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West Jordan Journal

‘Utah Moms’ organize family-friendly march at city hall

Aug 05, 2020 03:52PM ● By Alison Brimley

Utah Moms for Racial Equality founders Cristina Woods, Rachanee Berg, Abigail Dizon-Maughan and Noah Dizon-Maughan pose with their organization’s banner, designed by Melissa Gaddis Simkulet (@melissagaddis_art) (Photo by Jason Namba.)

By Alison Brimley | [email protected]

On July 6, Utah Moms for Racial and Social Equity made its official debut as an organization with a peaceful demonstration at West Jordan City Hall. The description on the group’s Instagram and Facebook pages sum up the call many mothers feel to fight for change: “George Floyd called out for his mama. We heard him.”  

UMRSE was founded by three Utah mothers, Cristina Woods, Rachanee Berg and Abigail Dizon-Maughan. The group aims to provide “a safe, family friendly space to exercise their rights and teach the importance of standing up to racial and social injustice,” Berg said. The group isn’t exclusively for mothers, though mothers do have a special place within the group. There’s a fourth founder, too: Noah Dizon-Maughan, the 13-year-old son of Abigail Dizon-Maughan, who represents the voices of youth that UMRSE seeks to amplify.

“We marched to demonstrate for social justice and equity, to show people of color they are loved and have allies, and to teach our children how to stand up to injustice,” said the founders. 

Approximately 200 people attended the demonstration at city hall. The event began with a performance of the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice,” by Isabel Cossa. Next, speaker Pauline Fonua Williams paid tribute to George Floyd, challenging listeners to “say his name” and to heed the call to action that has resulted from his death.

Youth speakers also shared messages throughout the evening. Taylorsville resident Violet Woods, Cristina’s 16-year-old stepdaughter, spoke about the microaggressions she has experienced and how this behavior must no longer be accepted.

Sonya Banza, a Black student entering her senior year at Copper Hills High School, expressed her wish to see Black history taught in schools and her dream to be a lawyer one day. Banza heard about the event through Noah Dizon-Maughan, who contacted her via Instagram. “I knew this was a great opportunity to help people become aware of the issues going on in the United States,” Banza said. “It was hard to choose one topic to focus on, so I chose one that I thought could make one of the biggest impacts in our country.”

Then families began their march through Veterans Memorial Park. Demonstrators carried signs, and children rode scooters. Five-year-old Soledad Dizon-Maughan led the call-outs: “No justice, no peace” and “1-2-3-4, we won't take it anymore! 5-6-7-8, stop the violence, stop the hate!” 

Following the march, a moment of silence was held for victims of police brutality. Then Jenny Rock and Kandace Marie performed “Rise Up” by Andra Day. UMRSE’s founders then spoke about the formation of the organization and shared personal experiences with racism as minorities in predominantly white Utah. 

“Gathering together shows the people of color in our community we care, and they have allies,” Berg said. “We had a wonderful event full of love, where families of all races stood together in solidarity against injustice.”

“The march was one of the coolest things I’ve seen,” Sonya Banza said. “It was really nice to see so many people of all different backgrounds unite for one cause.”

Still, there were some concerns surrounding the rally. Much attention was given to how to conduct the event safely amid a pandemic. Data collected from previous protests in Utah and around the country indicated protests carried low risk of transmission, since most occurred outdoors and masks were widely used. UMRSE organizers encouraged attendees to wear masks and maintain a safe distance from others. Masks donated by the NAACP were passed out to those who had none. 

Given the clashes with counter-protestors at other events around the country, UMRSE took measures to avoid conflict as well. 

“We worked closely with West Jordan Police Department, who showed a tremendous amount of support for our cause,” Berg said. They also aimed to avoid “divisive rhetoric that would motivate counter protestors and distract from our core message.”

Now that the group’s inaugural event has passed, there are more efforts on the horizon for UMRSE. Their current project is a voter registration drive. The founders echoed the position of the NAACP that “elections matter. Our elected officials determine the quality and equality of our leaders in law enforcement, public education systems, and so much more.” 

Anyone who wants to get involved with UMRSE—mothers or not—can find the group on Facebook or on Instagram @UTMomsForRacialSocialEquity.