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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Speakers encourage involvement in social justice

Dr.+Ronald+Coleman+and+Archie+Archuleta+speak+out+about+their+experience+in+social+justice+at+the+Union+Ballroom+on+Tuesday.+Photo+by+Calvin+Chhour.
Calvin Chhour Photography
Dr. Ronald Coleman and Archie Archuleta speak out about their experience in social justice at the Union Ballroom on Tuesday. Photo by Calvin Chhour.

Dr. Ronald Coleman and Archie Archuleta speak out about their experience in social justice at the Union Ballroom on Tuesday. Photo by Calvin Chhour.
Dr. Ronald Coleman and Archie Archuleta speak out about their experience in social justice at the Union Ballroom on Tuesday. Photo by Calvin Chhour.
Social justice is not just something to read about.
“You just have to get involved,” said O. Fahina Tavake-Pasi, executive director of the National Tongan American Society.
Sixty-one students gathered in the East Ballroom yesterday to hear a panel of five community leaders discuss their backgrounds and experience with social justice.
For Judge Raymond Uno, everything is about equality.
“Social justice for [me] is just about life,”  Uno said.
As a child, Uno lived in an internment camp for Japanese Americans during WWII. When he was released, Uno worked laying railroad tracks to sustain his family before he began higher education. After transferring to the U from Weber, Uno took an economics class that sparked his desire to be an activist for social justice.
Uno wrote a paper about minority employment in downtown Salt Lake City for his class and found discrimination at every corner.
Other speakers had similar experiences that spurred them to fight racism.
As a teacher in west Salt Lake City for 35 years, Robert “Archie” Archuleta has seen his classrooms become more diverse. Archuleta continually influences his young students to embrace diversity and learn. To combat racism, Archuleta advises students to find something to be good at.
“I decided to be a teacher. And I decided to be good. For 35 years,” Archuleta said.
Tavake-Pasi works with the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs at the U and has strong Pacific Islander roots.
“We fought a lot with the perception that there’s no difference between Pacific Islanders and Asians,” Tavake-Pasi said.
To Tavake-Pasi, there is no reason for students not to be involved in social justice. She encourages students to identify a passion and find a coalition or committee that aligns with that passion.
“What I’ve realized with undergraduates is they believe they don’t have a voice. That is so untrue,” said Dr. Karen Kwan, an associate professor at SLCC.
Kwan echoed Tavake-Pasi’s advice and encourages students to seek out student organizations such as the Asian American Student Association to seek social justice.
“Network, network, network … you never know when you can connect the dots with someone you met to solve problems,” Kwan said.
Ronald Coleman, a professor at the U, grew up in the 1950s and 1960s in the midst of the social rights movement. Before he began his studies at the U, he worked for General Mills, where his boss called him out racially in a meeting. In the fall of 1967, Coleman quit his job and enrolled at the U, where he would earn a Ph.D. in history.
“Never in my undergraduate experience did anyone tell me I could do everything I could possibly do. Maximize your potential,” Coleman said.
On a whole, the panel encouraged students to bond together to make a difference.
“I do things nobody else has done. It only takes a few people to make change,” Uno says of his experience.
At the least, they encouraged students to speak out.
“By your silence, you condone the injustices that occur around you,” says Coleman.
Rudy Medina, a graduate student in education leadership and policy, organized the panel discussion through the Office for Equity and Diversity.
“In order to move forward, we have to know about our past,” Medina said.
He believes it is important to hear from social justice activists in the community as a means of “passing the torch” to students at the U.
“In the future, we want to continue doing this event … and have more people come in,” Medina said.
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