Elevated Voices: Listening To Calls For Racial Justice In The Mountain West

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With protesters taking to the streets nationwide to demand justice for George Floyd and confront police brutality and systemic racism, Mountain West News Bureau reporters are gathering perspectives of people of color from around the Mountain West region.

Jorge Gonzalez and Sarinah Simons in the Tahoe Basin

“It’s not about a brown vs. white thing. It’s about an understanding thing. And I think most of these problems is a lack of understanding.” —Jorge Gonzalez

“If you’re a white person that is in this community, it’s just assumed you’re part of the community, whether or not you live here. If you’re an Asian family that comes up here or if you’re a Black family that comes up here or a Hispanic family that comes up here, it’s automatically assumed that you don’t belong here.” —Sarinah Simons  

Carolyn Love, Rosemarie Allen, Janiece Mackey, and Michaela Lee in Colorado

“When we moved into our home, my son was four years old and all of my neighbors thought he was cute and well mannered. And they loved him until he grew taller. By 12 years old, he was already six feet. And I remember the day my heart broke when he said, ‘Mom, when I go for walks in my neighborhood, my neighbors don’t speak to me anymore. They act like they’re afraid of me.’ And he noticed that before they started calling the police on him.” —Rosemarie Allen

“When I was young, if a black man was killed by the police, I would be sad. And then that was it. There’s nothing I can do. And now I go straight to social media and I start talking about it. And then I start sharing and I start listening to what other people are saying, because now we have that option. There’s a chance for people to get information and take action. And I feel like this generation is eating it up.” —Michaela Lee

Ashley McDowell, Timberly Vogel, and Javaun Garcia in Laramie, Wyoming

“Something’s different. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it’s the moons in line. I think it’s, I mean, for me, I’m just glad that people finally see the light because it’s, like, this is what we’ve been seeing and screaming for centuries. And, you know, I’m pissed off it took centuries, but I’m so thankful that we’re seeing it now.” —Timberly Vogel

“History is being made on today and y’all have no idea how much. Even though I’m hurt as I am right now, my heart is smiling. My heart is smiling. My heart is smiling. My heart is smiling for every one of you today.” —Ashley McDowell

Kenneth Tuffy Helgeson, Allen Matt Coomsta, and Robert Upham in Missoula, Montana

“Some people think I’m co-opting a Black movement. They don’t know how much we’re related. We’re related because we are equally oppressed. They keep saying on the news the original sin is slavery. I’m sorry but I’m an Indian man and I’m still alive and I’m evidence of who once had title to this land and the original sin is the theft of our land.” —Robert Upham

“What we are listening to is the heart of our people screaming out in any way they can for peace. That’s the right thing. That’s all we can do maybe. Us old guys, we pray.” —Allen Matt Coomsta

Anthony Bruner and Shala Browning in Boise, Idaho


“You know, I’ve been upset, you know. I mean, obviously we all watched George Floyd die right in front of our faces. You know, I mean that’s – it don’t matter if he was white or Hispanic or whatever, like, don’t nobody deserve to die like that.” —Anthony Bruner

“I’m raising an amazing, astounding black man in this city. And it just is, I’m scared for his life. Every day. Every day I wake up, I have this anxiety just because I’m black, and nothing more.” —Shala Browning

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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