In a time of heated political debate about the rights of individuals regarding the ownership they have over their own bodies, William Jewell College student organizations Alpha Psi Omega (APO) and QUILTBAG banded together to screen The Laramie Project Sept. 28 in Peter’s Theatre.
The film – originally a play – tells the story of Matthew Shepard, an American college student from the University of Wyoming who was killed in an act of homophobic violence in 1998. The brutal act, in which Shepard was pistol whipped repeatedly before being tied to a wooden post and left to die, spurred advocacy and legislative action in support of the LGBT community. Of note are the Matthew Shepard Foundation and The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
APO, the theatre honor society, and QUILTBAG, Jewell’s LGBT advocacy and support group, collaborated to screen the movie during the week of the 20th anniversary of Shepard’s murder.
Danika Bryant, senior English major and president of APO, explained that The Laramie Project brings light to the importance of anti-hate crime legislation and that the screening at Jewell commemorates the life of Shepard.
“The Laramie Project showing matters because it brought such an important light to an issue that had otherwise been overlooked – the fact that only a handful of states at the time had hate-crime legislation and actions to take should a hate-crime occur,” said Bryant. “I am so excited to be showing it on the 28th because this past Monday, Sept. 24, was the twenty year anniversary of the murder and I believe that Matthew Shepard deserves to be remembered, as does his case.”
Alex Rosell, junior music performance major and president of QUILTBAG, commented that showing this film offers a tribute to Shepard and creates awareness for struggles faced by the queer community, both then and now.
“This event commemorates and remembers the horrible events that happened in Laramie, Wyoming, 20 years ago, and the terrible crimes committed against queer people since,” said Rosell. “I think I can speak for QUILTBAG in saying that this night will be a beautiful tribute to the victims of anti-queer crime everywhere, and we are so excited to spread awareness for this wonderful project.”
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons