Q&A with Mia McKenzie on Oppression and Feminism to Kick off MLK Week


Presidents circle at the University of Utah Monday September 14, 2015. (Chronicle Archives)

By Casey Koldewyn

The U is hosting a week-long celebration to show respect for the magnitude of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s contributions to American society, as well as to discuss the ways his hopes and dreams remain unfinished.

MLK Week technically kicks off Monday with a march from East High School to Kingsbury Hall, but the first event, when classes start on Tuesday, is a Q&A lecture by Mia McKenzie, founder of the website Black Girl Dangerous (blackgirkdangerous.org), at noon in the Union Saltair room.

McKenzie is also the author of two books, “The Summer We Got Free” and “Black Girl Dangerous.” The latter is a compilation of “some of the most provocative and incisive publications on her website,” according to a description by the U’s Department of Ethnic Studies. The description continues, “In all of her writing, McKenzie presents a nuanced analysis of intersecting systems of oppression that goes deep to reveal the complicated truths of a multiply marginalized experience.”

In her upcoming lecture, McKenzie will speak about the ways in which oppressions such as racism, homophobia and transphobia intersect to create a hierarchical society that keeps certain people at the top (in particular white, straight, cisgender men), while pushing others to the bottom. Additionally, McKenzie will touch on the failures of mainstream feminism (in that it tends to cater to the needs of white, straight cisgender women), and the idea that black feminism is not just a branch of the movement but a movement in and of itself.

Students submitted questions for the event last month. It promises to be insightful, engaging and difficult. Judging by her work, McKenzie does not hesitate from asking the tough questions, even if they make people uncomfortable.

If you miss McKenzie’s speech, the rest of the week will features similar speakers and performances.

Truth Cypher, a group of writers, storytellers and spoken word poets, will speak and perform at noon in the Union East Ballroom on Jan. 20.

Taleb Kweli will deliver a 10-minute spoken word and an hour-long keynote address at noon on Jan. 21. in the Union Ballroom. Kweli uses rap to protest racial stereotypes and police brutality.

In the Hinckley Caucus room on Jan. 22, a Hinckley Politics & Pizza discussion will revolve around what it means to “stand in solidarity” with oppressed people. It will take place at noon and will be hosted by Irene Ota (moderator), and panelists Kilo Zamora, Jem Locquiao and Gabby Huggins.

Saturday, Jan. 23 will feature a day of service in King’s honor. Students must preregister to attend this event.

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