Mayor’s Diversity Dinner promotes honest conversation

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Hero award recipient Lani Taholo poses with her team at Child and Family Empowerment Services, which she founded with her husband, along with Wendy Pyper, Sheriff Rosie Rivera and Mayor Ben McAdams. (Anna Pocaro)

Mayor Ben McAdams, Sheriff Rosie Rivera and Wendy Pyper, a board member of the Mayor’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, presented nine awards to recipients nominated by friends, family, employees and other members of the community at the Mayor’s Diversity Dinner on Oct. 8.

The Salt Lake City Mayoral Office hosted the 12th annual event to recognize the Salt Lake City Hero Award recipients, individuals who support diversity and help minorities in their community.

Other than honoring the award recipients, Emma Houston, director of the Diversity and Inclusion office, said the dinner’s purpose was to foster a safe conversation between guests about the diversity in their lives and look at how they react in situations where they have seen or been victims of prejudice.

The goal of these conversations, according to Houston, was to call each attendee to action and hopefully leave with a better idea of how they can promote inclusion in their own communities.

Several of the nine award recipients were mental health advocates who took time in their acknowledgements to mention Utah’s high youth suicide rates within minority groups like Pacific islanders, Latinos and the LGBT community.

Hero Award recipient Lani Taholo called her work creating suicide prevention programs and curriculum for Pacific islanders in Utah “an indigenous intervention.” Of Taholo’s 35 years in social work, she spent the past 15 years working in Utah communities to empower Pacific islander youth and improve their mental health by founding and directing Child and Family Empowerment with her husband.

Alice Faulkner-Burch, secretary of the Utah Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, said she hopes her work can help improve mental health within Utah’s black community. 

“There is a whole new community of black people coming into Utah — children who are being adopted by white couples,” Faulkner-Burch said. She added that many of these adopted black children have attempted suicide, but she believes the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society can help.

“I believe that by knowing the history and by knowing that this is a state that is strong and rich in history it will help to save them,” Faulkner-Burch said.

The Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society was one of 13 service groups who attended the Mayor’s Diversity Dinner in order to highlight resources for Utah’s minority populations. Among the other service groups in attendance were The Utah Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, South Valley Services to End Family Violence and The English Skills Learning Center.