MLK march Laramie

Laramie resident 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 16th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Days of Dialogue week of events kicked off Monday afternoon with a play at the local Gryphon Theatre in the Laramie Plains Civic Center.

During the play, “REALLY,” by Jackie Sibblies Drury, the audience is pushed to view the world through the lens of marginalized individuals, part of the overall goal of Days of Dialogue.

For marginalized individuals themselves, Days of Dialogue Co-chair Natawsha Mitchell said the event is “an opportunity to find space with like-minded folks and have access to events and things that support their identities.”

This year’s Days of Dialogue theme is “Afrofuturism in a Rural Context.” Mitchell described Afrofuturism as “a movement within black politics and culture that really focuses on creating and turning ourselves toward a positive future for black and brown people globally.”

Because Afrofuturism has an emphasis on the rise of technology and the value of art, Days of Dialogue includes a few art-based activities and integration of science and art, Mitchell explained.

One of those events will be at the Coe Library Makerspace, where attendees will make tote bags and learn how the makerspace combines technology and creativity.

The most current example of something Afrofuturist, Mitchell said, is Marvel’s “Black Panther.” The movie shows black people at the center of a futuristic world.

Mark Willis, who appeared in “Black Panther” performing stunts will be the Days of Dialogue keynote speaker on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the University of Wyoming Union Ballroom. Willis is also a graduate of the University of Wyoming and former member of the Wyoming Cowboys football team.

While Afrofuturism is a large, national movement, Mitchell and the other Days of Dialogue organizers sought to bring the movement closer to home by putting it in a rural context.

“Wyoming isn’t typically perceived as a place that influences or is part of more mainstream black culture, but that’s kind of a problematic view to have given that Wyoming has always had black people contributing to the state,” Mitchell said.

MLK Days of Dialogue will conclude Friday evening with showings of “Black Panther” and Jordan Peele’s “Us.”

All events are free and open to the public.

“The purpose is to create community and provide opportunities for education around issues of race and racial justice,” Mitchell said. “I hope it [Days of Dialogue] will be fun as well as educational and informative.”

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