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WSU alum Stacy Bernal encourages women to speak up and be heard

Stacy Bernal distinctly remembers the first time she realized that differences in race could cause tension between people. She remembers her mother taking their family to the local Latter-day Saint congregation on Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.

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Stacy Bernal reading an exerpt from her book. (BriElle Harker / The Signpost)

The congregation members warmly welcomed the new family, and Bernal remembers her siblings and mother being excited to return the next week.

The next Sunday came, and this time, Bernal’s father was able to attend. The reception in the congregation turned cold.

Bernal’s father was Filipino. Her mother was white. She remembers the discussion she overheard between her mother and father about how the congregation’s members were perhaps unready to accept a mixed race marriage into their fold.

Bernal provided insights into her life as a woman of color as she addressed Weber State students in the Stewart Library’s Hetzel-Hoellein room during the first lecture of this year’s “Beyond Suffrage” series on Jan. 16.

University Archives organized the “Beyond Suffrage” event to commemorate the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and to focus on local women who have made an impact on the Ogden community.

As a self-proclaimed “ambassador of badassery,” Bernal, a Weber State graduate and member of the school’s Alumni Association board of directors, has championed women’s rights and social justice causes. Most of the audience who had come to see Bernal’s presentation were enrolled in the aptly-named “Uppity Women: The Century Since Suffrage” course.

Bernal began her motivational speaking in 2016. An audience member from one of those early presentations, moved by Bernal’s speaking, urged her to put her thoughts and experiences on paper.

“I was like, ‘That’s the dumbest idea I have ever heard of,'” Bernal said. “And he was like, ‘You never know whose life you are going to touch by sharing your stories.'”

So she started writing.

Bernal eventually self-published her book, “The Things We Don’t Talk About: A Memoir of Hardships, Healing, and Hope.” In the book, she addresses the various challenges and triumphs of her life experience as a woman of color.

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Stacy Bernal's memoir, which she was lecturing about. (BriElle Harker / The Signpost)

Some of those experiences involved Bernal having to endure nicknames from peers such as “man-face,” “the chubby one,” “knocked-up hoe” and even “trash.” She also experienced overt and subtle racism and sexism.

Bernal included a chapter on dehumanization in her book. According to Bernal, the words do not hurt as much as the dehumanization does.

She recounted a childhood experience of calling an African American classmate the n-word during a dispute, and how ashamed and disgusted she felt after the word escaped her lips. She knew she had deeply hurt that classmate.

“Being treated poorly is nothing compared to being treated like nothing,” Bernal said. “We are all human with a common pulse to survive. We are all one.”

Bernal made it her goal to seek the good in herself and other people, and to inspire others to do the same. She urged the audience to be themselves and to speak up against all types of injustice.

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Sophie Valeika before Stacy Bernal's "Beyond Suffrage" series lecture started. (BriElle Harker / The Signpost)

“The truth will set you free,” Bernal said. “It is better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you are not.”

Upon the conclusion of her speech, Bernal asked the audience members to share their thoughts. Many declared that they had experienced similar challenges in their own lives and offered ideas on how to overcome personal trials.

Others, like Weber State student Gabrielle Molosz, simply expressed their gratitude for Bernal’s willingness to discuss difficult topics.

“I liked the honesty,” Molosz said, recalling Bernal’s experience with her African American classmate. “I think it is super important to address that we have white people being racist, but also, brown people are being racist on other brown people all the time, and we do not talk about it.”

Weber State student Katy Farnsworth added that it is difficult for people to change attitudes and habits overnight, but the struggle is worth the effort.

“The key is the desire to change,” Farnsworth said. “It shows that you are ready and willing to make those changes.”

Bernal ended the event by inviting the audience to avoid being a “nobody.”

“I am a recovering ‘nobody,'” Bernal said. “Now, I am an agitator. I speak up.”

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