The weather was fair Monday as people gathered to march, kicking off the University of Wyoming’s Martin Luther King Jr. Days of Dialogue.
And though many smiled and laughed during the event, the week’s theme makes it clear some at UW feel King’s message is needed now more than ever, said Macki Snyder, Associated Students of the University of Wyoming program advisor and Days of Dialogue committee member.
“The theme — The Fierce Urgency of Now — we chose knowing, regardless of how the election turned out, it would be relevant,” Snyder said. “It’s more relevant than we’d hoped, so it is most pressing that our students hopefully know that there is support for them on campus and that there are people on campus that denounce hatred and bigotry that’s happening on the national level, where now our national leader is telling them they’re not welcome. We don’t believe that.”
The Days of Dialogue includes events that continue through Saturday, concluding with the Diversity Ball. Snyder said the Days of Dialogue committee is comprised of representatives from across campus, including students, faculty and staff “invested in advancing equity, access and inclusion” at UW.
“I think that it’s easy for an institution to say that they care and they’re trying — and I do think that there are pockets at the university doing good work, especially in some academic programs — but I feel like it’s important for this community to exist and continue, because it has a strong history,” she said.
“This is the 16th year for the committee, so it has some clout. To be honest, in a state where I feel every inch of progress has to be fought for tooth and nail, to have the history and the clout behind us is really important.”
Snyder said around 75-100 attendees usually march, including students, faculty, staff and administrators. Seeing support for advancing matters of social justice is always an encouraging sight, Snyder said. Events throughout the week would provide several opportunities for people at UW and in the Laramie community to learn about diversity.
“I think that complacency is actually siding with the side of the oppressor, so we have a responsibility to care and to educate ourselves and be action-oriented, aspiring change agents,” Snyder said. “So, by coming to these events and meeting someone that might be different from you and gaining resources to be a more engaged and responsible citizens I think are the main reasons people should come.”
Of all the week’s events, Snyder said she is most excited about keynote speaker Franchesca Ramsey’s appearance at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Wyoming Union Ballroom. Ramsey, a comedian and activist, has a popular YouTube channel and hosts the MTV web series “Decoded.”
“I think she has a great appeal to our student population,” Snyder said. “She has a huge following, and a lot of student groups use her videos as educational material for their members.”
Among the marchers was Denise Murow, a second year master’s student at UW. She’s on the Shepard Symposium for Social Justice and said she likes to support Days of Dialogue events, but Murow also said the theme of urgency resonated with her.
“We like to support MLK Days of Dialogue, and I also think this is really necessary in the current political climate,” Murow said. “My particular interest is with policies going on toward refugees and immigrants.”
Another marcher, UW undergrad Guadalupe Barrera, said she supports an array of social justice causes, but is also particularly concerned about the rights of those in the U.S. who were born outside its borders.
“I was blessed to be born in the U.S., but I have family and friends who weren’t,” she said. “I think it’s very unjustified for them not to be able to continue their education and further their life.”
Go to www.uwyo.edu/studentaff/mlkdod/schedule-of-events for a full list of Martin Luther King Jr. Days of Dialogue events.