Becoming a Zion University: How Can We Nurture Diversity and Inclusion?

Dr. Ignacio Garcia giving first annual Hickman Diversity Lecture

Dr. Ignacio Garcia, the Lemuel Hardison Redd Jr. Professor of Western and Latino History spent the first twenty-two years of his career as the only scholar of color in his department.

As a minority, he shared his aspirations for the university to become “whole” in the first annual Hickman Diversity Lecture titled “A Vision to be Whole: Unlearning Ephraim and Re-engaging 2 Nephi 26:33”.  

Garcia acknowledged racially insensitive issues both in the Church and at BYU and challenged all students, faculty, staff and administrators to “engage in the effort to make this a Zion University.” He stated his goal was not to fix all of society’s racial issues but rather understand why we as Latter-day Saints have a diversity problem and how we can overcome it.

Garcia said our problem is rooted in the fact that we have a misunderstanding of what it means to “nurture diversity and inclusion.” He expressed that many students on campus feel they have no one to whom they can turn. Students are often told they must adjust and conform, sharing that “Students are told to stop speaking Spanish and go back to their country.”

Garcia compared BYU to a forest in which every element plays a part to make it a living ecosystem. In this human forest we are able to see the contribution of each Saint, “There’s a place for all the elements, and lacking one or two of them hampers the whole forest.”

So how can we create this balanced ecosystem in our Church and on campus? Garcia said that we need to move beyond shallow multi-cultural celebrations and artificial reconciliation, “We need to challenge ideas and structures that privilege one group over another.”

An example of this, is the idea of Ephraim’s teaching, a theological interpretation that members of the tribe of Ephraim are the “chosen people” and those of other genealogical heritages are perceived to be less obedient and worthy. Garcia declared that the Church has completely rejected these theories of color as a reflection of righteousness and denounced them as racist, “those who have seen President Russell M. Nelson’s ministry can see that all men and women are equal in the eyes of God.”

Garcia went on to explain that as Latter-day Saints we should seek to be one as our prophet has counseled us to do. On our campus students are educated to find good jobs, to recognize the importance of the Restoration, trained to win sports titles and prepared to be influential political leaders. Garcia referred to all these worthy aspirations as “secondary to creating a place where all of God’s children have the same possibilities.” He shared his hope that BYU can become place where no one is limited by their race, economic situation or gender.

Garcia acknowledged that creating this balanced environment will take time, “I’m investing in change regardless of how long it takes.”

He addressed how faculty, administrators and students can nurture diversity and inclusion on a daily basis.

He began by placing a heavy responsibility on BYU faculty to lead the way in this effort, “As faculty members we must ask ourselves if our classes, assignments, lectures and presentations are preparing our students for the world to come.” He prompted faculty and administrators to also reflect how they are helping students of color to find their voices and recognize their place in God’s kingdom.

Garcia encouraged students who feel misunderstood to seek trusted mentors, “Many of these men and women who teach here, are willing to rise to the occasion and they will learn so much more for it and it will change their lives immensely.”

Garcia encouraged students of color to enter every BYU space with a firm belief that they have something to offer and that their experiences, ideas and words matter, “empower yourselves by learning and participating in activities that take you out of your comfort zone which includes pushing against what you see as wrong.”

Garcia shared that the best way we can nurture diversity and inclusion is to walk beside those who are feeling alone and share in their setbacks and in their triumphs. We can follow the Lord’s example recorded by Nephi, “he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female.” Garcia concluded that all things are possible when we rely on the Lord. We can follow the challenge given to us to become whole, “This can be accomplished but it is up to us to make it happen.”

Neylan McBaine Discusses the History of Women's Suffrage in Utah at the Annual G. Homer Durham Lecture

Illustration by Brooke Smart

On February 13, co-founder and CEO of Better Days 2020 Neylan McBaine delivered the G. Homer Durham lecture. It was standing room only at the event! She discussed the history of women’s suffrage in Utah, highlighting how February 14, 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of Utah women being the first Americans to vote under an equal suffrage law. Better Days 2020 is an organization that seeks to spread the word about the heritage of these suffragists in order to encourage and support Utah women today in their corporate and political endeavors.

History of Women’s Suffrage in Utah:

McBaine summarized the history of women’s suffrage in Utah, starting off with the noteworthy anniversaries that the year 2020 marks: the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and the 150th anniversary of Utah women’s first votes. McBaine then told the story of what happened 150 years ago: On February 12, 1870, the Utah territory gave women the right to vote. Two days later, Seraph Young cast the first ballot under equal suffrage law in a modern nation. McBaine explained that this law was passed for a specific reason: voting rights in Utah were linked to polygamy. In 1869, Utah territory was told to enfranchise their women, because people outside of Utah wanted Utah women to use the vote to free themselves from polygamy. However, Utah women did not cooperate, as McBaine shared, but instead, they formed large protest movements in defense of polygamy.

Yet the battle against polygamy continued, as McBaine explained: in 1887, Congress revoked Utah women’s suffrage rights under the Edward Tuckers Act that disenfranchised all polygamous men and women. However, that did not stop the Utah women from fighting for suffrage, as McBaine reported. They formed connections with key eastern leaders, including Susan B. Anthony, a national women’s suffrage leader. They even changed the names of their relief societies to “suffrage associations.” McBaine said that in 1896, Utah women regained the right to vote. Among the prominent suffragists in Utah who McBaine highlighted were Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon, the first female State Senator who ran against her husband and won, and Emmeline B. Wells, who edited one of the largest women’s suffrage papers, the Woman’s Exponent, and was one of the few early suffragists who was able to live to see the 19th Amendment passed in 1920.

However, the story did not end in 1920. McBaine shared that there is a broader narrative to this history as well: Native Americans could not vote in Utah state elections until 1957, Asian Americans until 1952, and African Americans until 1965. McBaine said that the voices of all of these women need to be recognized and remembered, including those of Zitkala-Sa, Alice Kasai, and Alberta Henry, civil rights activists and suffragists.

McBaine also presented three key takeaways from the history of women’s suffrage in Utah:

  1. The story of suffrage isn’t just about voting. The suffrage movement marked a transition for American women to move from the limited domestic sphere to the broader political sphere.
  2. Utah women worked with men to achieve their goals. It was not a power grab between the two sexes, but more of a church and federal government conflict.
  3. Utah women were neither pawns nor militants. Don’t depict women as all good or all bad, because often both women’s and men’s lives are contradictory. Working together for the betterment of humanity is messy but always worth it.

McBaine also left us with these parting questions: what does this legacy mean for us today? Are you living up to the legacy that these men and women left for us 150 years ago? McBaine encouraged both men and women to live up to this legacy. She said that sometimes we as women “let things limit what we are capable of,” for reasons including a lack of role models or a supportive community, but we can look to the suffragists of the 19th and 20th centuries as our exemplars. In fact, Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon, first female state senator, succeeded in earning four degrees because of support from her community. McBaine said that these women were “trailblazers” and that “you can claim this heritage!”

Theda Skocpol, Harvard Sociologist and Political Scientist, to Discuss "Upending American Politics"

Theda Skocpol, Professor of Sociology and Political Science at Harvard University, will be speaking on Thursday, February 27th at 11 am in WSC 3224 on Upending American Politics: Polarizing Parties, Ideological Elites, and Citizen Activists from the Tea Party to the Anti-Trump Resistance.  This event is open to the public.

Professor Skocpol’s work covers an unusually broad spectrum of topics including both comparative politics (States and Social Revolutions, 1979) and American politics (Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States, 1992). Her books and articles have been widely cited in political science literature and have won numerous awards, including the 1993 Woodrow Wilson Award of the American Political Science Association for the best book in political science for the previous year. Skocpol’s research focuses on U.S. social policy and civic engagement in American democracy, including changes since the 1960s. She has recently launched new projects on the development of U.S. higher education and on the transformations of U.S. federal policies in the Obama era.

Celebrating Diversity in February

Happy February! It’s Black History Month – an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of blacks in U.S. history.

February 1-29 Black History Month  “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” ~ Desmond Tutu

February 3 FHE: Vignettes of Black Saints – Learn about inspiring figures in Black Church history such as Jane Manning James, Martha Stevens Perkins Howell, Samuel D. Chambers, and Mary Frances Sturlaugson. Refreshments to follow.

7, 7:30, 8 PM  Education in Zion Gallery – JFSB

February 5, 19, & 26 Lunchtime Jazz Concert – Enjoy an hour of Jazz at noon. Feb. 5th features Greg Stallings, Feb. 19th features the Giddins Family, & Feb. 26th features the Legacy Band.

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM  BYU Library Auditorium

February 6 Race and Immigration Panel Discussion

4:30 PM  B192 JFSB  (Refreshments provided). 

February 6 Marjorie Pay Hinckley Lecture 

Kenneth Dodge, Duke University, Sanford School of Public Policy

Building a System of Care to Help all Children Succeed.

7:30 PM  Garden Court, WSC

February 10 FHE: Vignettes of Black Saints  Learn about inspiring figures in Black Church history such as Jane Manning James, Martha Stevens Perkins Howell, Samuel D. Chambers, and Mary Frances Sturlaugson. Refreshments to follow.

7, 7:30, 8 PM  Education in Zion Gallery – JFSB

February 12 Black History Month: Jazz and the Civil Rights Movement  Galen Abdur Razzaq, aka Flute Juice, is an extraordinary flutist with an extensive performance career. A former educator, composer, arranger, director, and producer of children’s songs, Razzaq has performed and lectured at colleges and universities for over twenty-five years.

4:30 PM – 5:30 PM B192 JFSB

February 14 Valentines Day 

Living Legends  Living Legends captures the essence of ancient and modern culture in a panorama of Latin American, Native American, and Polynesian song and dance. Traditions come to life as talented descendants of these cultures blend authentic choreography, intricate costumes, and heart-pounding music into one captivating show.

7:30 PM de Jong Concert Hall (Tickets Required: eventtickets.byu.edu/)

February 20 Jesus, Gender, and Judaism  Amy-Jill Levine, an expert in both Jewish Studies and Early Christianity, will explore the Jewish context of the historical Jesus and his interaction with and teachings about women. 

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM  238 HRCB

Hickman Diversity & Inclusion Lecture  

Ignacio Garcia, BYU History Department

“A Vision to be Whole: Making BYU a Place Where All of God’s Children can Learn, Teach & Fellowship”

11:00 AM  250 KMBL

February 27 Black Women from Convict Leasing to Mass Incarceration: A Conversation with Talitha LeFlouria 

Come join and listen in on an important lecture with Talitha LeFlouria, she is a nationally recognized Historian and a leading expert on black women and mass incarceration. She is the author of the multi-award winning book called Chained In Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South, the first history of black, working-class incarcerated women in the post-Civil War Period. 

11:00 AM  B192 JFSB

February 28 BYU Perspectives: A Black History Month Celebration 

Come join us in celebrating Black History Month and the major impact it has had on who we are today. This event celebrates black history and allows students to share their personal perspectives of such through music dance and spoken work. 

Come support fellow students as they share their perspectives.

7:00 PM – 8:30 PM  Wilkinson Center Ballroom