in housing.
Beyond that, Salt Lake City faces a shortage of smaller, first time homes. This is an issue that keeps young families in rental unites, or forces them to move out of City limits. We need to take innovative approaches to solve this issue.
Would you continue the city’s lawsuit on the inland port? Why or why not?
I do believe the State overstepped it’s bounds and I think this is an issue that needs to be resolved by the courts. A primary concern of mine is the potential of a port to further harm residents on the Westside who already see the worst air quality in the Valley. It is a shame that the relationship between the City and State has soured to the point of a lawsuit being necessary. As mayor, I will work to repair the trust lost between the City and State and avoid costly court battles.
My family has a special plot in the Cannon Greens community garden by the Sorenson Center in Glendale. When the garden was all growing it was beautiful! There were flowers in our garden, and there was shade and lots of nice places to rest.
My family grew things like sunflowers, carrots, peas, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, and other kinds of flowers and vegetables. We made lots of food with the vegetables we grew there, like chicken soup, salads, spaghetti sauce, baked potatoes with butter on them (that’s my favorite!) mashed potatoes with gravy, French fries, and canned green beans.
I have a picture of my friend Ruby and me in the garden. We were playing with a two-year-old girl whose family is from Africa. They have a garden plot there too. We were playing hide and seek with the little girl. She would say “I found you!” and then we would have to find her (but it was really easy). When we would “hide,” we just had to stay in one spot and we talked and told each other stories until she found us.
I feel really sad because we can’t go to the garden anymore because the City found BAP (benzo[a]pyrene) in the soil and so they closed it all up and won’t let us back in. BAP comes from burning wood or coal and putting the ashes in the soil. It also comes from wood, like railroad ties, that is treated with chemicals.
I interviewed Bridget Stuchly and Debbie Lyons who work at the City & County Building. Debbie is the director of the office of Sustainability and Bridget is the program manager in the Sustainability office for SLC’s community garden program. Van Hoover came too. He works for Wasatch Community Gardens and helps in our garden.
It’s really sad that our garden was closed, but they said we will be able to use it again after they replace the bad soil with fresh new soil. Bridget said it will take a year and a half and they will make a “clean, fun, and safe place for everyone.” They are going to ask how the people in the community want it to be like. If they ask me, I’m going to tell them to keep the playground!
I feel really bad about pollution, like what’s in my garden, and when people chop down trees with machines, and the machines make pollution and the trees are the plants that clean the air. Pollution is a very big problem because babies, people and animals get sick from it. Our planet is getting dirtier and dirtier and sicker and sicker and soon it will be so dirty that all the beautiful places won’t be beautiful anymore. Almost all the animals will be extinct from what we are doing.
I want to make a big change. I want all the houses to have solar panels because then we won’t use as much coal for electricity that makes pollution. And I want all the cars to be electric cars, because even though they make pollution when they make the car, they don’t when we drive them. And I also want everyone to pick up garbage and not throw trash on the ground and to recycle more. Also we should drink tap water and not the water in the plastic bottles, but if you do have to use them, you should refill it lots of times from the drinking fountain.
I hope the garden opens again soon because then people could grow good food for their families. At the garden they give you your own space to plant seeds. It isn’t only for food; it’s for beauty too. People from other places can come too like from Mexico, or like the little girl from Africa or even China, then they will feel welcome in the garden.
If we start here in a little place and make a big change then maybe the change will spread and spread and spread and soon the world will be a better place.
Willow Jordan is a seven-year-old Glendale resident, who has been gardening since she learned to walk. Her mother, Amy Jordan, provided assistance with this story. The Cannon Greens Garden is located at 773 W. 1300 South in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Editor’s note: The Jordan River runs through the heart of Salt Lake City’s west side. It is one of the greatest defining geographical features of this area, is a vital sliver of natural wildlife habitat and an invaluable source of recreation for Utahns. This is why we have decided to devote space each issue to tell the stories of our mistreated, neglected, yet beloved urban river. This is the first of many stories to come.
by Terry Marasco
One of the great waterways of the Salt Lake Valley is the Jordan River, which flows 40 miles from Utah Lake to the Great Salt Lake. The Jordan River Parkway, a linear park with a paved bicycle/walking trail, winds alongside the river through multiple cities and towns.
At the southern end, the Jordan River Parkway Trail connects with the Murdock Trail in Lehi, and at the northern end, it joins the Legacy Trail near the Great Salt Lake.
Trail-users in Salt Lake City’s portion of the parkway can easily access countless public amenities from the trail. Here, the parkway passes through or near at least seven parks, three golf courses, three city libraries and several schools.
Other interesting features along the parkway include the Jordan River Peace Labyrinth at 1500 South, Bend-in-the-River open space at 1100 South, International Peace Gardens at 1000 South, Fife Wetlands at 900 South, art murals at 300 South, Fisher Mansion at 200 South, pedestrian bridge at 100 South, Utah State Fairpark at North Temple, Cottonwood Dog Park at 400 North, and the Regional Athletic Complex at 2280 North.
The Jordan River Parkway trail is the central piece of a network of trails spanning over 100 miles between Ogden and Provo. The river is navigable by kayak and canoe with numerous input places. And you can now ride your bike the entire length of the river, thanks to the installation of a large pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks near 100 South. Don’t worry about getting hit with a golf ball at Rose Park Golf Course; the trail has a protective fence there!
If you’re active and like to run, bike or boat, check out the upcoming Range 2 River Relay on July 13 hosted by Seven Canyons Trust. Competitors will bike, boat, and run from the Wasatch Range to the Jordan River!
One of Seven Canyon’s most recent projects is Three Creeks Confluence, where Red Butte, Emigration, and Parley’s Creeks spill into the Jordan River at 1300 S. and 900 W. At this site, with over $3 million secured, Seven Canyons will daylight (bring to the surface) 200 feet of combined stream and construct a fishing pier, plaza space and a bridge that will connect to the Jordan River Parkway Trail. Construction is expected to begin in September.
According to Seven Canyons Executive Director Brian Tonetti, the goals of the project include expanding green infrastructure solutions to water quality impairments; enhancing the ecological value of the site and reactivating the neglected area; diversifying active transportation and recreation opportunities; and creating a gateway to the Jordan River for the community.
If you have a chance to visit the Jordan River Trail this summer, be sure to bring your binoculars. You may see ducks, geese and other migratory birds, as well as beaver, muskrat, fish and other exciting wildlife.
Begins at the Utah State Fairpark, West Lot, 1220 West North Temple.
The first person bikes 3.6 miles from City Creek Canyon to the creek’s confluence with the Jordan River at the Utah State Fairpark. The second person boats 3.3 miles on the Jordan River from the Fairpark to 1800 North. The last person runs 3.4 miles on the Jordan River Parkway Trail from 1800 North to the Fairpark. Or complete all three legs yourself! Register by July 12 at https://sevencanyonstrust.org/events/relay.
A few years ago local art teacher Megan Hallett saw an exhibit called “Work” at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. with famous paintings from its own collection. It inspired her to explore that theme with her students at Escalante Elementary School on Salt Lake City’s west side. The idea bore fruit in the spring of 2019, becoming a multimedia art show that amplifies the voices and images of Escalante’s families.
“Work/Trabajo” is a bilingual sound and visual art installation featuring photographs by 40 sixth graders and eight fifth graders depicting work and effortful lives. There are words written on the walls like: “My parents are bankers.” “My parent works at Delta.” “My dad is a construction worker.” They mingle with sentences like, “I want to be an artist.” “I want to be a zoo keeper.” “My dream job is to be myself.”
Fifty voices – young and old, Spanish and English – are heard through headphones and/or speakers, telling about the past, the future, their home life and ambitions. Listeners hear phrases such as, “Pay attention to school.” “Be better than us.” “Learn what you want to be.”
“You can hear their love for one another,” said Hallett.
The sounds and images together make a compelling experience when viewing Work/Trabajo as a show. The premiere was broadcast live by KRCL 90.9 FM’s RadioActive show at Mestizo Coffeehouse, as part of Salt Lake City’s prestigious Gallery Stroll in April.
Four streams flowed together to create the traveling exhibit -- Framework Arts, UMOCA, KRCL, and photography coach Eugene Tachinni from the U of U and SLCC, who worked with the students using digital cameras provided by Escalante Elementary.
“Eugene taught them things like changing their points of view and taking many pictures to tell their stories,” said Hallett.
Alan Ly of the Salt Lake Library helped Hallett make everything tangible by printing all the photos and wall text that were on display at Mestizo Art Gallery. Work/Trabajo was also at “Share Space” in Library Square, indoors during the Living Traditions Festival, where it was very well-attended by west-side families and festival-goers grateful to get out of the rain during the wet May weekend.
In the fall, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art will take Work/Trabajo around Utah in their mobile “Art Truck” gallery, and the authentic voices of Escalante Elementary School will speak through headphones or loudspeakers wherever the Art Truck goes during the school year, thanks to production assistance from Christian “Chovy” Camargo and Billy Palmer of KRCL Community Radio.
Hallett utilizes her nonprofit, Framework Arts, to access additional resources for art programs at Escalante as well as conduct other participatory art projects, like the “League of Reluctant Bicyclists,” which is on display at UMOCA for the rest of the summer.
Framework Arts is a local non-profit that sponsors Family Art Studio, where 5th graders and their parents participate in printing, outdoor art, and family portraits. The families also eat dinner when they come to Escalante Elementary.
Tachinni taught photography to participants in the Family Art Studio, and they contributed to Work/Trabajo along with the 6th graders. Through Framework Arts, Hallet is skilled at initiating collaborative partnerships with different organizations, such as KRCL, the SLC Public Library and UMOCA, to carry out these types of creative projects. But, she is quick to give credit to others.
“My students are capable of doing something that is just as visually interesting with just as compelling storytelling as many of the other things on display in the city,” Hallett said. “Not everybody’s stories are being told. One thing that we need to do as teachers is help kids understand that they may have to do the work that some people don’t have to do, and when they do that work they can get people to pay attention to what they are doing, and how they are living their lives.”
The Work/Trabajo exhibit will tour in the UMOCA Art Truck throughout Utah, to places like Provo High School, North Davis Prep, Monticello Academy, nearby Rose Park and Escalante Elementary Schools, and various Arts in the Park events during 2020.
North Temple has long been a focus of the River District Chamber and its predecessor the River District Business Alliance. Over the last year, we’ve started to see some success. A year ago, we advocated for the opening of a police substation in the former Arctic Circle property to decrease crime in the area. Along with Salt Lake City Councilmember Andrew Johnston’s request for a police bike patrol for the west side, we thought the combination would be powerful. It was. Calls for police service at the Gateway Inn were about 125 per month a year ago. Now, the typical number of calls is less than 20.
The police moved out a few months ago as the property owner is preparing it for lease to another business. Besides the decrease in calls to police, the number of people loitering in front of the Gateway Inn has also dropped. Part one crimes have also been significantly reduced. The Gateway Inn owners have added a security guard and a fence to better manage their property. North Temple looks better today than it did a year ago.
A few blocks east, a longtime art project under the I-15 overpass was completed to make the corridor more visually appealing. Funded by Salt Lake City’s Art Council and Housing and Neighborhood Development, the project was coordinated by the Redevelopment Agency. Using bright colored sculptures and custom concrete, the installation clearly denotes the North Temple district. Adhesive wraps conceal unsightly utility boxes.
Half a block away from North Temple on 600 West, a new Boys and Girls Club is quickly rising. Their current location is up for sale. Completion of the new site is slated for later this year. On the southeast corner of North Temple and 900 West, the Bridgestone tire store abruptly closed due to a lease dispute. The property owner posted all of their Wasatch Front real estate for sale with an open bid process that closed May 26. It is yet unclear who or what will move into that corner.
We do know that a restaurant and distillery, Congregation Spirits Distillery and Standard Candle Bar & Grill, will be opening near 23 North 900 West near the old Utah Quality Service building. The business has assembled three properties for the project. The management group currently operates Water Witch in the Central 9th district. One of the owners lives in Fairpark.
A feasibility study for the development of a Public Market at or near the Fairpark is also underway. There seems to be growing support in the city council to favor this project over a similar one proposed by the Downtown Alliance.
Finally, the mayor’s newly approved budget provides additional funding for the development of the Folsom Trail corridor. This has been another longtime project for the city we as a Chamber believe could spur further investment in the westside and create the amenities residents have been clamoring for.
North Temple is truly the gateway to Salt Lake City. It’s heartening to see the business community and civic leadership taking the necessary steps to restore this grand boulevard. As residents, property owners and business owners, we can not rest until the change we seek is fully implemented.
ITALICS: Nigel Swaby is a Fairpark resident and Chair of the River District Chamber.
There is a skill parents can use that will calm children down, strengthen relationships and improve cooperation. The skill is called Acknowledge Negative Feelings. Before I describe how this skill works, I would like to explain why it works.
All children have a need to be heard and understood. They cannot meet this need on their own. It requires another person. When children are in distress and their need to be heard and understood is not met, they can become frustrated and angry.
If this need continues to go unmet for a long time, the stored up emotional pain can result in defiance, depression, hostility and addictions. However, by meeting a child’s need to be heard and understood, the child is given the freedom to let go of his distressing feelings.
The way you meet this need is by acknowledging negative feelings. There are two steps: Step 1 is to meet your child’s need to be heard. When a child comes to you in distress, he doesn’t want you to agree or disagree; he doesn’t want your opinion or advice. He doesn’t want you to “fix it.” What he needs is for you to listen. Make eye contact. Give your full attention.
When you listen, let the child say whatever he wants. Give him the freedom to say all kinds of nasty, critical things, whether they are true or not. Allow him to vent. You might feel a need to interrupt him to set him straight, but don’t. Little Billy comes up to you and says, “I hate Grandma!” What is the typical parent response? “You don’t hate Grandma. You love her.” Or, “We don’t say ‘hate’ in this family.” This is not the time to correct.
Step 2 is to meet your child’s need to be understood. Showing that you understand has two parts that you can use in any order:
Identify how the child is feeling – “That’s gotta be frustrating.” Or simply, “Ohh noo.”
Reflect why the child is feeling that way.
The best way to explain is to just show some examples.
Child: I’d like to punch that Michael in the nose. We were playing soccer and he pushed me down. You: “You were both going after the ball and he pushed you down. No wonder you’re so mad.”
Child: My teacher is stupid. Just because of a little rain she said we couldn’t go on our field trip. You: “You’ve been looking forward to this field trip for weeks – how disappointing.”
Child: “Basketball sucks. Tom and Bill made the team but I didn’t.” You: “You were cut from the team? Ohh noo.”
One day my grandchildren were visiting. 4-year old Brooklyn and her 2-year old brother, Stockton, came into the family room and spotted the spinning chair. The spinning chair is an office chair that the grandchildren love to spin around in.
Both made a dash for the chair. Stockton got there first and climbed up onto it. I could see Brooklyn fuming and I was afraid she was going to do something mean to Stockton.
The first thing that came to my mind was to say, “Brooklyn. Let Stockton have a turn and then it will be your turn.” That makes perfect sense, right? Then I remembered Brooklyn’s need to feel heard and understood in a distressful situation. And she was in distress.
I went over to Brooklyn, kneeled down so I was eye-to-eye with her and said, “Brooklyn. You are really mad. You wanted to beat Stockton to the chair and I think you even wanted him to push you around.”
She didn’t say a word, but I see her whole body relax. She turned around and off she went.
Acknowledging negative feelings is one of the most important skills a parent can have.
Richard O’Keef is a long-time resident of the Westpointe community, father of 6, and grandfather of 18. He is the author of 3-Step Parenting – How to Replace Misbehavior with Cooperation (Available on Amazon). He is the creator of a blog called: 3StepParenting.com. He is also a Fatherhood Education Coordinator for Utah State University Extension and teaches parenting classes, including classes at the Utah State Prison and Salt Lake County Jail.
Formerly used in paint due to its quick-drying, moisture-resistant, and color=enhancing properties, lead was the darling of the industry. Most homes built in the United States before 1978 contained lead-based paint, and, despite studies connecting lead to myriad negative health and environmental outcomes, lack of regulation on industry kept lead on the market well into the 20th century.
The U.S. government banned the use of lead in paint in the 1970s, citing overwhelming evidence that even low levels of lead in a person’s bloodstream could cause seizures, developmental and behavioral disorders, and decreased IQ, among other risks. While it is now widely accepted that there is no safe lead blood level in any person, many Utahns remain at risk of lead exposure.
Many states have passed legislation and created programs to provide lead testing for children and removal of lead from homes, and Salt Lake County’s Lead Safe Housing Program is amongst those efforts. Millions of homes across the country built prior to the lead paint ban remain inhabited, and many of those have not undergone appropriate lead testing and removal. Children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning. Lead flakes taste sweet when ingested, making them an unlikely treat for small children whose rapidly developing nervous systems are particularly sensitive to the toxin.
Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Lead Safe Housing Program is offering free home remediation services for eligible homeowners, renters, and landlords in dwellings that were built before 1978, and lead testing for parents expecting a child and for children under the age of 6. The Lead Safe Housing program is an important resource for Salt Lake’s west side, where established neighborhoods contain older homes and in some cases are close in proximity to industrial plants, meaning residents may be at a higher risk of lead exposure.
To learn more: Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment will offer information about lead poisoning and the Lead Safe Housing Program at upcoming Partners in the Park events from 6 p.m.- 8 p.m. on July 9 at Sherwood Park, 1400 W. 400 S.; July 16 at Riverside Park, 1490 W. 600 N.; and July 30 at Northwest Rec Center, 1255 W. Clark Ave. Information on the program can also be accessed on the Salt Lake County website at https://slco.org/lead-safe-housing/ and fliers are available in both Spanish and Arabic.
I graduated this year from a school where I had spent seven years of my life. Without that public charter school, I would not be as successful as I am today.
The Salt Lake Center for Science Education (SLCSE) is not an ordinary school when compared to other high schools in the valley. The focus may be science-based, but the main rationale of the school is to “change reality.” This means challenging the norm of what can be taught and accomplished.
SLCSE has received recognition over the years for the exceptional work the school has demonstrated. Just recently SLCSE was awarded sixth place in the nation as a “School of Opportunity.”
When I first visited the school as a guest in the third grade, I saw a very new place. Literally, the building was being remodeled. The ceiling was gutted open, walls were unfinished with bags hanging over them, dust and the sound of construction permeated the air. Move forward to 2011 when I attended the sixth grade, and the school had changed very much. There was a bike shop, science fair division, and a beautiful courtyard that the students themselves maintained with animals, a pond and a garden.
I remember how nervous I was when I first came to SLCSE; I was afraid of not having friends or having trouble in school. My fears were put to rest. I garnered incredible friends and have had more academic success than I ever thought possible. One student who came to SLCSE a few years after me told me that I had helped him get over those same fears. I didn’t even know I had, but I know now that it was because of the more social attitude I had gained at SLCSE that I gained from the friends I made there.
Self confidence is something I have struggled with for a while. Looking back at the accomplishments I have earned for myself at SLCSE, I’m amazed at what I can do. It is all thanks to my teachers, without whom I would not have graduated, providing so many opportunities for me.
I argued in front of real judges as a lawyer for Mock Trial. I performed poetry in front of large crowds multiple times for Poetry Out Loud. I gave a TED Talk at my school’s first ever TEDx event. I participated in my school’s annual trip to Washington DC after a year of volunteering and fundraising. I’ve been on multiple camping trips because my school has a lot of gear and enthusiasm for the outdoors. I’ve taken multiple AP classes and never quit because of my teachers’ unwavering faith in their students. I even undertook a senior project that lead to me help to start and manage The West View Teen Newsroom that meets at the Glendale Library.
These are just a few of the opportunities I’ve had at SLCSE. With every healthy risk I took, I gained more self-esteem. With that, I opened myself to more opportunities for the future – opportunities I otherwise may never have taken.
I hope more people who attend SLCSE will have a similar experience, for I consider it invaluable.
Andre Montoya, 18, is a Glendale resident who helped create and facilitate The West View Teen Newsroom. He will attend the University of Utah in the fall.
Spy Hop is a non-profit that mentors young people in digital media arts and offers classes in a wide variety of mediums. One of these courses, Loud and Clear, is a year-long curriculum that teaches 14 -18 year olds the skills to run a radio program. Though Loud and Clear covers the technical bases like how to record and edit audio, run a radio program, and produce radio pieces, the program provides teens with a life experience that goes beyond the technical skills of operating a switchboard.
“You find meaning to express yourself in a world where feeling insignificant is very relatable,” said Josuee Sanchez, an 18-year-old East High School student, of his experience in Loud and Clear.
Spy Hop’s mission is to mentor young people in the digital media arts to help them find their voice, tell their stories, and be empowered to affect positive change in their lives, their communities, and the world. Students of Loud and Clear can attest that the spirit of that mission is alive in their course. Sitting comfortably behind a switchboard in one of KRCL’s studios, Sanchez said, “Now I feel like I’m more able to communicate across a wide variety of people, and Loud and Clear gave me the tools to take on the world.”
Conor Estes, Loud and Clear mentor, says that through the course, which launched in 2003, teens can learn “to be a critical consumer and creator and understand why artists do the things they do.” He says his personal goal for the program is for participants to understand that their view and their story is important, and that they should create things so they are not just a consumer. The program teaches students the structure and technical skills to put on a good radio show, and then gives them the freedom to express themselves through the curation and production of the show.
“Spy Hop is a great place for people to go and express themselves and their day in a way that they feel more comfortable, especially since it feels that as teenagers we are sometimes put in a dull box at school,” Sanchez says. During a phase in life where the quotidian can feel too structured and monotonous, Sanchez says the Loud and Clear experience provides an environment that cultivates creativity. “We get to make radio shows about whatever we want, I made it about my first wrestling match that I won,” says Sanchez. “That gave us a ton of freedom to express the feeling and emotion that we had that moment and we were able to talk and say what we felt and it gave us that freedom to actually express ourselves.”
During the course, students are trained in a myriad of audio production forms including podcasts, radio segments, and playlists. Estes sees himself as a support for the student’s development, “I tried to play the role of asking hard questions and being devil’s advocate.” “It’s so much more successful for them to learn by figuring it out themselves or screwing up rather than being told what to do.”
All students get an opportunity to produce and host live radio shows, which air every Saturday night on KRLC 90.9, a local radio station, from 9 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. Students are faced with a high level of autonomy and risk in running a live show, but Estes says they don’t buckle under pressure, “they totally suck it up, and pull up their bootstraps and do it, and then they’re really proud of themselves.”
For more information on Spy Hop class offerings from documentary making to hip hop production, visit www.spyhop.org.
Over 100 Latinx leaders, ages 18-35, came from all parts of Utah to participate in a summit at the Thomas S. Monson Center in Salt Lake City in late June. (“Latinx” is a gender-neutral term for persons of Latin American descent, commonly used today.) The summit was hosted by Casa Quetzalcoatl, a non-profit organization whose mission is to expand the knowledge of each member of Latinx families through formal, cultural, and civic knowledge. Led by co-founder Joél-Léhi Organista, the first annual Imaginemos Latinx Summit created an urgent, collective vision to guide and empower the Latinx community.
The influential Latinx leaders, represented countries including Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Brazil. They were selected to participate in a day of workshops and panels to learn from each other as leaders in different industries. Panels on business, technology, medical and health care, art, and media were among the topics discussed, highlighting not only the current success of young Latinx leaders in the field, but also how the Latinx community can continue to expand its contribution to these sectors.
By the end of the summit, the different sectors were divided into groups, centered around an ancient Aztec agricultural methodology called “chinampas.” This advanced water system was a sustainable, multipurpose ecosystem that involved weaving a web of sticks together to float on water, with a network of mud and reeds to form the chinampa. This complex system allowed the Aztecs to produce up to seven crops in a year, compared to a maximum annual yield of three crops in mainland fields.
The chinampas ideology is the basis for the collective vision that will emerge from the inaugural summit over a period of five to ten years during which leaders of different professional sectors, or the summit’s Chinampas, will plant the seeds to help the Latinx community achieve their professional goals. As stated in a Mexican proverb, “They tried to bury us, but didn’t know that I’m a seed.”
The process, inspired by the Aztecan chinampas, of increasing the contributions of Latinx members in the community is broken down into stages: Beginning, Early Blooming, Continual Blooming, and Producing.
The Beginning Stage is meant to help promote early accomplishments, while the Early Blooming Stage allows the formation of deep roots in the soil to have nutrients for further growth. The Continual Blooming Stage is about nurturing people whose career path is clear, but they are just not quite ready to be producing in their field. Which leads us to the Producing Stage, with Casa Quetzalcoatl stating that “[t]he plant is grown. It is producing … a constant flow of nutrients to the whole sustainable ecosystem. … What this plant produces is going to be judged by others. … However, those judging will never know the whole story of the plant’s journey, trauma, healing, restoring, pruning, and transformation.”
The Imaginemos Latinx Summit taught the future leaders initial steps to help their plans come to fruition, such as how to nurture “the crop,” have patience, avoid “growing in an unsafe direction,” and the importance of continual “pollination.”
In the coming weeks and months Chinampas and Community Leaders will be selected to begin the vision and goals that each group of leaders set to increase Latinx involvement in their professional sector.