HRC Blog

HBCU Students Attend President’s LGBT Pride Reception

The following post comes from Jeshawn Wholley, the president of Afrekete, the GSA at Spelman College.

On June 22, 2010 the White House hosted a historically progressive event. Just days away from the 41th anniversary of the renowned Stonewall protest, the White House organized an LGBT pride reception, hosted by President Obama. I was so proud I had the opportunity to be a part of this event.

Arranged by the Human Rights Campaign and National Black Justice Coalition, and sponsored by the generosity of the David Bohnett Foundation, I was one of six students from four historically black colleges that were chosen to attend such a prestigious event.

Between being in awe at the historical beauty of the White House, and being amongst some of the most influential people of the LGBT community, the entire experience was a little overwhelming.

However, I would have to say that the highlight of the evening was when President Obama addressed the gathering. It was here where he reassured everyone in the room that he is truly an advocate for change and an ally of the community. He emphasized some of the political reforms put in place by his administration that will have a drastic effect on our lives. For example, he mentioned that in light of the new revisions made to the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has issued a letter to hospitals across the state insisting that they acknowledge these changes. He also mentioned his stance on the politics surrounding partnership benefits, reminding us that he has issued an executive order to extend partnership benefits, while acknowledging that these alterations are simply not enough.

 

All and all, I was touched and honored to be in his presence and in the space that I was in. I was surrounded by so many people with different stories, different identities, and different professions, but with a common struggle. There was a sense of humanity, acceptance and genuine love in the room. It was one of the few times in my life when I felt that regardless of who I am, what I look like, who I love, I will be accepted, appreciated, supported and encouraged to be the very best that I can be. There was a sense of true pride and community.

This moment will stick with me for the rest of my life. As I walk my path and continue to foster the activism within me, whenever I face a challenge or injustice that seems greater than me, I will always remember the President’s words, “Change begins with acts of compassion -- and sometimes defiance -- across America.”

For more information about the Human Rights Campaign’s Historically Black College and Universities Program please visit www.hrc.org/hbcu.

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