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Shepard Symposium Features ‘Radical Listening’ April 10-12 at UW

April 5, 2019
Heidi Beirich, Marco Castro-Bojorquez, Bill Bowers, Estelle Nadal, Dionne Poulton, Buddy Wakefield

Building from last year’s Shepard Symposium on Social Justice theme of “Courageous Conversations,” the 23rd annual event April 10-12 at the University of Wyoming will focus on the broad topic of “Radical Listening” for local and global transformation.

Against a backdrop of increasingly divisive public discourse, it is more important than ever that universities promote spaces to discuss difficult, challenging, sometimes urgent topics of social justice, says Christi Boggs, co-chair of the Shepard Symposium with Danielle Cover. Boggs is a UW instructional designer for distance education, and Cover is a UW College of Law associate professor.

The Shepard Symposium has grown from a local grassroots event to an internationally recognized conference. Originally named “The Symposium for the Eradication of Social Inequality" by former UW College of Education faculty members Omowale Akintunde and Margaret Cooney 23 years ago, the annual event was renamed to honor the work of the Shepard family and the memory of their son, Matthew Shepard, a UW student who was murdered in 1998.

Besides concurrent sessions involving a wide range of topics during the symposium, a “Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Day” is scheduled throughout the morning Saturday, April 13.

This year’s symposium will delve into a variety of topics. To view the entire three-day schedule, visit the website at All events are free and open to the public. Even though the symposium is free, participants are urged to register at

“Radical Listening” is a theme built on discussions among many groups, according to the symposium’s organizers.

“Lasting change and growth occur not simply from providing silenced and marginalized communities space to speak their experiences. Growth and change of ideas, actions, behaviors and attitudes can only occur when both the speaker and the listener are safe in their vulnerabilities,” Boggs says. “The speaker needs are to be heard and not just listened to. And, the listener must feel secure when modifying the lens through which they have been looking for a long time. ‘Radical Listening’ is more a circle than a line.”

In the spirit of listening to create movement, symposium organizers invited proposals that engage with the social justice work of “sitting in humility when our choices are challenged and learning to listen so that our resistance movements can grow in depth, breadth and effectiveness,” Cover adds.

Organizers have invited the people and communities, “those on the front lines of creating space for marginalized populations and allies to be heard,” to participate in the symposium.

“Through the theme of listening as resistance, we also invite participants to think critically and creatively about changing the practice of dialogue around social justice,” Cover says. “We ask attendees and presenters alike to consider how we listen to each other, and we encourage all to engage with each other in ways that challenge our judgments and assumptions about how to broaden the effectiveness of our individual and community advocacy.”

Several keynote speakers each day of the symposium have been scheduled. More background information on each can be found at

Keynote speakers are:

-- Wednesday, April 10, 4-6 p.m., Wyoming Union Ballroom: Bill Bowers, “Beyond Words,” solo play. Hailed by critics as the most accomplished and renowned mime of his generation, Bowers currently performs and teaches the art of physical storytelling throughout the world.

-- Thursday, April 11, 12:15-1:15 p.m., Wyoming Union Ballroom: Dionne Poulton, owner of Poulton Consulting Group LLC, executive coach, diversity and inclusion consultant, author and radio talk show host. She is a leading expert on diversity and inclusion, unconscious bias, and transformational adult learning and behavior, with special emphasis in addressing, mitigating and solving intercultural conflicts and incidents of unconscious bias in the workplace.

-- Thursday, April 11, 4-5 p.m., Wyoming Union Ballroom: Holocaust survivor Estelle Nadal will share her story of struggle and survival as a child in hiding in Nazi-occupied Poland.

-- Thursday, April 11, 6-9 p.m., Wyoming Union Ballroom: Buddy Wakefield is a three-time world champion spoken word artist featured on the BBC, HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam” and ABC Radio National, and he has been signed to both Sage Francis’ Strange Famous Records as well as Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records.

-- Friday, April 12, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Wyoming Union Ballroom: Heidi Beirich, "Hate in America” discussion. She leads the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, which publishes the award-winning Intelligence Report and the Hatewatch blog. She is an expert on various forms of extremism, including the white supremacist, nativist and neo-Confederate movements as well as racism in academia.

-- Friday, April 12, 2-4 p.m., Wyoming Union West Ballroom: Marco Castro-Bojorquez, "El Canto del Colibrí” (The Hummingbird’s Song) film screening and panel discussion. He is a filmmaker and an LGBT and HIV/AIDS activist. His latest documentary explores the relationships between Latino immigrant fathers and their LGBT family members.

-- Saturday, April 13, 6:30 p.m., UW College of Education auditorium: In collaboration with the Wyoming Arts Council, the Shepard Symposium will present “Hot Tamale Louie,” the powerful multimedia performance piece about an early 20th century immigrant who lived in Sheridan and became a successful businessman. The performance is a genre-bending tale with lilting Western ballads, gentle Mexican waltzes, folk songs and melodies from the East, evocative tone poems and raucous ragtime melded together by jazz.

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