Martin Luther King Day march

Laramie community member Glenda Earl holds a sign while participating in the 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Days of Dialogue march on the University of Wyoming campus.

The Days of Dialogue, an annual series of events in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., will start Monday and end on Feb. 9.

This year’s theme is called “Time’s Up,” and will focus on the experiences and contributions of black women from the civil rights movement to the present. Natawsha Mitchell, the project coordinator senior in Multicultural Affairs, said women of color are often given two separate narratives — as women or people of color.

“We are looking at and framing the experiences that face black women with racial justice issues, as they are often framed only as women’s issues and not also issues based on race,” Natawsha Mitchell said. “We’ve tried to have programming that really highlights those experiences.”

This year’s Days of Dialogue will have multiple events open to the public, including keynote speaker Kai Davis. Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Davis is a writer, performer and teaching artist with Bachelors in African American Studies and English. Davis will be attending a lunch with the new Multicultural Affairs staff at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday in the Wyoming Union Room 103, as well as holding a poetry workshop from 2:45-4 p.m. on Thursday before her keynote speech at 7 p.m., both in the Wyoming Union Ballroom.

Mitchell, a UW alum, had previously been involved in UW’s Days of Dialogue when she was a student. When Mitchell returned to work at UW, she volunteered for many events, becoming the co-chair for this Martin Luther King Jr. Days of Dialogue event.

“One of the main reasons I was interested in serving on the committee as a professional was that I had a really positive experience, both as a student committee member and just as a student experiencing the programming of these events,” Mitchell said. “I think that it’s one of the only times on campus where the experiences, issues, concerns facing students of color, specifically black students, really takes center stage. As a biracial black woman myself, I felt that it was a cool opportunity.”

The events will conclude with the Diversity Ball, an annual dance hosted by the Associated Students of the University of Wyoming’s United Multicultural Council. Carlos Gonzales, the council’s co-chair, said that it was events such as Days of Dialogue that inspired him to seek the position that allows him to work closely with such events.

“We’ve had to incorporate a lot of different voices and underrepresented voices within this arena of Martin Luther King and bring it to the limelight,” Gonzales said. “I think that’s an important enough reason to go. Just to see how the events shape up compared to years past, and also just because I think it’s an important cause.”

Jess Fahlsing, one of the UW students helping plan some of the events, has participated in other social justice related programs. Specifically, Fahlsing was one of the organizers for the 2018 events marking 20 years since the murder of Matthew Shepard.

“I just think that it’s really important to engage the campus and Laramie community in conversation about racial and social justice and keep talking about Martin Luther King’s civil rights work,” Fahlsing said. “Continuing awareness about diversity and social justice issues, I think, really benefits this campus. Personally, it’s pretty important because I am a marginalized individual on campus, so finding community through the activism that I and others do has really been the focus of my experience and work here on the campus.”

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