‘Sistas in Zion’ discuss post-election race relations at MLK ceremony

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In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the “Sistas in Zion” came to Dixie State University Tuesday and spoke about the importance of moving past the election results and how to better love your neighbor.  

Tamu Smith and Zandra Vranes spoke at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Symposium in the Gardner Student Center lounge. A crowd of students and staff quickly filled all the seats in the room as Smith and Vranes talked about their experience growing up with overt and covert racism in America.

Self-dubbed Sista Beehive and Sista Laurel, Smith and Vranes co-host “Sistas in Zion” radio and blog about being members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as African-Americans.

Although they didn’t talk much about King Jr., Smith and Vranes talked about what race relations may look like under a Donald Trump presidency and how to continue to stand up for civil rights.

“When I woke up on Nov. 9, I just laid in my bed and asked, ‘what happened?’” Smith said. “When you lose hope, you don’t have a lot more to hold onto. That’s why it’s so important to hold onto hope.” 

Vranes echoed Smith’s sentiment about finding hope after the election and said by listening to people with different opinions, the country can start to heal its divide and come together, even under Trump.

“I’m going to do everything I can to make America great, but not ‘great again,’ because for some of us, this country hasn’t always been great,” Smith said. 

Vranes grew up in Atlanta, where she said she experienced blatant racism, including being called the N-word. When she moved to Utah, she said she started experiencing more covert racism. 

“For some reason, in Utah, if you’re racist, you deny it, and to prove that you’re not, you invite [African-Americans] to you’re house,” Vranes said. “Then when I went to the bathroom and turned my back, I’d hear a racial slur. They wouldn’t admit it, but they were racist too.”

Kristian Johnson, a senior biology major from Hawthorne, Nevada, said he appreciated the moment during the event when Vranes asked the audience to look around the room and recognize the differences in each other.

“Anytime you’re recognizing the diversity in the community, you realize that there’s more than one way of seeing things,” Johnson said. “I think this event accomplished this… When I turned and looked at my neighbors, I realized they may not have as voted the same as me, but we all want America to be better and we can find commonality in that.”

Vranes and Smith left DSU with a challenge to the audience to take a lesson from King Jr. and try to listen more to others who may seem different.

“It’s hard to be in the position to listen,” Vranes said. “But when we get to know each other, we are willing to listen, and we are extending understanding to them just by that act.”