This past week was our state holiday. We celebrate with an early morning marathon through high mountain passes, a good old fashion parade, rodeos, and fireworks… replaced this year by a laser show in deference to the fact that we are a desert in the middle of fire season in the middle of a deep drought.
But change can be good, right?
I’ll admit I love fireworks, but I’m proud of my state for making a wise shift.
And that wasn’t the only shift made this holiday. The other is even more important in my mind.
Each year those early morning marathon runners enter the valley through a canyon known as Emigration Canyon in honor of the first Mormon pioneers who settled here in 1847. At the spot where the pioneers got their first glimpses of the valley is a lovely monument chronicling those who made that first trip across the continent and chose this spot to stop and build the city of their dreams.
This weekend the state opened a new monument on the same location, one that honors the contributions of the previously overlooked African American pioneers who came that first year. This monument does not replace or devalue the original; it adds to the story, making the celebration of all those who made the journey and founded our state more complete and transparent.
Three men in that first company, Green Flake, and two brothers, Hark Wales and Oscar Smith, were enslaved people. Arriving in July, they and the others immediately set to work planting crops and building homes.
Jane Elizabeth Manning was expecting her third child when she arrived in September with her husband and two young children. Although Jane was born a free woman, she faced many added challenges. Before she began her trek across the country from Illinois to Utah, she walked 800 miles from Connecticut to New York after she was denied boat passage because of her race. In Peoria, Illinois she was questioned as a potential fugitive slave and had to prove her free status.
At the unveiling, Mauli Junior Bonner, one of the monuments’ coordinators, emphasized that it is important for everyone to learn about our history with slavery so that we will “never forget it” and can “... teach our children… allow them to come up in a world where they’re not going to be blindsided by history… so that we can truly be the inclusive community that we want to be.”
Change can be good, right?
Happy Failing Forward,
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