HRC Blog

HRC at the Audre Lorde Project HBCU Summit

This post comes from Donna Payne, Associate Director of Diversity at HRC

Last Friday, I participated in a first-of-it’s kind event, discussing LGBT issues on a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) campus. The summit, titled “Facilitating Campus Climates of Pluralism, Inclusivity, and Progressive Change at HBCUs” was a daylong conference with participants from 9 schools and speakers with knowledge of LGBT issues on college and university campuses.  Over 100 people attended and the mood was very supportive, but realistic.  A majority of the speakers knew that many HBCUs have not embraced the African American LGBT community.  HRC has been involved with many of these schools through our HBCU Program for nine years.  Our goal is to develop LGBT-inclusive policies on these campuses, as well as create a climate that is safe for LGBT students.

Unfortunately, this work has been slow due to a resistance to address this topic within the African American culture.  The climate for LGBT people is reflective of the close ties to their religious foundation.  However, the dialogue that took place over the day’s 4 panels was very honest.  Anthony Pinder, a gay HBCU alumnus, documented stories of 28 male HBCU alumni and the cost of hiding their true identity.  The president of Spelman College, Dr. Beverly D. Tatum, was on the Administrators’ panel - originally the Presidents’ panel.  Dr. Tatum pointed out that the panel had to be renamed because other presidents declined to participate. National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director, Sharon Lettman-Hicks spoke about her discussion with 12 presidents in 2010.  Shockingly, one president told her he believed he didn’t have any gay students!

Dr. Guy-Sheftall and her team from Spelman received funding from the Arcus Foundation 3 years ago.  The organizers have created a 300 page book about the climate towards LGBT people and her recommendations for progress.  She will be working with the new partnership of HRC and United Negro College Fund (UNCF) to address LGBT issues at the executive and administrative levels.

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