Black and African college students from around northwest Montana and Michigan will converge in Missoula this weekend to discuss racial discrimination, political disenfranchisement, social organization and other topics.
The University of Montana’s second annual Black Solidarity Summit will feature presentations by Missoula community members, UM faculty, staff and students, as well as representatives from Alma College, Boise State University and Montana State University.
Summit organizer and UM Black Student Union President Natasha Kalonde says embracing black identity is vital in a culturally homogenous region.
“Yeah. It’s great to have for minorities, especially in Montana, to have a safe space and find friends and network. Going to a university that’s predominantly white, you may experience micro or macro aggressions, which is basically annoying, racist phrases and things that can be done to you. And you need a safe spot to vent out and just feel good about yourself.”
Though registration for the summit is closed, the public is invited to attend a keynote address on campus Sunday by Ericka Hart, a black queer femme activist, writer, speaker and sexuality educator.
“I think it’ll be interesting to have her, especially in Montana to talk about the black LGBT community and also black people and that intersection, because it’s usually never talked about.”
The summit coincides with Black History Month, but Kalonde says it’s also a timely reaction to the Trump administration and rise of white nationalist groups.
“If you look at the administration and some of the hate comments and racist things going on with the alt-right and white supremacist groups coming out of the woodwork, I think it’s a great time to have a solidarity summit. Especially for black people in the northwest because there's not really many places to go, and this a great opportunity for them to finally have something for themselves that they don’t have to fear going to.”