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Diversity Day was inspired, organized, and initiated by Respect Club – NCBI’s after school violence-prevention program in which middle school students learn to confront prejudice in themselves, prevent violence in their schools, and develop leadership and ally skills. In 2010, Respect Club students decided to organize a city-wide Diversity Day to celebrate all the rich variety that makes Missoula unique. Around the same time the idea for Diversity Day was born, the Montana Human Rights Network and the ACLU of Montana were working with two Missoula City Council members to draft the city’s new “equality ordinance,” which added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The council hearing was set for April 12th; the students decided that would be a perfect day to hold a Diversity Day rally and then march to City Council to support passing the ordinance. Mayor John Engen endorsed a proclamation of Diversity Day brought forth by these young leaders, and the first Diversity Day was attended by more than 600 Missoulians from all walks of life and has evolved to become a staple Missoula event every year since.
Click here to check out a history of Missoula's Anti-Discrimination Ordinance.