What Kind of Ancestor Will You Be?

On September 22, 2022, Jennifer Ortiz, director for the Utah Division of State History, visited BYU for the annual Fernando R. Gomez lecture. Jennifer’s vision and intention for State History includes diversifying the narratives we collectively share as a state and ensuring those who practice history better reflect our demographics in Utah.

History is the way people want to express themselves. Jennifer Ortiz, the first woman to run the 125-year-old organization and the first person to identify as a minority, shared with students and faculty about The Peoples of Utah Revisited program. The multi-year initiative is designed to celebrate Utah’s diverse past and is a follow-up to the original Peoples of Utah project published over 50 years ago.

The initiative is comprised of a variety of events to teach families and communities how to record, scan, and treasure their history. “The goal for the project,” says Ortiz, “ is working with community groups to tell their stories in ways they want to tell them; to gather those untold stories, amplify misrepresented voices, and share with communities across the state that their stories are important.”

Along with this major project, Ortiz spotlighted an assortment of projects focused on the last 50 years of Utah’s history created to document history for the misunderstood and growing populations in the state. Amongst these are the Utah Historical Quarterly, which presents updated research in the field of Utah History; the Women’s history initiative, which examines the contributions Utah women have made over the years; and the collections and library program, which houses a host of Utah artifacts, photographs, and manuscripts.

Ortiz emphasized how the original Peoples of Utah project changed the trajectory of public history in the state saying, “It really laid the foundation for diversity in teaching scholarship on Utah history.” She encouraged all to get involved in recording their personal history.

Learn more about BYU’s Department of History.

Latinx Activism in America: How the Young Lords Contributed to the Latino Freedom Movement

Manuel Ramos was shot and killed by a police officer on May 4, 1969. He was a member of the Young Lords, a street gang turned activist group. Made up mostly of Latinx community members, the Young Lords led service activities like providing food for the youth of the neighborhood and advocating for safe, low-income housing options in the increasingly wealthy areas of Lincoln Park, Chicago. 

Manuel Ramos’ story and how his death impacted the trajectory of the Young Lords was recently shared with BYU students at the first Fernando R. Gomez Latino Lecture Series in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. 

Dr. Felipe Hinojosa, associate professor in the Department of History at Texas A&M University, spoke with students about his book Apostles of Change: Religion, Radical Politics, and the Latino Freedom Movement

After describing the death of Manuel Ramos, Dr. Hinojosa recounted the actions of the Young Lords. Spurred on by the injustice of Ramos’ death, the group of young people occupied the local Presbyterian McCormick seminary. It was peaceful; they handed out food and sang and spent time among each other, and they had the support of many seminary members, especially students. The Young Lords had a list of demands they wanted the community, especially the leaders of Lincoln Park, to agree to. Their most important goal, though, was to stop the displacement of low-income families due to “urban renewal” policies, such as the building of more expensive housing units. 

The Young Lords would continue to host community events, occupy other seminaries, and even receive a grant to hire urban planners to create a low-income housing pitch for the city. In short, the majority of the demands were not met and their dreams went mostly unrealized in Lincoln Park. However, their story does showcase the power of banding together and peacefully but assertively sharing your story. The Young Lords opened the eyes of many, including many white, Presbyterian church leaders, by showing their determination to bring an end to poverty, police brutality, and racism.

With this lecture being one of the first of its kind to honor Hispanic heritage, students were grateful for the opportunity for the BYU community to hear of the positive changes made by Latino and Latina people of their own age. Erick Calderon, president of the BYU Hispanos Unidos club, shared, “These young men described in Dr. Felipe Hinojosa’s book were my age and they were changing policies, feeding children in the neighborhood, organizing tuberculosis exams, and more. It made me realize just how much of an impact I can create in my neighborhood if I just have the desire to create change.” 

The Young Lords of Chicago were community outsiders who used a local church as a vehicle for change. What will your vehicle for change be? 

Learn more about the fight for Latinx civil rights in the Civil Rights Seminar.