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South Salt Lake Journal

South Salt Lake event highlights historic victory in diversity

Feb 09, 2024 03:34PM ● By Jesse M. Gonzalez

Nick Mitchell, Natalie Pinkney and Paul Sanchez share smiles at the “Celebration of Success” event on Jan. 17. (Jesse M. Gonzalez/City Journals)

On Jan. 17, People of Color Power Coalition, an organization with the aim to inspire minorities in Utah to be more politically involved, hosted a “celebration of success” at La Puente on South State Street to highlight a historic victory in South Salt Lake. 

Newly elected and reelected city council members Natalie Pinkney, Paul Sanchez and Nick Mitchell were all in attendance at the event.

“So essentially, South Salt Lake is the most diverse city in Utah, far and away, the most diverse city in Salt Lake County,” Paul Sanchez said, a newly elected member of the city council.

The event provided free food for the council members and a local DJ, a friend of Sanchez’s, DJ Luva Luva.

“So we’re looking at Natalie Pinkney—she’s black, we have Nick Mitchell—black man, also identifies as LGBTQ. I’m a Latino, a gay, openly gay. That’s pretty much as diverse as you can get,” Sanchez said.

The council members, organizers, community members, family and friends enjoyed the food and ambiance of South Salt Lake’s popular Mexican restaurant. Sanchez, Pinkney, and Mitchell enjoyed conversing with  the vibrant music of DJ Luva Luva in the background.

With passions for politics, the trio kept the conversations focused on progress and moving forward. 

“We were just talking about what it really meant to be inclusive of Utah and it’s really been interesting,” Pinkney said. “Diversity and inclusion, and Utah looking a little different than what it looked like eight years ago.”

It was eight years ago that Pinkney moved to Utah from Las Vegas, Nevada to enroll in the University of Utah, where she received her master’s degree in educational leadership and policy with an emphasis in social justice.

“In grad school I got really involved in activism and causes. I believe education is a right, so I wanted to be really aligned with communities. I wanted to uplift and empower all communities,” Pinkney said. “I feel like when we help those who struggle the most, we help everyone else and that just kind of became my mission and I’ve been on it ever since.”

Newly elected Councilman Nick Mitchell has high hopes for the future of South Salt Lake as well as solutions for problems related to any inhibition of growth.

“Just continue to grow in diversity, and to foster more of a sense of community—that’s what I think we’re really lacking in South Salt Lake is just community across our city council, across our neighbors,” Mitchell said. “I don’t even know my neighbors, again, that’s on me, but I feel like that’s the way with a lot of people is that they don’t know each other. We can solve a lot more problems if we just get to know each other better.”

Sanchez, who officially took office on Jan. 10, was keen to vocalize his frustrations with the political atmosphere of South Salt Lake, such as the recent appointment of new South Salt Lake Police Chief Danielle Croyle. The appointment caused a stir of controversy due to the lack of time and information that the council members before the voting in of a new police chief.

“I’ve had three city council meetings. There’s more corruption in the city than I ever imagined. Ever. From the police department to the city department. It’s just everywhere. It’s unbelievable,” Sanchez said. “There’re email threads and everything. I got the county involved. I got the state involved. I’ve gotten the Attorney General of the United States involved. That’s how bad it is.

“That’s why you don’t see the mayor here. That’s why you don’t see the police department here. We’re celebrating the most diverse city council in the state of Utah, and you’re not going to show up to support us?” 

Pinkney was a bit more pacified regarding the contentious situation, though her ardor for the city’s betterment comes first in her scope of ambition.

“The mayor and the police chief have been a partner with me passing the Civilian Review Board. South Salt Lake was the only city in 2020 to say, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ not just with their voice but with their policy. So that’s what I look at,” Pinkney said.

All of the council members want the best for South Salt Lake. The celebration for greater diversity gave everyone in attendance a feeling that further changes, positive changes, are about to come. 

“More representation. Even inside of South Salt Lake, while the council is diverse, we don’t have diversity within City Hall. How can we bring in more voices, more communities?” Pinkney said. “I heard a lot on the campaign trail of wanting to embrace more cultures to our arts programs. So how can we continue to do that? I think our co-op and our community center has started that. How do we invest more into those programs so that people can feel like this is a hub for culture? I think we can do so much more to bring that culture to Utah, which we really need.” λ