Every once in a while life gives us a moment that truly touches our souls. For me, Juneteenth is one of those days. We have had a tough few months as a community, as humanity, dealing with the isolation and the stress and damage of a pandemic. That day I woke up with a sense of hope and optimism that I have not felt in a long while. In our legislative session on June 18, I had the privilege of watching first-hand history in the making. Representative Sandra Hollins represented the State of Utah as a strong African American woman in front of the entire Legislature and proudly led the State in passing Law Enforcement reform that has been a tragically long time in coming. It was a moment I will never forget.
A few days ago, I watched as the U.S. Senate took turns, united in bi-partisan support, to read the immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. It was written all the way back in April 1963, long before I was even born. In the letter Dr. King wondered why people were not rallying to the cause, why so many stood on the sidelines and watched as others suffered and died. I believe we finally got to see the realization of the beginning of a historic change in our world that he spoke of so passionately and for which so many have worked and sacrificed so long. I believe he was looking down on a state that over the last few weeks and days has witnessed exactly what I think Dr. King was hoping for, to have people of all races, ages, religions, and backgrounds rise up together and in one united voice demand change.
But it was more than that. What happened in the House chamber that solemn day will be remembered in the years to come as the day when people of color rose up in power and passion and led by Rep. Hollins put forward a law that did not seek to create certain protections for certain classes, but rather sought to provide greater protection and peace of mind for every person, of every class. That was the message that stopped me in my tracks. Not class conflict, but care and concern for all people; and coming from the dedicated work of minority groups who have felt marginalized and unnoticed. When they had the opportunity to wield the power, they used it to create change that will help protect us all. You, me, them. All of us. That was the moment that I believe will echo through the years. When class disappeared humanity reigned supreme.
I am proud to have been able to be there and witness it firsthand. To raise my hand and cast my vote in solemn support of what I believe is the beginning of an era where all people are going to grow in the feeling of freedom to raise their voices in a united movement to create a safer, more peaceful world.
We can find heroes in many places. Over the years Booker T. Washington has become one of mine. He is one of the truly great heroes of history and should be studied by every American. On June 18, 2020, Rep. Hollins, Rep. Romero, Rep. Kwan, Rep. Wheatley, and Sen. Escamilla became my personal heroes. People of color who have raised themselves, and by doing so raised all of us, to a higher awareness of what can and must be done to stand not for “us” or for “them”, but for each other, united and determined to bring about our better “humanity”.