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The City Journals

Amani, Promise or Bridges Center possible names to replace Columbus Center

Jun 10, 2021 02:08PM ● By Bill Hardesty

SSL Youth Council has proposed a new name for the Columbus Center. (Bill Hardesty/City Journal)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

In October 2020, Mayor Cherie Wood announced a name change for the 103-year-old Columbus Center (2530 S. 500 East). In the April 28 City Council meeting, the SSL Youth Council presented their findings and recommendation.

Background

Last October, Jevahjire France wrote a letter to the City Council asking them to consider a name change.

France moved to America from Haiti in 2016 when he was 13 years old. France graduated from Cottonwood High School and is a former member of the award-winning Cottonwood High School Robotics team. France became involved in Promise South Salt Lake in the Fall of 2016. He is currently a member of the Youth City Council.

In his letter, he wrote, “As a young immigrant just like many in South Salt Lake, I have always wondered if the members of the Council of this City ever question how a young immigrant or refugee feels knowing that he is frequenting a library named after an oppressor not too different from the one(s) they or their parents were fleeing from back home?”

“Jevahjire’s message resonates with me as we recognize Indigenous People’s Day. I agree with many in our community and believe it is time to rethink the name of this building and how it serves our entire community,” Mayor Wood said.

Youth Council presentation

The SSL Youth Council has four members, Nava, Tu’imana, Sevara, and Jevahjire France. Their advisors are Edward Lopez ([email protected]) and Kayla Mayers ([email protected]) from Promise SSL.

“We’ve worked on this for over six months but due to time constraints, this presentation you’ll hear tonight is an extremely condensed version of the research,” Nava said.

The presentation began with indigenous land acknowledgment.

“We collectively acknowledge that the City of South Salt Lake is located on the traditional, ancestral, and contemporary homelands of the Shoshone, Goshute, Ute Tribes, and other Native peoples from time immemorial, and is a crossroad for Indigenous peoples,” Tu’imana said. “We recognize and continually support and advocate for the sovereignty of the Native nations in this territory and beyond. By offering this land acknowledgment, we affirm tribal sovereignty and will work to hold The City of South Salt Lake accountable to American Indian peoples and nations.”

Sevara reviewed comments voiced by community members against changing the name. Among the comments is the Columbus Center name has been around for many years. Another is we shouldn’t judge historical figures by today’s standards because we are where we are today because of the sacrifices that people made before us. The final two are we shouldn’t be forced to bend to popular movements, and we can still grow while maintaining our history and traditional precepts.

“The last thing we want is to cause more division or tension in the community,” Sevara said, “After working through this process and doing some research, we continue to believe that a new name will be beneficial and can unify us even more.”

The Youth Council supports a name change for two reasons. The first is there are two Columbus Centers in SSL. One Columbus Center is at 3495 South West Temple. This Columbus Center has “the sole intention of creating a world more inclusive for their children with developmental disabilities.” The second Columbus Center has city recreation facilities, two Promise SSL programs, and the Senior Center.

The other reason is a belief that a new name will increase inclusion and connection.

France was the last speaker. He told the City Council the estimated cost of changing the name is $10,000. He said that figure-based names are difficult because public opinion changes over time and could create tension within the community. On the other hand, a value-based name has stability and endurance. Also, such a name will create a collective vision.

They presented three possible names

  • Amani Center, which is the Swahili word for “Peace.” 
  • Bridges Center, inspired by the idea that bridges are used to overcome obstacles and symbolize unity 
  • Promise Center, inspired by the three Promises representing the City’s highest hopes for SSL residents. 

The SSL Youth Council asked the City Council to consider the proposed names and find funds to pay for the change. 

“Again, we don’t want to cause more division within the community,” France said, “We truly believe after our research and work into this process that the new name will be beneficial and can unify us even more.”

If you would like to provide input to this effort, you can contact the advisors or your City Council Member.

Co+OP

With the closure of the Salt Lake County Library Columbus Center branch, SSL has the opportunity to add additional services at the Columbus Center.

The Co+Op stands for Community + Opportunity. The center will have a strong foundation on digital access, employment help, and financial help. According to a fact sheet, it is “A place for our community to work and gather with access to the tools that can help them connect, advance, and support one another.”

“We want it to have a small business and entrepreneur feel,” Sharen Hauri, director of urban design, said. “It is not a place you come to play games.”

The preliminary design has banks of computers in a Tech Lounge. The Community Room is on the opposite side that can be used for eating and collaboration. There are multiple rooms and two classrooms, with one dedicated to the Arts Council. Many of the areas will be available for rent.

Currently, the project is still in the design and finance stage. The plan is to open the center next winter.