'These students left empowered to change the world around them,' said HRC's Brandon Braud.
WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign hosted its second annual conference for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities Friday, Feb. 11, through Sunday, Feb. 13, at its headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. Headlining the event were Emil Wilbekin, a Hampton University alum, vice president of brand development at Marc Ecko and former editor of Vibe magazine and Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, a nationally renowned speaker and president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.
"These students left empowered to change the world around them," said Brandon Braud, HRC's field organizer responsible for the HBCU project. "They each left with an action plan and have unlimited potential to use the skills they learned to affect positive change."
With more than 55 students participating from around the country - up from 15 last year - the conference was themed "Claim Your Truth - Black, Out, Proud and Visible." Workshops and presenters centered on being out in your personal life, on campus and in the world.
The event began with a meet and greet with Wilbekin Friday evening, followed by workshops and trainings on Saturday. Cole closed the weekend with a keynote speech on Sunday.
"There is a power in living your life honestly," said Wilbekin in his opening remarks Friday evening. "Claiming your truth in our community as GLBT is vital in today's political climate."
"You've got to find allies ﾃ straight allies ﾃ otherwise it's not going to happen. ﾃ If you don't do it, the struggle will not advance," said Cole in her closing remarks on Sunday. "If you cannot acknowledge the existence and potential power of human empathy, it is all over."
Students from Bennett, Hampton, Wiley, Tennessee State, Morehouse, Spelman, Clark, Fisk, Paine, Dillard and Howard attended.
"I've never had this kind of opportunity to be around so many people who both look like me and love like me," said Mia Griffin of Morgan State College. "I am going back to my campus committed to making it a safer place for GLBT people."
Last years conference also marked the launch of HRC's "Resource Guide to Coming Out for African Americans" that focuses on particular issues that the black GLBT and same-gender-loving community faces in the coming out process.
"This annual conference is one way that we demonstrate our commitment to diversity which is part of our daily work to ensure that we are inclusive and affirming for all members of our community," said Julian High, HRC's director of human resources and diversity. "This conference could not be possible without the support of the David Bohnett Foundation and we are truly grateful to them."
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