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Published October 04, 2023
“Social Justice Literacy: Chapter 2” is the theme of the annual Shepard Symposium on Social Justice (SSSJ) Oct. 8-14 at the University of Wyoming. The program also marks the 25th anniversary memorial of UW student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in 1998.
Organizers of UW’s SSSJ shifted the annual spring symposium to a fall program. During the transitional year, a smaller-scale spring symposium was held last April, which has led up to a larger event during the current fall semester. The theme, “Social Justice Literacy,” is divided into Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 for the two separate semesters, respectively.
Most events are free and open to the public.
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,” the annual event was renamed to honor the work of the Shepard family and the memory of their son, Matthew, of Casper.
The SSSJ planning committee invites participants to join in an ongoing discussion about social justice literacy for the latest event, which is hosted in conjunction with the Matthew Shepard Memorial group.
The “Social Justice Literacy” theme will give communities the skills to shape the environments they live in through narrative, asking the question: “How can we collectively impact the world by empowering silenced voices?”
The committee’s goals are to discuss historic forms of resistance, explore illiteracy as a form of oppression and offer awareness of social justice. Topics will provide opportunities to critically and creatively reclaim issues of suppressed stories written for and by marginalized identities. The symposium will promote social and environmental justice through the transformative power of literacy.
UW’s Allison Gernant, an assistant lecturer for LeaRN Programs and the Department of English; Molli Paulson, senior program coordinator for University Disability Support Services; and Kora Wolfgang, a Multicultural Affairs senior project coordinator, are the symposium’s volunteer co-chairs.
As noted in its mission statement, the SSSJ planning committee volunteers strive to shine a light on contemporary societal inequities in all of its events, Gernant says.
“We aim to provide much-needed time and space in which to practice inclusive dialogue around issues of social and environmental justice,” Gernant says. “Additionally, we wish to honor and remember Matthew Shepard, gone from us 25 years this month. Our hearts go out to his family, his friends and his communities at this time. We invite you to learn more about social justice literacy at our many events taking place at UW and around Laramie.”
As a queer-identifying person living in Laramie, Wolfgang says “seeing visible events that recognize the history and legacy of Matthew Shepard is vital for this community to both reckon with and honor.”
“As we remember 25 years later the terrible tragedy of the murder of Matthew Shepard, we also celebrate the accomplishments of Judy and Dennis Shepard with all of the work they have done to advance equality and justice across the country with the Matthew Shepard Foundation,” Wolfgang says. “Although Laramie and the University of Wyoming have made significant changes and advancements over the past 25 years, there is still much room for growth to make safe and protected spaces for the 2SLGBTQIAP+ community. Our hope with the Shepard Symposium on Social Justice this fall is to offer space for the community to reflect and be together as one.”
Among the highlights of the week:
-- Sunday, Oct. 8, 7-8 p.m.: The opening Laramie Pridefest “Remembering Matthew Shepard -- 25th Memorial” event at The Library Sports Grille and Brewery’s second floor, located at 201 E. Custer St.
-- Monday, Oct. 9, 7:30 p.m.: “Elevating Voices” concert featuring “Spinning Light,” an original piece by Anne Guzzo, in the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts concert hall.
-- Wednesday, Oct. 11, noon-1 p.m.: “An Afternoon Conversation with the Tectonic Theater Project & 25th Memorial Cast of ‘The Laramie Project’” in the UW College of Arts and Sciences auditorium. Original Tectonic Theater Project company members are traveling back to UW to participate in a staged reading of their groundbreaking play “The Laramie Project,” along with members of the campus and local community.
-- Wednesday, Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m.: “‘The Laramie Project’ Reading with the Tectonic Theater Project” on the Performing Arts main stage. Tickets are $8 per person. A nominal processing fee will be charged for each ticket. To purchase tickets, click here.
-- Thursday, Oct. 12, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.: Social justice literacy presentations and workshop sessions in various rooms located on the second floor of the Wyoming Union. For a list of topics and presenters, click here.
-- Thursday, Oct. 12, 6:30 p.m.: Relative Theatrics presents “Hurricane Diane” by Madeleine George in the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center lobby.
-- Saturday, Oct. 14, 7 p.m.: “United Multicultural Council Drag Show: Eclipse” in the Wyoming Union Ballroom. The theme follows a solar eclipse that will occur Saturday.