A new, one-day offering of panels and workshops at Missouri Southern State University aims to start a local conversation about decolonization and how it can be enacted in daily life.
The university will host "The Whole Story: A Decolonial Cross-Cultural Day Institute" on Thursday. The event is open to local high school students, university and college students, faculty and staff, and the general public.
Decolonization, as described by activist Tina Curiel-Allen, is "when a dominant group or system takes over and exploits and extracts from the land and its native peoples," according to materials provided by event founder and organizer Rebecca Mouser, an assistant professor in the English and philosophy department and president of the faculty senate. "Colonization has taken place all over the globe through the stealing of lands; the raping of women; the taking of slaves; the breaking of bodies through fighting, labor, imprisonment and genocide; the stealing of children; the enforcement of religion; (and) the destruction or attempts to destroy spiritual ways of life.
"All of these things have left a psychological, spiritual and physical impact on indigenous peoples and a governmental ruling system that we did not create, that was not made for us. These are the things we need to heal from, where we need to start reclaiming. This is where organizing and decolonizing comes in," Curiel-Allen wrote.
Event organizers say compassion and critical thinking will be encouraged, and hate speech won't be tolerated.
"As this is a space for working through tough stuff, we expect questions and the potential for discomfort — that's learning," they say in promotional materials.
The event will begin at noon with registration, to be followed by "The Black Collegian in the Popular Imagination," delivered by Constance R. Bailey, an assistant professor from the University of Arkansas.
A series of breakout sessions will be offered from about 1 to 4 p.m., including:
• "Primary Perceptions: Reexamining the Past Through Primary Documents," with historian Megan Bever, of Missouri Southern.
• "Writing the Margins," a creative writing workshop with young adult author Adib Khorram.
• "How You Can Eat Your Turkey and Decolonize Thanksgiving Too," with Tehya Deardorff, of the Quapaw Nation, and Kristen Fidler, of the Cherokee Nation.
• "What's in a Bead," an indigenous bead-weaving workshop with artist and philosopher Sydne Gray, of the Muscogee Nation.
• "Decolonizing Science," with Missouri Southern's Women in Science club and chemists Shayna Burchett and Bornface Gunsaru, both of MSSU.
• "Decolonize Your Eye: Changing the Way We See Culture Through Art," with art history minor Lainie Nicolas.
• "Decolonizing Fashion," with fashion blogger Sarah Robbins.
• "Decolonizing Language," with linguist and anthropologist Jill Greer, of Missouri Southern.
• "Janelle Monae and the Afrofuturist Aesthetic," with Constance Bailey, of the University of Arkansas.
The breakout sessions will be followed by a roundtable discussion, moderated by MSSU's Mouser, about decolonizing the syllabus. A meet-and-greet session and book signing opportunity is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. with Khorram, author of 2018's "Darius the Great is Not Okay" and the forthcoming "Darius the Great Deserves Better."
Registration for the event is $10, which includes refreshments and all panels and workshops. Fee waivers are available for eligible participants. Registration forms are available on the "MSSU Department of English and Philosophy" Facebook page.
The day will be capped with a fundraising gala beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Bookhouse Cinema, 715 E. Broadway, to support the creation of new scholarships in the English department for black and indigenous students and other students of color. There will be food and drinks available for purchase, a silent auction, live music and additional readings and talks.
The gala is open to all, regardless of whether they attended the decolonization event earlier in the day.