HBCU Summit Brings Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Issues to the Table

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This event is the first of its kind.

It brought together nine HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to talk exclusively about LGBT issues on campuses, last month. Which is unheard of because it's still considered a taboo subject on many Black college campuses.

The summit took place at Atlanta's HBCU Spelman College and they hoped open the dialogue on gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender issues. The conference was titled "Facilitating Campus Climates of Pluralism, Inclusivity, and Progressive Change at HBCUs" - that's quite a title. Participants came from nine HBCUs to attend several panel discussions throughout the day on campus about LGBT communities and ways to create a more open climate at school for those who have alternative lifestyles.

It's no secret that Black colleges as a whole have been slower to take on this public dialogue on lesbian and gay issues for a few reasons. Frankly, HBCU's have been silent to the issue of homosexuality on their campuses. Remember in 2009, Morehouse College, one of the summit participants, established  a controversial dress code, which banned students at the all-male institution from wearing clothing "associated with women's garb (dresses, tunics, purses, pumps, etc.)" on the campus; which is ridiculous - I actually did a blog about last year.

Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall, the founding director of the Women's Research and Resource Center at Spelman said that the suicide last year by a gay Rutgers University student, who jumped off a bridge last September after his sexual encounter with another man was streamed live unbeknownst to him, made the project more urgent. She hoped the conference would tackle intolerance on HBCU campuses, before it reaches that point.

"We hope that [the summit] will provide some leadership for HBCUs to address LGBT issues as it relates to students, faculty and staff," said Guy-Sheftall, who told Bet.com.  "We think that the public awareness will put the issue on the radar."

The summit was funded by a grant Spelman received three years ago from the Arcus Foundation, a group that works in part to advance LGBT equality. The grant runs out this year, but the school hopes to continue similar projects through partnerships with the United Negro College Fund and the Human Rights Campaign

Besides Spelman and Morehouse, the other participating colleges include: Bennett College of Women, Howard University, Clark Atlanta University, Southern University, North Carolina Central University, Philander Smith College and Morgan State University. Organizers chose schools that ranged in size, region and had active LGBT student organizations on their campuses.

Every HBCU received a 300-page packet of recommendations following the summit promoting course offerings, staff training and campus activities. I do hope this will further conversations on campuses about being black and gay.

This was long overdue.

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