- February 20, 2014
Post submitted by Samantha Master, former HRC Youth & Campus Engagement Manager
HRC’s HBCU LGBT Leadership and Career Summit has developed a cadre of youth leaders at HBCUs who have—alongside allied faculty and administrators—helped create and implement policies and programming to make their institutions more LGBT-inclusive. One such institution that has been touched by both leadership of an HBCU Summit alumus and the dedication of committed faculty and staff is Fayetteville State University (FSU)—a historically Black college in Fayetteville, NC. In October 2013, the institution became the third HBCU in the nation to open an LGBT resource center. And earlier this month they hosted Wade Davis—co-founder of You Belong and a Black, out, gay, former-NFL player—as part of a university speaker series.
Davis’ message to students was simple, “Your most authentic self is your greatest self.” A sentiment he conveyed through telling how he came into himself as a Black gay man, dealing with internalized shame, forgiveness, advocacy and finding community. Importantly, he spoke about the stigma inherent in many of the stereotypes surrounding Black, gay men and how such stereotypes rob people of self-determination.
While non-discrimination policy changes are important to protect LGBT students and faculty, conversations—like the ones Davis was a part of—create cultural change. They allow us to lessen “the distance between us where loves lies” as Davis astutely noted. Although some that lamented the reticence of HBCUs to fully embrace LGBT students, FSUs commitment to codifying institutionally and culturally inclusive practices is a testament to how far HBCUs have come on LGBT issues. Part of that progress has been the result of students who have tirelessly pushed faculty and administration to create affirming spaces on campuses. HRC’s LGBT HBCU Leadership and Career Summit works with these students to connect and prepare them to be empowered LGBT leaders at their universities.
In addition to hosting Davis, the university invited the powerhouse educator and facilitator, Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington, to speak on February 18 about intersections of racial, sexual and spiritual identities.
"How do you show up in the world as your authentic, full self,” asked Davis as he closed out his speech “How freeing is that?”