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'Tell the Story' conference brings Utah's Black history to life

Four women talking in front of a poster. Two are sitting at a table and two are standing behind them.
Anna Johnson
Attendees at the conference spoke to each other about their experiences with Utah's Black history.
'Tell the Story' conference brings Utah's Black history to life

“This is the only all black history conference that happens in the West,” said Alice Faulkner Burch.

She is the conference director for Sema Hadithi African American Heritage and Culture Foundation. They held their annual “Tell the Story” conference on Sept. 16 at the Community Opportunity Center in South Salt Lake. This was the eighth year of the conference.

Robert Burch, founder of Sema Hadithi, said the conference gives them the opportunity to connect with people and talk about difficult subjects.

“What we want to do is to create an environment where people will feel safe and comfortable talking about things and they can actually sit across from other people and have these conversations, have a good conversation, come back, come out with a greater understanding,” Burch said.

Presenters at the conference talked about the history of blackface in Utah and in Latter-day Saint history, as well as the prominence of minstrel shows in Utah history.

Attendees participated in round-table discussions after each presentation to ask questions and discuss their experiences.

“Black history in Utah has been buried deep, more than six feet deep in the ground. We’re trying to pluck the falsehoods and put the truth in place for the people here,” Alice Burch said.

Nate Bird, cofounder of the TikTok group The Black Menaces and a conference presenter, said if we don’t learn about our history, we’re bound to repeat it.

“It's a choice to not learn about the people that are around you and to not learn about the different experiences throughout the world,” he said.

Anna grew up begging her mom to play music instead of public radio over the car stereo on the way to school. Now, she loves radio and the power of storytelling through sound. While she is happy to report on anything from dance concerts to laughter practice, her main focus at UPR is political reporting. She is studying Journalism and Political Science at Utah State University and wants to work in political communication after she graduates. In her free time, she spends time with her rescue dog Quigley and enjoys rock climbing.