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Published January 21, 2020
Afrofuturism, a movement in literature, music and art, featuring futuristic or science fiction themes that incorporate elements of black history and culture, will be the focus of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Days of Dialogue (MLK DOD). Events are Feb. 2-7 at the University of Wyoming.
This year, MLK DOD events are scheduled during the first week of February. Through the annual week of programming, UW celebrates the continuing impact of King’s life and ideals, organizers say.
“The MLK DOD tradition is intended to expand institutional awareness about issues of diversity and social justice; to foster an inclusive community; and to empower individuals to act in solidarity with marginalized communities,” says co-chair Natawsha Mitchell, UW Multicultural Affairs senior project coordinator. “The Days of Dialogue serve as a renewal of UW’s commitment to making campus a more welcoming and empowering place for people from different backgrounds, heritages, orientations, abilities and perspectives.”
She is co-chair, along with Aaron Lozano, Associated Students of UW senior program coordinator.
The MLK DOD keynote speaker is actor Mark Willis, a UW communication graduate and a former member of the Cowboys football team. Willis is a Screen Actors Guild Award-winning actor and model. His talk is Thursday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m. in the Wyoming Union Ballroom.
Willis, from Oak Park, Ill., played for the Cowboys as a defensive end from 2009-2012, lettering the final three years of his football career. He has appeared in several television shows and films. In 2018, he appeared in the critically acclaimed Marvel film “Black Panther,” performing stunts, which earned him and others in the film a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture. His other credits include the television shows “Shameless,” “Chicago PD,” “Chicago Fire” and “Empire.”
Willis also has modeled, appearing in Target’s Goodfellow & Co. brand campaigns, and he has appeared in commercials for companies such as Pepsi. He volunteers at different schools in the Chicago area, talking to students and encouraging them to “never give up on their journey.”
Following Willis’ talk, Keenan The First will perform in The Gardens, located in the lower level of the Wyoming Union. The performer is Keenan Montgomery, also a former UW football player from Chicago, Ill. Montgomery, a UW English graduate who also is an accomplished writer, played wide receiver and special teams for the Cowboys from 2011-14.
Keenan The First is a versatile, hybrid artist, with sounds in the rap and R&B sections of the hip-hop genre, and he serves as one of the budding young songwriting talents in the music industry. This past year, he worked alongside Sony Music and Reach Records as a songwriter, and his song “It’s You,” with Aleks James, appeared in Episode 10 of CW’s “All American,” which is available on Netflix.
For more information about Keenan The First, visit the website www.keenanthefirst.com/.
This year’s MLK DOD theme, “Afrofuturism in a Rural Context,” will focus on what it could mean to imagine rural space with black individuals at the center instead of at the margins.
“A refuge from and response to the challenges of our current political moment, Afrofuturist thought is experiencing a renaissance in popular media and black community spaces around the world,” the two co-chairs say.
Black History Month events will be observed in collaboration with MLK DOD, UW African American and Diaspora Studies, and the UW Black Student Alliance.
Other events are scheduled throughout the week but have not yet been finalized. For a full description of MLK DOD events, visit the website at www.uwyo.edu/mlkdod.
Among the highlights of MLK DOD are:
-- Sunday, Feb. 2, 3 p.m., “Really,” presented by Relative Theatrics; panel discussion to follow presentation, Gryphon Theatre, 710 E. Garfield St.
-- Monday, Feb. 3, 6 p.m., annual MLK DOD Community Supper and Willena Stanford Diversity Award presentation, Wyoming Union.
-- Tuesday, Feb. 4, noon, Ellbogen Center for Teaching and Learning book discussion: “Kindred” by Octavia Butler, Coe Library, Room 123.
-- Tuesday, Feb. 4, 6 p.m., Residence Life and Dining Services’ “Dialogue and Dine,” followed by screening of “White People” documentary, Wyoming Union Shoshone Room.
-- Tuesday, Feb. 4, 7 p.m., UW Art Museum’s panel discussion, “Stealing Culture: The Intersection of Criminal Law and Museum Studies,” Centennial Complex.
-- Wednesday, Feb. 5, 5-7 p.m., community “Wyoming Art Party,” Laramie Plains Civic Center, 710 E. Garfield St.
-- Wednesday, Feb. 5, 7:30 p.m., “Really,” presented by Relative Theatrics; panel discussion to follow presentation, Gryphon Theatre, 710 E. Garfield St.
-- Thursday, Feb. 6, 12:15 p.m. “Get Real Teach-In: Trauma Informed Conversations about Race and Identity,” Coe Library, Room 506.
-- Thursday, Feb. 6, 7 p.m., Mark Willis keynote speaker, Wyoming Union Ballroom.
-- Thursday, Feb. 6, 8 p.m., StudioWYO performance featuring Keenan The First, Wyoming Union Gardens.
-- Friday, Feb. 7, 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m., UW African American and Diaspora Studies Black History Conference.
-- Friday, Feb. 7, 6 p.m., “Black Panther” film screening, Wyoming Union Family Room.
-- Friday, Feb. 7, 9 p.m., “Us” film screening, Wyoming Union Family Room.