Governor Gary Herbert Joins Racial Equity Leaders to Form the Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

On December 15th, Governor Gary Herbert and racial equity leaders across the state, gathered at the steps of the Utah Capitol to launch The Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. This document is a declaration of five principles and actions that invite cross-discipline commitment to be anti-racist and advance equal opportunity for all in our communities. It is founded on the principles that all people are created equal and that all Utahns must have a truly equal opportunity to prosper. It explicitly acknowledges racism as a system of ideas, beliefs, practices, structures, and policies that give some people greater opportunity than others. Those that sign the compact are not restrained to a single discipline, but must pledge to work toward priorities and laws that create equal opportunity and access, and to foster communities of respect. 

Nubia Pena, Director of the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs, said, “It is important to acknowledge the potential of this moment. Our state leaders have met with community stakeholders from diverse backgrounds to listen to their concerns about historical oppression and the fear and distrust of engaging with systems. This value statement sets the course for the direction we can move in to truly be inclusive in action as well as resource distribution. To publicly acknowledge and denounce racism and commit to advancing policies that disrupt the inequities born by historically and systematically marginalized communities, is part of Truth and Reconciliation work, part of the healing work that is needed. This compact is only one step to intentionally weave in anti-racist practices in the framework of how we serve, how we cultivate inclusive spaces and how we ensure diverse perspectives help shape a better future for all. We hope across private and public sectors, Utahns will sign and support the vision for an equitable state that values the humanity of all people. ” 

Community advocates, changemakers, and leaders stood in solidarity with the principles of the Compact and were honored by the Governor and other state leaders for their commitment to racial equity that laid the foundation for this effort to be launched. We wanted to memorialize reflections from state and local leaders who engaged in this historic moment. You can read the complete press release here and sign the compact by following this link!

“All men and women are created equal. The rights to education, housing, employment, healthcare,  life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must belong to all of us — to people of all races,” Gov. Herbert said. “I believe, and hope, that most Utahns want to make that happen. In signing this compact, Utahns can commit to the important work of loving their neighbor, and ensuring equity and equality in our state.” 

Gov.-elect Spencer J. Cox said racial equity will be an important part of his administration. 

“History teaches us that progress doesn’t just happen. It requires forethought, commitment and deliberate action. These principles reflect a firm resolve toward racial justice, a direction toward equity and inclusion that will continue during my administration,” Cox said. “This isn’t about political correctness, it’s about human correctness. It’s about kindness, decency and love for our fellow travelers. Indeed, it is about striving to deliver on the self-evident truths recognized from our founding: ‘That all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights’.”

“Today, during the most unbelievable and trying times in our state, country, and world, and alongside the most political partisan extremism and government rage many of us have ever experienced in our lifetime, this is a moment — another positive and compassionate Utah moment — where we stand as a state, alongside our partners and say “no” to racial inequities, disparities, and unequal opportunities, and “yes” to a movement, collective and consciously toward racial justice,” said Sen. Jani Iwamoto. 

“I am excited for this development and hopeful for the work that different leaders across the state will forward through the Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion,” said Sen. Luz Escamilla. “Recognizing the history of inequities, disparities, and gaps that our communities have faced and continue to face is instrumental to implementing solutions that create equal opportunities and access for all. This is a great first step, and I’m looking forward to seeing the measures that help bring prosperity to ALL Utahns.”

“With this compact, Utah is sending a message that they are committed to working towards equity,” said Rep. Sandra Hollins. 

Ms. Emma E. Houston, Chair for the Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission said, “This is a serious matter as the Governor leads out on this important initiative to ensure every Utahn feels valued and respected with a sense of belonging. Equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism work starts with leadership understanding and equipping others with tools to implement change. The impact will change the ways in which Utah operates and the ways we interact and hold each other accountable. I look forward to helping with the transformation.” 

Simba Maponga, Vice-Chair for the Commission stated, “This compact represents the framework for Utah to move forward making sure no community is left behind. The courage shown by the Governor and various allies today is the beginning of a journey together; to shape our state and communities, ensuring that we are inclusive and united in every aspect. It’s exciting to see Utah lead on this incredibly important issue.”

Byron Russell, Co-Chair for the Utah Multicultural Commission and Co-Chair of the Multicultural Advisory Committee of Utah’s COVID-19 Response, stated “Today is an example of what can happen when our multicultural communities are invited to help design, construct and advance good policy for legacy. It is important to note, however, that we stand on these steps of Utah’s State Capitol today thanks to the tireless efforts of great leaders including the late Archie Archuletta and Frank Cordova, Pastor France Davis, Miss Jeannetta Williams and Miss Betty Sawyer, to name just a very few.” 

Zee Min Xiao, Director of Salt Lake County’s Office of New Americans and Co-Chair of the Multicultural Advisory Committee of Utah’s COVID-19 Response, spoke during the day’s event and stated that, “The Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion set forth actions to create conditions where all Utahns, including individuals from immigrant and refugee backgrounds, can contribute fully –  thrive economically, socially, culturally and politically.”

“This compact is a statement and promise of leadership, unity and commitment to end systemic racism and provide equal opportunity to all who live in and visit our great state,” said Gail Miller, Owner and Chair of Larry H. Miller Group of Companies. “We need to do better at listening, learning, understanding, acting and advocating. I am grateful to all who are signing the compact.  We are all in this together.”

Ms. Betty Sawyer, Executive Director of Project Success Coalition and President of the NAACP Ogden Chapter, attended the signing and reflected that, “today’s event rang with a spirit of hope. For the first time in a long time, I felt that we had leaders who have made a head and heart shift. Listening to the speakers’ personal stories and revelations lead me to believe that our Black community was not in this struggle alone! Not a moment but a movement.”

Ms. Luna Banuri, Executive Director of the Utah Muslim Civic League and member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission, also attended the event and shared, “I am appreciative of Governor’s continued efforts since his June meeting with the Multicultural community in making strides towards adjusting the sails around racial inequities and diversity in Utah. The compact’s five principles are the basis for inclusivity of all Utahns. As a Muslim woman, I see myself being included together with my community. We are hopeful of continued engagement and understanding of our uniqueness. Much remains to be accomplished for civic justice” 

Dustin Jansen, Director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs, shared during the ceremony, “If decisions will affect tribal governments, meaningful consultation must happen. If it concerns tribal governments and communities, Native communities must be invited to the conversation. As stated in this compact—“Nothing About Us, Without Us.” We must all look at our personal, professional, and political practices, and ask how we can do better. This compact will help us do better.”

Jake Fitisemanu Jr., Director of the Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition, participated as one of the event’s speakers and shared, “As one of Utah’s 50,000 Pacific Islanders, I applaud the Compact as a meaningful step toward action and outcomes that will benefit all Utahns.”

Jennifer Mayer-Glenn, Director of Utah Neighborhood Partners, joined the lineup and discussed the intersection of anti-racism and immigration. She said “This Utah Compact on racial equity, diversity and inclusion asks us all to acknowledge and take action. Our current and historic immigration policy is exclusive and wrought with racism. This is what we must acknowledge and on which we must take action. She further encouraged leaders to be mindful and “[p]lease bring us to decision making tables. Together we can co-create knowledge, create a place of belonging and thriving for us all. Archie Archuleta dedicated his life to opening doors for me and so many others. He is one reason we are all standing here today.”

Claudia Loayza, member of the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs, closed the event with the reminder that we must include our youth. She said, “Young voices and emerging leaders have often been at the forefront of movements, in the past and even now,” adding that “[they] need to be considered, included, and provided the power to influence decisions to truly make an impact.” She finished by sharing her aspiration “that we make this a practice moving forward because when unique perspectives and lived experiences are given similar weight as we do professional experience and clout, we can address and find gaps that we may have not been able to before.”

The creation of this multidisciplinary and action-based document is an important milestone in the work for racial equity and will continue to be upheld by the future administration. We are grateful for Gov. Herbert’s dedication to discuss racial inequities and engage community leaders to identify solutions. We hope you will also support the intent and potential impact of this Compact. 

View and sign the compact online, at: slchamber.com/utahcompact.