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Salt Lake group on racial equity holds first meeting the same day pro athletes boycotted games

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Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — On the same day professional athletes opted to sit out games in protest of a police shooting that paralyzed a Wisconsin man, a newly formed commission aimed at bringing racial equality to Salt Lake City’s police department and its public safety policies held its first public meeting.

The meeting included introductions, some training and then an executive session. The group will be meeting every Wednesday at 5 p.m. and meetings will be available for the public to view through the city’s website at slc.gov/boards.

The commission was formed last month by joint resolution from the Salt Lake City Council and Mayor Erin Mendenhall. A core group was chosen by the mayor, her policy advisers and the council.

Members of the commission attending Wednesday’s electronic meeting introduced themselves and the communities they worked with and represented. Those members are:

  • Rev. France Davis, pastor emeritus of the Calvary Baptist Church, who spent decades as an activist in the African American community.
  • Nicole Salazar-Hall, a Salt Lake attorney representing the Latina community and a member of the Salt Lake Human Rights Commission.
  • Darleen McDonald, chair of the Utah Black Round Table.
  • Aden Bataar, with Catholic Community Services and a refugee from Somalia.
  • Verona Sagato Mauga, who chairs the Asian and Pacific Islander Democratic Caucus and who also works in the mental health field helping women dealing with substance abuse and mental health.
  • Kamaal S. Ahmad, a junior high principal, coach and long-time activist.
  • Mariana Suarez, a retired police officer who spent 25 years in law enforcement and is also representing the LGBTQ community.
  • Tanya Hawkins, who represents the LGBTQ community and is on the Salt Lake police advisory board.
  • Steven Johnson, an attorney, who is the chair of the Utah Black Chamber and board member of the Good Deed Law Project.
  • Steve Anjewierden, retired law enforcement.
  • Carol Jean Matthews-Shifflett, CEO of The Sojourner Group and a longtime advocate for women who’ve survived violence.
  • Davina Smith, member of the Dine’ (Navajo) tribe and CEO of Haseya Native Initiatives LLC.
  • Samantha Eldridge, researcher, educator and social justice advocate and member of the Navajo Nation.
  • Abdullah Mberwa, has lived in the city for 16 years and a community activist.
  • Luna Banuri, founding board member and executive director for Utah Muslim Civic League.
  • Olosaa “Junior” Solovi, West High School head football coach.

Salazar explained how a core group was chosen first — Bataar, Davis, Prospero, McDonald, and Sagato Mauga — and then they recruited the remaining members of the commission.

“(City officials) picked names of individuals they believed would be willing to do the work and would know who to speak with, if they did not have the answers to some of these multifaceted questions that are facing us,” Salazar-Hill said. “There wasn’t a lot of science involved. It was more figuring out who was going to represent the community and who would be willing to do the work, and who would know who to reach out to if we had any questions.”