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Flagstaff Mayor Encourages Young Women To 'Just Be You'

Steve Shadley, KNAU

A new art installation in Flagstaff showcases some of the region’s most influential women. “Resilience: Women in Flagstaff’s Past and Present” features the lives of 20 notable women through a series of photos, artwork and personal items. During its run through next summer at the Pioneer Museum, KNAU is profiling some of the women in the exhibit, including Flagstaff mayor Coral Evans. Her grandparents moved to Arizona from Louisiana in the 1920’s where her grandfather worked in Flagstaff’s sawmill, helping build the town. KNAU’s Steve Shadley spoke with Mayor Evans about her family’s lumberjack legacy.

Shadley: “Thanks for joining us…”

Evans: “Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.”

Shadley: “I just want to find out a little about your ties to Flagstaff. I know your family has been here for generations. Tell us more about what this beautiful mountain community means to you…”

Evans: “It means a lot to me. I absolutely love my community. My grandparents got here in the early 20’s. I live in a house that my grandfather built in 1942. My family is originally from Louisiana. They touched down in McNary, Arizona first. My grandfather found out he could make three cents more an hour at the sawmills here. So, he moved his entire family to Flagstaff. My grandpa was a lumberjack.”

Shadley: “Was it tough growing up in Flagstaff as an African-American? Certainly, you are a minority here. There are a lot of minorities here from different cultures and backgrounds…but, what did that mean to you?”

Evans: “So, I would say growing up here in Flagstaff, I did not. I think I came here in a timeframe and I think quite frankly I just live in a bubble of a small town…that being an African-American in Flagstaff…I did not feel discriminated against. If you embrace it rather than look at it like its going to be a struggle or negativity…then I think that that makes a difference. And, there’s a quote. I forget who says it…but, she’s a lady…and she’s a lady of color. And, she says ‘I can’t imagine why anybody would not want to have a conversation with me or be friends with me. Like, how sad that is for them.”

Shadley: “Now, one of the things I find interesting about you in addition to the logging and that you are the Flagstaff mayor…is that you actually played hockey as a youth. Just tell us about that. How did that help shape who you are today?”

Evans: “Oh, it was a great experience. I grew up playing ice hockey on a boys team here in Flagstaff, Arizona. I played from the time I was four or five until I was 19. Definitely playing sports and playing hockey has a lot to do with how I view life. There are several times I find myself going back to the rink just to sit there and watch the sheet of ice. When I’m struggling with a problem or there’s a concern and I just need to think things out…I had awesome coaches…that really helped…you know a foundation my being on a team, being the only female on a team, understanding the concept of winning, learning how to lose in a graceful manner.”

Shadley: “What advice would you be able to provide listeners who are listening to our conversation right now—a female, a woman or a young girl—a teenager maybe who’s struggling with life’s challenges, what kind of advice could you provide them to help them provide their way?”

Evans: “Just be you. Just do you. I think we all know who we want to be…who it is we want to become. What it is we want to do. And, I just think if you are true to yourself…wear the color you want to wear…do what is it you want to do…be mindful and respectful of other people, but don’t let that mindfulness and respectfulness take away who you are as a person. I think that’s extremely important.”

Shadley: “Thanks for joining us.”

Evans: “Thank you for having me.”

That was KNAU’s Steve Shadley speaking with Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans. She’s among 20 women honored at the Pioneer Museum’s exhibit called “Resilience: Women in Flagstaff’s Past and Present.”