Summer Smith was ‘guided by a great feeling of love’

Summer Smith, a communist organizer, mother and educator died after a long battle with cancer on Aug. 10, 2023, in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the age of 41. She is survived by her daughter, Violet. 

Summer Smith at Wells Fargo protest for workers rights, Salt Lake City, Jan. 1, 2020. (Photo: Facebook/Victoria Sethunya)

Anyone who had the privilege of knowing and working with Summer can remember her smile, her infectious laugh, and her steadfast commitment to justice and against oppression. 

Summer was a student organizer at the University of Utah. As a member of the Revolutionary Student Union (RSU), she and the rest of the RSU hosted many events and invited revolutionary organizations to campus. This is how Summer came into contact with Workers World Party and quickly became a member. She, along with two others, formed the first branch of Workers World Party in Utah. 

Utah is a conservative “right to work” anti-union state, and Summer constantly raised that Utah had the lowest rate of educational funding per child in the country. She was one of the most determined comrades, and infected others with her steadfastness. In addition to teaching political education classes and engaging in mass organizing, Summer was also the comrade who prepared meetings, reserved the room, made calls and thought to bring food.

Summer will be remembered for her positive energy and commitment to organizing. She would always say, “We’re moving forward!” and was always sensitive to how people were feeling to make sure everyone felt welcome and important. 

A fearless fighter

Every year, Summer was a part of organizing May Day demonstrations. She confronted Proud Boys, white supremacists, misogynists and cops. Once, at an anti-ICE demonstration, Proud Boys showed up to disrupt and intimidate the gathering. Summer was the first to challenge them, and soon a group of activists placed themselves between the Proud Boys and the demonstration. 

When the Farmer’s Market tried to evict the Union for Street Solidarity from a city park where distributions and political discussions with the unhoused community were held, Summer did not back down from the police, asserting the right of all to be in public spaces. She was in the right, and the police and the Chamber of Commerce had to withdraw! 

There have been numerous times when Summer showed her solidarity. Most notably was a campaign to oppose the MTC, a private, for-profit migrant detention facility seeking to expand into Utah. Summer and fellow activists locked down inside the MTC headquarters for hours. Summer risked her teaching job, as she and the protesters were arrested. Thanks to constant phone calls from WWP comrades, all of the activists were released. Ultimately, MTC did not expand.

Summer was active in her teacher’s union, representing teachers on working conditions. The union helped her when the school district wanted to penalize her for her participation in the MTC protest. Based on union support and people’s pressure, the school administration acquiesced and she kept her job. In 2016, she led the petition campaign to get the Workers World Party presidential ticket on the ballot. 

Monica Moorehead, WWP’s presidential candidate, told WW: “One of the highlights of being on the campaign trail in 2016 was working with Summer and the other comrades in Utah. What I admired about Summer so much was her firm belief that the working class would inevitably overturn this rotten capitalist system and build a socialist system to meet all human needs. 

“Her optimism was contagious no matter who she came in contact with. I was so grateful that during her last visit to New York in late 2022, despite her illness, we were able to have a lovely lunch together. She could make you smile through your tears. She was a remarkable human taken from her family, her comrades and the struggle way too soon. Summer Smith was the epitome of Che Guevara’s immortal words that ‘revolutionaries are guided by a great feeling of love’ for her class.” 

In 2018, she was elected to the Workers World Party Executive Committee and served for two years until she received her cancer diagnosis. 

Summer was a devoted parent, a respected militant comrade and a wonderful teacher. Her memory and contributions will always be cherished and will serve to inspire those who knew and worked with her.

Summer Smith ¡presente!

Left to right: Joanna Straughn, Alyssa Ferris and Summer Smith, Feb. 23, 2019

Joanna Straughn, Everett and Sara Flounders

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Joanna Straughn, Everett and Sara Flounders

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