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Davis Journal

Telling her story of racism and prejudice at Davis High

Dec 23, 2021 09:02AM ● By Tom Haraldsen

Fatimah Salleh was elected Homecoming Queen in 1992 for Davis High School.

It should have been the highlight of her senior year, among the most memorable moments of her life. But for Fatimah Salleh, Davis High class of 1993, Homecoming Queen in the fall of 1992, many of those memories are unpleasant and still painful.

Today, the Rev. Dr. Fatimah Salleh lives in Durham, North Carolina with her husband Eric and their four children. She stays in touch with friends in Utah and with news in the state, and the loss of 10-year-old Izzy Tichenor by suicide, who family members said was bullied because of her race and autism while attending Foxboro Elementary in North Salt Lake, brought back Salleh’s own memories of racism. She shared her experiences on a Facebook post shortly after news of Izzy’s death was made public, resharing thoughts she’d first posted in 2016. It went viral overnight.

In our telephone interview from Durham, Salleh said she and her family moved to Kaysville during her junior year, after the family was converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

“We loved our ward, we loved our neighborhood,” she said. “My sister and I were two of only three black kids at Davis, and having come from Texas where we were around a lot of people of color, it was a cultural shock for us. I recall some people kind of staring at us a lot.”

In her Facebook post, she talked about the reaction when her peers chose her as Homecoming Queen, and gave her a standing ovation at the school’s pep rally.

“Days after you elected me your homecoming queen, our principal called me into his office,” she wrote. “It seems that there were numerous complaints that a black girl was the school’s homecoming queen. The question he raised was whether I still wanted to go through the town in a convertible at the homecoming parade or did I want to step down due to the calls. He wanted to know if I felt safe considering the upset of some within the community.”

She did, in fact, ride in the parade along with her attendants Stacey Walker Mansell and Celia Bell (their married names). Her mother ran beside the car the entire parade to ensure her safety, “something mothers do,” Salleh said. Despite having lived in Kaysville for two years at that point, and actively attending her Latter-day Saint ward (she later served a church mission in Brazil), Salleh found she wasn’t allowed to come inside some of her friends’ homes because of her race. 

“I just knew that I loved my peers. I loved Seminary and I loved to dance. My fellow students received me, but I was just never them. I didn’t feel like I fit, and felt scrutinized.”

She wrote that her Young Women’s president “let my Mom know she didn’t approve of interracial dating and marriage. She kindly asked my Mom to have us understand her sentiments in regards to her children. My Mom then asked us to honor her wishes and we did.”

At the Homecoming football game at Davis High, she was escorted onto the field by her brothers Dyson and Kage. One young man did ask her to the Homecoming Dance, for which she was grateful. She thought, or hoped, that those feelings of racism and prejudice might disappear after the Homecoming experience, but they did not. What happened later that school year only embellished her pain, and sent her life in a different direction.