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Annual Shepard Symposium April 5-8 at UW

March 30, 2017
head portraits of Drew Brown, Robert Bullard and Alison Kafer

Three keynote speakers are part of the 21st annual Shepard Symposium on Social Justice April 5-8 at the University of Wyoming.

This year’s theme, “Rebel Health: Wellness Without Borders,” will feature several UW faculty, staff and students presenting. Symposium co-chairs are Christi Boggs, UW Outreach Credit Programs lecturer; and Michelle Jarman, Wyoming INstitute for Disabilities associate professor. 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 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.

Keynote speakers are Robert Bullard, known as the “father of environmental justice”; Alison Kafer, professor of feminist studies at Southwestern University; and Drew Brown, a visiting scholar in African American Studies at the University of Houston.

Bullard will present “Building Health and Just Communities for All: Why Equity Matters” Wednesday, April 5, at 4 p.m. in the Wyoming Union Center Ballroom.

He received his Ph.D. from Iowa State University and has written 18 books that address sustainable development, environmental racism, urban land use, industrial facility siting, community reinvestment, housing, transportation, climate justice, emergency response, smart growth and regional equity. His 2000 book, titled “Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality,” is a standard text in the environmental justice field.

“Health Rebels: A Crip Manifesto for Social Justice” is the topic of Kafer’s presentation Thursday, April 6, at 12:15 p.m. in the Wyoming Union Center Ballroom.

She also teaches in the environmental studies, and race and ethnicity studies program at Southwestern University, and is the author of “Feminist, Queer, Crip.” Kafer’s work has appeared in a number of journals and anthologies. She has served on the board of directors of the Society for Disability Studies and also Generations Ahead, a nonprofit that worked “to expand the public debate and promote policies on genetic technologies that protect human rights.”

Brown will discuss “Radical Sports Men(tality): Cultural Ideas of Race, Sports, and Masculinity” Friday, April 7, at 12:30 p.m. in the Wyoming Union Center Ballroom.

Brown conceptualized the nation's first annual race and sports conference, called "Passing The Ball: Race and Sports,” which has become a leading conversation on the role of sports in daily life through the lens of blackness. As a scholar-activist, Brown has participated in several social justice initiatives. In 2013, he was invited to the White House as part of the Black LGBT Emerging Leaders program and participated in cabinet-level conversations as an expert on black-male identity in sports.

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 8, and will feature high school student presentations. Also, that same day, Jason Marsden, the Matthew Shepard Foundation executive director, is the luncheon speaker.

Even though the event is free, symposium organizers are asking participants to register so that meals can be provided to all attending.

For more details about keynote speakers and other presenters, go to the schedule link.

For a complete list of events, concurrent sessions and registration information, visit the website at, like the Facebook page at, or email

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