Today, I had the honor of attending the 8th annual “Tell the Story” Black History Conference, which was sponsored by the Sema Hadithi, foundation. The conference was held at the Community Opportunity Center in South Salt Lake City and two of my dear friends, Robert and Alice Burch, chaired the event . Robert and Alice are both active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the two recently published a book entitled “My Lord, He Calls Me: Stories of Faith by Black American Latter Day Saints.” The book is a new essay compilation by active Black American Latter-day Saints whose ancestors were brought to the United States from Africa and enslaved. During today’s conference, esteemed professors, academics and publishers from throughout our Salt Lake Valley presented works and then later lead discussions relevant to this years theme, “Framing Truth: Reclaiming Black Images from Stereotype.”

Unlike some municipalities, which view groups like the Sema Hadithi foundation as threatening, in Holladay Utah groups like these are embraced. I know this from direct first hand experience, because while attempting to earn the votes of the citizens of my district, I have learned my neighbors aren’t a bunch of closed minded bigots as outsiders often mistakenly imagine. Instead the residents of my district are a forward, expansive, and outward looking people who understand the diversity of our shared Holladay community is also our greatest strength. In our own public school system, for example, despite the abundance and wealth enjoyed by our residents, several local schools are closing down due to the high cost of living, an aging population and declining birth rates. Ironically many of the schools being closed also have some of the highest test scores in our State. The residents of Holladay District 4 are wise enough to understand our public school crisis can be solved by working together with people living outside our boundaries. In my own Holladay Utah District 4, for example, our local schools have thought outside the box and then brought in anywhere from 50% to 70% of the student body from out of boundary locations. The resulting solution is a win win; local resident property values increase due to the presence of well preforming local public schools while many of those living outside our boundaries are, in turn, provided a top notch public school education.

That’s just how the residents of Holladay, Utah District 4 roll, we all look out for each other, we all lift each other up, and in then end, we all rise together.