Ask An Expert: Alice Faulkner Burch
by Liz Dobbins (’20)
Alice Faulkner Burch will be a panel speaker during Westminster’s Black History Month activities this February. Alice was born and raised in Oxnard, California. In April of 1997, she moved to Utah with her best friend to care for a house while the owners were serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). For the past 30 years, while living in Utah, Alice has been very active in the LDS and black community; raising awareness for black members of the church and helping to keep black history alive in Utah.
In anticipation of her visit to Westminster, we spoke to Alice about Black Heritage Month and her experiences as a black woman in Utah.
What do you do to raise awareness of black history in Utah?
“I am the secretary for the Utah Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, where I help search for black history in the State of Utah. I created the first Facebook page that the Chapter has (Utah AAHGS), where I publish national and state black history, as well as what I consider black history that’s happening now. I’m helping our society piece and bring together the history in Utah bit by bit. People need to know that there are black people in Utah doing wonderful things—beautiful, great things to make Utah and our country better.”
Can you speak to the importance of Black Heritage Month in Utah?
“One of the problems that we have in Utah is that there is a lack of understanding that Utah has a very beautiful African-American history. A lot of people know about Mormons, but the rest of the story is overlooked; the rest of the story that has to do with African-Americans. What bothers me is that not only do white people in Utah not know that story, but the black people in Utah don’t know the story of the rich history that is here.
Organizations around Utah are really trying to delve in and find these stories and share them. It’s important that they be shared [for] the black children who are growing up in Utah—most of [whom] are [adopted] in all-white families. Those families know nothing of African-American history on a world scale other than maybe Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, [and] they know nothing of Utah black history. These children are growing up and not understanding that they live in a state that not only has a strong European history, but a strong black history that they can be proud of, and people [who] they can identify with. [Utah] needs to represent not just one specific type of person, but everyone in it. We need to come together as a community and raise awareness of black heritage.”
What is something you do to spread awareness about the black community in Utah?
“One of the things that I do whenever I see somebody who needs help—specifically white people—is rush to them and help. For example, if we’re uptown in Salt Lake and I see a group of white people looking around, and you can tell that they’re tourists, I will go over to them and I will initiate a conversation. I will say ‘Can I help you? You look like you’re not sure where you need to go.’ I give them directions, a little thing, but this is what I want them to take away: when they leave Utah, I want them to go back home and I want them to say, ‘a black woman in Utah helped me.’ It’s spreading that awareness and breaking stereotypes. Breaking the stereotype of Utah that Mormons live everywhere, and make them talk about the black people living here. That’s what I mean by I want those visitors to go back and say, ‘I met this black woman in Utah.’ I want Utah to be known for its great and beautiful and wonderful achievements of black people all over the state.”
To learn more about Black Heritage Month, join Alice and her husband Robert at their panel discussion “Racism, Religion, and Being Black in Utah,” on Tuesday, February 13, from noon–1:00 p.m., on the lower level of the Kim T. Adamson Alumni House.
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster College’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.