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Utah Business

A celebration of those who are working toward a more equitable and inclusive future in Utah.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.

Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color Awards

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.

In partnership with Living Color Utah, our fourth annual Living Color Gala honors the individuals and organizations who are working toward a more equitable and inclusive future for our state. Congratulations to the 2022 Living Color Awards winners.

Community Involvement

Nickolis Arteaga

Prevention Coordinator | Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA)

LinkedIn

Who inspires you most? Why?

I inspire myself. All of the adversity I have faced has strengthened me, and I take pride in all of my work and progress that I have accomplished as a multiply marginalized and historically excluded individual. I am a fat, queer, neurodiverse, transmasculine, nonbinary person of color/Chicanx, and I am proud of it.

What is your favorite part of your job?

As a prevention coordinator at UCASA, my favorite part of my job is being able to support survivors in a world that perpetuates rape culture and victim blaming. I am in a position to help my community by validating their pain and trauma, as well as offering resources, training, and education. We also educate others to practice consent and boundaries to minimize the effect of white supremacy and patriarchy, which promote the concept that we should feel shame and blame the survivors being targeted with horrific violence rather than the predators holding office and positions of power. Also, as the co-founder of Unidxs, I am proud to be out and visible for my community to see that they do belong and are valuable. Queer and Latinx identities can co-exist, and they deserve to take up space without placating those in power. We are here, we are queer, and we are no longer going to sit and let others tokenize our identity.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
NICKOLIS ARTEAGA PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Emilio Manuel Camu

Director | OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates Utah
Director | Utah Valley University First-Gen Student Success Center

LinkedIn

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today?

I haven’t overcome it, but it’s an ongoing issue of navigation relating to intersecting systems of oppression upholding the structures which make it difficult—not just for me but for our diverse communities and individuals—who face systemic discrimination in hiring, non-inclusive work environments, office cultures, and public spaces. I often discuss with my fellow community members about having to be hyper-aware of—or sometimes even leave part of—our selves, identities, and experiences before stepping into many spaces in Utah. We go on and create our own spaces where people don’t have to do that. Anti-Asian hate and the pandemic have really taken a toll on our communities, but we keep pushing forward to create space for intergenerational leadership.

What would you like to see in terms of DE&I efforts in Utah?

I would love for our first-gen, Asian, and Pacific Islander communities to just “be”—be the individuals and communities we are, where diversity and inclusion efforts aren’t centered on helping first-gen Asians and Pacific Islanders “survive” and having to celebrate “resilience.” I’d love for us to move beyond representation for the sake of diversity and inclusion and for our Utah community to be rooted in inclusion and diversity.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
EMILIO MANUEL CAMU PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Merine Vida Tu’itama’alelagi Hafoka

Director | Malialole Polynesian Cultural Arts Ensemble

What organizations do you find it most important to support? Why?

The National Tongan American Society, Anwhut One-Stop Shop, Alofa Fa’aSamoa, Langi Creations, Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources (PIK2AR), OCA Asian Pacific Islander American Advocates Utah, Ink Against Cancer, Sayloo, and Money Mouth, Inc. These companies and organizations are always about diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as giving aid and resources to our communities through health, education, immigration, workforce development, civic engagement, and cultural preservation.

What is your favorite part of your job?

The people and their involvement in our safe environment. Each individual’s ideas and strengths are heard, seen, and put into action. [I love] having individuals represented knowing each other’s differences, worth, and value in our group.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
MERINE VIDA TU'ITAMA'ALELAGI HAFOKA PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Amir A.H. Jackson

Founding Director | Nurture the Creative Mind

LinkedIn

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my purpose (I don’t view it as a job) is being able to plant seeds of belief with people, young and old, and helping them see and believe in themselves and their potential. Having the opportunity to witness those seeds blossom into trees that have the potential to bear fruit for others to benefit from it is quite a blessing.

What do you look forward to achieving?

I often think about achievement with a reflective mindset. When looking back on my life, I would like to be able to say that I did what I could to leave the world better than I found it. To know to a degree of certainty that I did my best to honor and positively represent God above and was an example of the power and benefits of goodness would bring me immense joy, satisfaction, and peace.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
AMIR A.H. JACKSON PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Corporation

Roy Banks

CEO | Weave

LinkedIn

How are you involved in changing the DE&I landscape in Utah’s business community?

I am the only black CEO of a Utah tech unicorn. It’s not the first time I’ve been the “only one” in the room where it happens, but at Weave, I’ve had the opportunity to really get out in front and be more visible on diversity and its importance to the business community. I get so many responses and LinkedIn messages after I talk about the value of diversity in a business from people of color wanting mentorship and advice. I have such a passion for sharing how I got to where I am. This came to a pinnacle moment for me last year when I got to ring the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange and take Weave public. A black veteran ringing the bell of the NYSE on Veterans Day—such an incredible moment of pride and visibility. I was one of the only black CEOs to take a company public in 2021, and I don’t want that to be the same in 2022. Representation matters.

What would you like to see in terms of DE&I efforts in Utah?

We need more community building around diverse communities. I’ve lived in Utah County for several decades, and it is changing to support the increased diversity that we see in our state. The most common feedback I hear from the diverse groups I work with every day at Weave is that they feel safe in the office or feel a sense of openness and visibility at work—but don’t feel that in their own community when they go home at the end of the day. They feel like outsiders. I want to see more Black barber shops, more support for diverse small business owners, and more emphasis on how the community can step up to make sure Utah is known as a welcoming place for diverse hires.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
ROY BANKS PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Abigail M. Dizon-Maughan

Attorney | Parsons Behle & Latimer

LinkedIn

Who inspires you most? Why?

My grandmother, Soledad. She grew up in the Philippines during a time of great struggle and turmoil. Her stories of survival remind me that I have her blood—her warrior blood—coursing through my veins. And while our tribulations are vastly different, I stand prouder and taller in the face of adversity knowing that I have her courage in my DNA. 

What do you look forward to achieving?

I look forward to changing the face and landscape of Utah’s legal market. There are vast reserves of untapped talent because this profession has been slow to adapt. But change is happening, and I am excited to be a part of that shift and to help mentor future attorneys, advocates, and policymakers. As attorneys, we better serve our clients and their interests when we invite historically underrepresented members of our community to become champions for justice and participate in problem-solving. 

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
ABIGAIN DIZON-MAUGHAN PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Education

Laís Kariana Martínez

Inaugural Assistant Commissioner Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion | Utah System of Higher Education

LinkedIn

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today?

Imposter Syndrome! I am often the only Latina and/or person of color at decision-making tables within my organization, and it impacts my sense of belonging in that space. As a young girl raised in a diverse suburb outside of Washington, D.C., I was rarely confronted with my racialized identity. Most people in my community came from diverse backgrounds with unique customs, traditions, religious beliefs, etc. As an adult working in the Utah higher education leadership landscape, I look around a room and must find the confidence within that, yes, I belong and that, yes, I will continue to show up, even when I’m tired until there are more of me/us at the table.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love being able to influence and inform statewide higher education policy and programming, things that will directly impact the material conditions of students across the state of Utah. These days, policy advocacy is all-consuming, but I still love opportunities to visit with Latinos in Action or a Gear Up classroom and talk directly to first-generation students and their families about their college and career options. Most students are not aware of the fact that the majority of Utah’s colleges are open enrollment, which means regardless of GPA or ACT score, students in Utah have access to higher education. I love being able to share the message that college is, in fact, attainable—and “here’s how!”

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
LAÍS KARIANA MARTINEZ PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Jacqueline Thompson

Community Activist | Davis School District

LinkedIn

How are you involved in changing the DE&I landscape in Utah’s business community?

I’ve been involved with the Ethnic Studies Amendments bill (S.B. 244) that passed this legislative session. This bill will teach our citizens how to be students of the world, how to respect one another, and how to value what other brings to the table. The purpose of this bill is to honor the heritage and hard work of our historical and modern-day people by teaching the stories of all who call Utah home. It also prepares our youth from every corner of our state to compete in the nation’s fastest-growing 21st-century economy.  

What would you like to see in terms of DE&I efforts in Utah?

I would like to see that we have diverse teachers and staff in our schools. I’d like to see more women and people of color running for state offices and that their voices are being included and heard. I’d like Utah to be more welcoming so that others who are coming in can see that DE&I is valued here and that they will have a place and opportunities in our state.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.

Westminster College

Pictured: Tamara Stevenson | VP, DE&I & Chief Diversity Officer

Website

How is your organization involved in changing the DE&I landscape in Utah’s business community?

By encouraging, facilitating, and leading efforts that advance DE&I from conversation to action. Westminster models this action-oriented approach by ensuring that members of our campus community across backgrounds, personal and professional perspectives, and lived experiences have fair and equitable representational and informational access toward creative and effective decision-making. Also, per our commitment as a comprehensive university with a liberal arts foundation, Westminster’s approach to teaching and learning is grounded in a culture of imagination and innovation in the pursuit of academic excellence, advocacy for inclusion, and respect for differences.

What can other companies/organizations learn from you?

As a teaching-focused institution of higher learning, we recognize that applying meaningful principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion informs our ability to attend to and respond to our students’ ever-evolving personal needs and educational interests. Other companies and organizations can learn from Westminster College through our willingness to engage in organizational self-reflection on how our policies and practices facilitate equity and a sense of belonging for all members of our campus community. This includes examining our campus/workplace environment to identify gaps and opportunities in our organizational and cultural infrastructure toward continuous improvement versus framing DE&I as a zero-sum game with a finite end.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
TAMARA STEVENSON PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANIC PROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Government

Bettina Smith Edmondson

Councilwoman | Layton City

LinkedIn

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today?

I was taught early on that I could do anything with God and an education, so I can’t recall a time when I felt I had to overcome external challenges. My biggest obstacle was getting out of my own way. I was born and raised in Utah, with a unique opportunity to give the predominant race and culture an up-close view of a strong, intelligent Black girl. Many of the kids I grew up with (and even adults I worked with later in life) didn’t personally know any Black people, so what they knew was from their perceptions or what they saw on television. Fast-forward to adulthood, specifically running for an elected office, and I had to get over my personal fears of putting myself out there. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is God will put you where He wants you to be to have the greatest impact, and that usually looks nothing like you expect. I had to let go of the reins and hold on for the ride, knowing that the end result would be good as long as I kept going. Ultimately, I became the first Black woman elected to the Layton City Council.

What do you look forward to achieving?

If I can inspire or encourage someone to get involved in their local politics, I have achieved success. When someone tells me they attend their City Council meetings because I ran for office, that is the greatest accomplishment for me. The more people involved, the better outcomes we will have in our cities, counties, and state. When people of color are at the table, the discussion can broaden. The ultimate outcome may end up the same, but there will be more perspectives taken into consideration. Additionally, I want more people of color to be active in the political process: voting, running for office, being elected, sitting on city commissions and boards, and ultimately having a say in the decisions that affect us. Utah is more diverse than we think, and that should be reflected in leadership positions throughout the state.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
BETTINA SMITH EDMONDSON PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Jani Iwamoto

Assistant Minority Whip | Utah State Senate

LinkedIn

What inspires you the most? Why?

What inspires me the most, especially now during these divisive times, are the people that have come before us and have humbly given their time and lives in the fight for equality for ALL. In paving the way, they have been mentors and cheerleaders to others and inspired us to make our own mark on the world. A phrase in the motto of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession Spirit of Excellence Award is, “Special indeed is the person who can navigate his or her own way while paving the way and assisting those that follow.” Through the eyes of my parents and their generation (the Nisei) and the generation before them (the Issei), I know that even as Americans, our personal rights guaranteed under our sacred Constitution can be taken from us. History most definitely repeats itself. This statement is especially important to me: Justice is a matter of continuing education. There is a saying which embodies my gratefulness and is an exhibit at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i: “Okage Sama De – I am what I am because of you.”

What would you like to see in terms of DE&I efforts in Utah?

When I returned from the Bay Area after 16 years, I was apprehensive. I believed I would be leaving the comfort of a place with a diverse population and thought, but I returned to a Utah that was much different than I had left it. The demographics have changed so greatly. The Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community is the fastest-growing population in the US and in Utah, with over 60 ethnic minorities and 100 languages. That being said, there is so much to do in terms of diversity and inclusion. Past history and lived experiences are critical. We need to learn about each other’s pasts, even though uncomfortable, to be able to move forward with real change. As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We also need to note the contributions of our diverse communities and celebrate that diversity—to see us, hear us, and stand alongside us. 

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
< i> JANI IWAMOTO PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Ben Kolendar

Director | Salt Lake City Department of Economic Development

LinkedIn

Who inspires you most? Why?

I grew up admiring John F. Kennedy. I look back and believe my admiration stems from his willingness to tackle big challenges and inspire people in a better direction. Nowadays, I find inspiration coming more from our local leaders making a difference. I’ve been in political appointee roles at both the national and local levels, and the pains and rewards are felt more at the local level. I have a lot of gratitude for those who take on local leadership roles in the community. Those leaders carry a lot of weight on their shoulders.

What would you like to see in terms of DE&I efforts in Utah?

Investment in our youth through better funding for schools and engagement by our community organizations, governments, and businesses. Our youth need to see themselves in careers at an early age. We’ve made strides here in recent years, both locally and at the state level; however, I would argue that there is no such thing as an over-investment in our school system. In a dry economic sense, economic mobility provides greater economic output. The school system is where we get our highest returns. 

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
BEN KOLENDAR PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Sunny Washington

CEO | Utah Tech Leads

LinkedIn

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today?

All the data is telling me that it’s hard for a person like me to achieve success. Being a bit naive to that data has helped me to enter into spaces that I probably would have avoided. My ignorance has helped me take risks!

What would you like to see in terms of DE&I efforts in Utah?

I would love to see that all the efforts that various companies and organizations are making will pay off, and we will truly have a more diverse and inclusive community. Then we can focus on solving other hard issues!

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
SUNNY WASHINGTON PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Inspirational Leader

Stacy Bernal

DEI Trainer & Founder | See Stacy Speak LLC & Awesome Autistic Ogden

LinkedIn

Who inspires you most? Why?

The many badass (can I say “badass?”) Utah women who have paved the way ahead of me: Women like Adrienne Andrews, Priscilla Jambor, Arlene Anderson, Angela Choberka, my amazing mom, Meredith Rabino, and many others. These women are true examples of resilience, tenacity, and kindness. They encourage and inspire me to become the person I’m meant to be.

How are you involved in changing the DE&I landscape in Utah’s business community?

When I started my company, I focused on empowering women and quickly realized that I had a purpose even bigger than that. In 2018, I started what would become Awesome Autistic Ogden, an annual community event celebrating neurodiversity and disability. In 2019, I founded a small 501c3 nonprofit, the Bernal Badassery Foundation, which serves neurodiverse, disabled, and other marginalized communities who are trying to improve their lives and need a helping hand along the way. I started working with organizations doing trainings on autism, implicit biases, and diversity and inclusion. In 2020, I was chosen to serve on the Ogden Diversity Commission, and on the first Zoom meeting that May, just days ahead of the George Floyd murder, we were bombed with racist hate speech by a group of strangers. My fire was lit, and I knew I was meant to use my voice to help traditionally underrepresented and marginalized communities.

What would you like to see in terms of DE&I efforts in Utah?

I would love to see a shift in the public perception of DE&I in the state. I still see a lot of resistance to the topic from people who say things like, “Racism is only a problem because we keep talking about it” and “Diversity has been weaponized.” I see some organizations that have added DE&I verbiage to their mission statement but aren’t actually doing the work to create any meaningful change. But then I’ll do a training with a local nonprofit and hear so many stories of people courageously engaging in the hard work and uncomfortable conversations. I have hope we can create change in Utah—but it’s going to take time.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
STACY BERNAL PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Raymond Christy

Airport Senior Planner, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Liaison Officer | Salt Lake City Department of Airports (SLCDA)

LinkedIn

Who inspires you most? Why?

My sisters, Dr. Sheila Christy-Martin and Marva Kester. As I grew up in NYC, my sisters spoke out for others that didn’t have a voice for themselves. Marva volunteered in the Peace Corps to assist with educating villagers in several African countries. Sheila founded an African dance troupe that educated and performed for audiences on four continents. The dance troupe performances showed how African dance contributed to and impacted cultures around the world. The troupe, called “Sankofa,” was inducted into the Pikes Peak Museum in Colorado Springs.

What do you want others to know about the importance of DE&I in business?

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” As a village, great ideas can come from anyone or anywhere. We should not judge fellow villages through our bias toward different concepts or processes. It’s a human thing, and we as villages need to rise above that.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
RAYMOND CHRISTY PHOTOGRAPHED BY BUSTAH PHOTOGRAPHY.

Victoria Petro-Eschler

Councilwoman, District 1 | Salt Lake City Council & Founder 

Principal | bold IDEAS Consulting

LinkedIn

What would you like to see in terms of DE&I efforts in Utah?

I’d like to see the typical good intentions of all Utahns take the next steps to ensure intentions and impacts align. There is so much substantial work to do that will result in more people being acknowledged with dignity. I’m eager for us to get to that next level.

What do you want others to know about the importance of DE&I in business?

It’s not a warm fuzzy demographic anomaly we’re after. It’s about strengthening all of us by closely examining what has historically not worked well and strategizing ways to fix that. The inclusion of historically marginalized voices is about making the fabric of our society—and of our businesses—stronger by allowing everyone to engage from a position of their unique strength instead of positions that have been weakened due to disenfranchisement.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
VICTORIA PETRO ESCHLER PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Sione Havili

Regional VP of Sales | Domo, Inc.

LinkedIn

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today?

As a Tongan-American who was born and raised in Glendale, Utah, I was involved in gang activity in my youth. Sadly, one fateful night in October of 1998, I was involved in a retaliation to a drive-by shooting and burned a rival gang member’s home to the ground—an act I wholeheartedly regret to this day. I was eventually convicted of aggravated arson, a first-degree felony, and was sentenced to serve time to pay my debt to society. Upon my release, I eventually earned a scholarship to play football and received a bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University. After years of hitting dead ends trying to find meaningful employment opportunities post-graduation, I was given a second-chance opportunity in an entry-level sales role as an account development manager at Adobe and have not looked back since. I now serve as the regional VP of sales at Domo, Inc. and vice chair of the Utah Polynesian Professionals.

What do you look forward to achieving?

I’m passionate about helping Pacific Islanders, women, and any other under-represented minorities land breakthrough job opportunities in the tech industry. I’m also an advocate for helping convicted felons find meaningful, second-chance employment opportunities in the workplace. Because I was given an unexpected second-chance opportunity, this is what drives me to provide similar pathways to success for others like me.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
SIONE HAVILI PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Ivette A. López

Professor & Director | Utah Area Health Education Centers, University Of Utah 

LinkedIn

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today?

I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis five months after I moved to Utah from Florida. I felt such relief! For years I had been telling doctors that I thought there was something underlying wrong with me. They did not listen to me and kept treating me orthopedically. When I got here, between the inversion, heat, and altitude, I felt paralyzed. I went to the doctor, and the orthopedic surgeon listened intently to what I had to say. He agreed with me! He even helped me make my first appointment with a neurologist and ordered my first MRI. There, clearly marked, were the tiny lesions in my back and brain. I was so relieved, crying tears of gratitude for at least knowing what was behind my mobility impediments. I was finally seen and heard.

What organizations do you find it most important to support? Why?

Community-based organizations and community health workers that work for the improvement of health inequities in underserved communities in urban and rural areas. I believe in their engagement in the education of future health professionals and in medical students in particular. At this moment, I feel we need to support youth who need assistance in connecting with health profession opportunities—those that apply innovation and artistic expression to peer help models, especially among minority populations.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
IVETTE A. LÓPEZ PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Ross I. Romero

Founder & CEO | Inclusion Strategies

LinkedIn

What organizations do you find it most important to support? Why?

I support organizations that make DE&I a priority. Some of the organizations I have supported in Utah include the Utah Minority Bar Association, Latinos In Action, and the Suazo Business Center. Nationally, I have supported the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and currently serve on the National Leadership Council of the Institute for Diversity & Health Equity. I have also been pleased to serve on the Boards of the University of Utah Alumni Association, Ski Utah, and the Hale Center Theatre, where I have been part of the team advancing DE&I efforts. I have worked with these organizations because they care about and work hard to be a place where all belong. 

How are you involved in changing the DE&I landscape in Utah’s business community?

Through Inclusion Strategies, I work with businesses and nonprofits to help with workforce, workplace, and client/customer market expansion. There is tremendous talent in Utah’s diverse communities. As a former state senator, lawyer, and banker, I have seen businesses from many sides and understand the need for great employees. I enjoy being a matchmaker between businesses and Utah’s diverse communities. I also work to ensure the workplace is inclusive. While attention on new hires is important, focusing on retention is equally important. Both are required, but once done successfully, business growth accelerates through new markets and product innovation.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
ROSS ROMERO PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Nonprofit

Desi Arends

Regional Director | Playworks Utah

LinkedIn

What would you like to see in terms of DE&I efforts in Utah?

In my eight years of living in Utah, I have seen a conscious effort put into diversity and inclusion efforts around the state. There is still so much work to do. I believe the first step to really seeing change is affording ourselves the space to have a personal equity journey. It’s important to challenge our biases, unconscious and conscious, to work toward being an equity-centered community.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I truly enjoy developing my staff to be changemakers and advocates in our community. Our program highlights how a caring, consistent adult in children’s lives makes a significant difference in their experience at school. By equipping our staff with restorative conflict resolution strategies, we can ensure students’ identities are affirmed, and we challenge the systems that uphold punitive measures in school systems.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
DESI ARENDS PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Yvonne Nsabimana-Baraketse

President, Founder, & Artistic Director | Ngoma y’Africa Cultural Center

LinkedIn

Who inspires you most? Why?

My greatest inspiration is my mother. She became a widow after the assassination of my father and her parents in the war in Rwanda in 1994. She wasn’t scared to start all over with my siblings and me as refugees. I admire her courage, determination, and resilience. Amidst life’s challenges, she pushed me to work hard, gain an education, and never give up on my dreams!

How are you involved in changing the DE&I landscape in Utah’s business community?

When I founded Ngoma y’Africa Cultural Center, my vision was to establish a safe and inclusive learning space to nurture members of both the African diaspora and the surrounding communities in Utah. We are inclusive and invite anyone to experience or engage with us. Our mission is to preserve and increase understanding of African culture through arts such as storytelling, languages, music, dance, and other educational experiences. We are involved in changing the landscape of Utah’s business community in regard to diversity and inclusion by teaching the community about African culture and engaging individuals of all ages in various classes and workshops on African history, languages, dance, and drumming; by showcasing the beauty of African arts and crafts; by organizing stage performances, festivals, and events in conference centers; and by presenting at school assemblies, churches, corporations, marriages, and holiday celebrations such as Black History Month, Kwanzaa, and more. 

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
YVONNE NSABIMANA-BARAKETSE PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Stephanie L. Benally

Native American Specialist | Utah Foster Care

LinkedIn

What organizations do you (or your company/org) find it most important to support? Why?

Three organizations that I strongly support are the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), the Adopt-A-Native Elder program, and Utah Foster Care. The NICWA is a nonprofit organization based in Portland, Oregon, that works with tribal communities to protect Native American children and ensure their connectivity to their culture, family, and community. The Adopt-A-Native Elder program provides food, medical supplies, and resources to the Navajo elders that reside on the Navajo reservation. As a child, I witnessed my parents volunteer with the program since its inception, and they continue to volunteer with the program. Utah Foster Care is a nonprofit organization that recruits, trains, and supports foster parents in Utah. 

What do you look forward to achieving?

I would like to increase the number of Native American foster families to care for our Native children that are in foster care. The message we share is “Native Home for Native Children.” It is important the message is shared that our Native children do better if they remain in the Native community. This message is shared not only in Utah but across the United States and in tribal communities. In a larger scope, the hope is to bring awareness to the shortage of Native foster families. In addition, I look forward to when Utah passes a state Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) law, which would continue to protect our Native children.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
STEPHANIE BENALLY PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Amira Kherrallah

Founder & Executive Director | PreventHer

LinkedIn

What makes you stand out amongst other organizations in Utah in regard to DE&I?

We raise awareness about breast cancer among refugees, immigrants, and people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, professions, faiths, etc.

What do you want others to know about the importance of DE&I in business?

Every person is unique. The more we have different people in our organizations, the more we have different skills and knowledge. This makes the organization more productive.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
AMIRA KHERRALLAH PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAH BUSINESS.

Cameron Williams Award

Betty Sawyer

Executive Director | Project Success Coalition

LinkedIn

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today?

As an advocate and Black woman, being committed to civil rights and justice in Utah has been a journey of overcoming challenges to one’s self-worth and value as a person. I often share with others, “God had to deliver me from people to work with people.” You have to have a healthy sense of who you are and self-determination. I had to learn to follow my best judgment and not worry about what others thought or let others’ opinions of me or the work I was engaged in determine my actions or the positions I had to take. I love people and interacting with others, but it’s about knowing that everyone has an opinion or position. If I focused on those external forces, I wouldn’t be effective.

What would you like to see in terms of DE&I efforts in Utah?

Many in the public sector and private businesses have made thoughtful and progressive statements and declarations about the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Many have hired “a person” and/or developed “a DE&I office or area.” My hope is to see these efforts not be performative (looking and sounding good with a lot of symbolism) and conversational but rather move to intentional, measurable, and institutional/cultural shifts within their organizations. This level of work requires real financial investments, accountability, and transparency. With these investments, they/we can come together annually to celebrate real, measurable, and sustainable change.

Our third annual Living Color Gala honors those who are working toward a more inclusive future. Meet the winners of the 2022 Living Color awards.
BETTY SAWYER PHOTOGRAPHED BY MANICPROJECT FOR UTAHBUSINESS.

To learn more about the event, find additional photos here and videos from the event embedded below. 

Mekenna is the assistant editor of Utah Business magazine and a graduate of the print journalism program at Utah State University. She has written about business, music, and culture for publications like Business Insider, Time Out, SLUG Magazine, Visit Salt Lake, and the Standard-Examiner. She loves hiking, thrifting, reading, and taking camping trips with her partner in their 1986 Land Cruiser.

Comments (2)

  • Angela West

    Incredible group!
    I’m inspired!

  • Paulette Grunwald

    Congratulations to all the winners ! I know some of them. I wish the Gala cost less so I can celebrate these people in person. I hope the auction and gala are a hit !

    Thank you Utah Business for sharing their pics and short bios.

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