What Has Really Changed?

In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Black Student Union and Center for Diversity and Inclusion hosted a “What Has Changed?” panel in the Sterling R. Church Auditorium on Thursday, Jan. 24.

The panel featured SUU Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Schvalla Rivera, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah Chairperson Tamra Borchardt-Slayton, SUU History Professor Dr. Laura June Davis and WIlly Palomo, a social activist and poet from Indiana University.

Dr. Rivera spoke on the historical aspects of the civil rights movement. She discussed important events ranging from Rosa Parks declining to give up her Montgomery bus seat in 1955, to a 2005 law that made the death penalty for juveniles unconstitutional.

She also mentioned the important 1966 lawsuit of Miranda vs Arizona, which supported the right to know why individuals were being arrested by law enforcement.

Borchardt-Slayton spoke on the rights of the Native American tribes, particularly around the state of Utah.

“Laws were not in Native American favor until about Richard Nixon,” Borchardt-Slayton said. “We were finally allowed to practice our religion freely. If we were doing a drum circle in public, we could be shot on sight.”

She also referred to a 2017 Harvard University study that found that nearly one-third of Native Americans report being personally discriminated against because they are Native.

“We are here because we are resilient,” Borchardt-Slayton said. “We found a way to survive and we will continue to survive.”

Dr. Davis spoke on the the wave of feminism and the #MeToo movement. She also quoted an unidentified protestor from the 2017 Women’s March who said, “It’s a shame that we still have to fight for women’s rights.”

Davis also referred to how times have started to change, citing that there are 127 members of the House of Representative and Congress who are women.

However, Davis also referred to a famous quote by MLKJ: “But there is still a long ways for us to go” to end her discussion.

Palomo spoke on how sometimes the legal thing still may not be the right thing. He referred to several questionable moral standards in the history of the United States.

Palomo also referred to how MLKJ was incarcerated more than 29 times before his assassination, and used it as a civil rights movement strategy.

For students who want to be more involved in social issues, or feel they are underrepresented, can visit the Center for Diversity and Inclusion in the Sharwan Smith Student Center, visit their website, or call 435-865-8761.

Story By: Kurt Meacham
Photo By: Kurt Meacham