Taking editorial stances on local and state issues can often be fraught with controversy. Because of that, the Boomerang editorial board has long tried to dedicate one column each month to reflecting on all the things we’re thankful for in Laramie, Albany County and Wyoming as a way of balancing difficult topics with things that make us smile. We missed that opportunity in February as it seemed timely to address another matter, so this week we’re going to make up for that.

February was Black History Month, and given the unique experiences of African-Americans, it’s an important time of introspection and reflection. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Black 14 incident at the University of Wyoming, an event that figures into the African-Amercian experience in Laramie. Fourteen members of the UW football team asked then head coach Lloyd Eaton for permission to wear black arm bands for UW’s home game against Brigham Young University on Oct. 18, 1969, to protest the stance by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints which prevented African-Americans from ascending to priesthood, as well as some incidents from previous on-field encounters with the school. Instead, all these players were kicked off the team before they could even make their case. Six of the 14 players were at UW’s College of Law Feb. 8 to talk about their experiences and tell their story. For some of the former UW football players, it was their first time on campus in 50 years, and it was the largest group among the 14 to be together at the same time to talk about what happened.

The men wanted to make sure their side of the story was heard, as it runs counter to a narrative of their quitting or boycotting the team 50 years ago. One said he swore he would never come back to the UW campus, but was glad he did. Well we are glad the players came back, too. The Black 14 incident was a sad event, and the best way to learn and grow is to confront past events where better choices could have been made. Political stances of black athletes in the public arena are still relevant today, so we should be listening to similar stories where we have the benefit of decades of retrospect to see what insight we can gain. This kind of dialogue can help increase our awareness and understanding and bring us closer to our fellow community members. We hope the Black 14 players come together in the future to continue the conversation in Wyoming, on the UW campus, and other places where their story needs to be heard.

It was also great in February to see local nonprofit Family Promise host its dinner and silent auction fundraiser. Local residents and businesses have shown an impressive level of support for the organization in its mission to help homeless and low-income families achieve sustainable independence through a community-based response. As a relatively new nonprofit, we are encouraged by its success and hope to see it do even better in 2019.

Many of us took time to think about how much we appreciate the women in our lives on Friday in recognition of International Women’s Day. Certainly, the best thing we can do for the women we love is to show that kind of appreciation every day, but it’s still positive to take a day to intentionally mark the sentiment. Women’s places in our society are changing for the better and we see them increasingly filling roles that might have been closed off to them in the past. It’s a right and good thing that more opportunities than ever before are open to women. Additionally, women feeling empowered in recent years to call out harassment and assault is a positive direction of change. Our loved ones, friends and colleagues shouldn’t be subject to that kind of behavior. It’s apparent, too, that many men were getting away with such reprehensible conduct for far too long.

This year also marks the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Wyoming, with many reflecting on the broader picture of historic advances of the state’s remarkable women. While we’re thinking about those trailblazers, we’re also thankful for the women leaders in our community. Historically, women have been at the forefront of grassroots organizations in this country and throughout the world, taking a stand on issues and solving problems. Whether that’s women in the private or public sectors, students, nonprofit leaders, homemakers or the many other avenues used to motivate change, the lasting impact of these women is so critical for our community.

As the deadline for filing last year’s taxes approaches, we’re thankful for those entities that provide tax help locally. The Eppson Center for Seniors has been offering free tax preparation assistance through the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide service for 35 years, while the Albany County Public Library Foundation in partnership with the United Way of Albany County has also offered free tax preparation for over 10 years. Appointments for Tax-Aide are available from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays until April 15 and can be scheduled by calling the Eppson Center at 307-745-5116. Those interested in the library’s services can go to www.unitedwayalbanycounty.org/events/. Some people’s filings can be complicated and many need help, so these services are vital.

There are several issues we’re following currently, and are hoping will have outcomes we can be thankful for. We’ll tackle a lot of those areas in the coming weeks’ editorials. For today, we’ll give those concerns a rest and think back on some of the things that make our community a great place to be.

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