by DeShaun Bennett
It is essential for institutions of higher education to provide safe and inclusive spaces to all of their students. Rooted in their historical tradition of being trailblazers in the fight for social justice, below are 5 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that are leading the initiative to support LGBTQIA students and their allies by creating safe space support initiatives and centers.
1) Bowie State University: Gender and Sexual Diversities Resource Center
Bowie State University became the 1st HBCU to open a center–the Gender and Sexual Diversities Resource Center–to support LGBTQIA students and their allies. The mission of the Gender and Sexual Diversities Resource Center is to foster an environment that is open, safe, and inclusive for people of all sexualities and gender identities. The Center works with students, faculty, and staff to increase awareness of LGBTQIA individuals and to reduce discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Center also collaborates with other organizations on campus to develop activities, workshops, and programs used to raise campus awareness about LGBT concerns.
2) Morehouse College: History and Culture of Black LGBT
In the spring of 2013, Morehouse College, America’s only All-Male HBCU, offered its first course on the black LGBT community through the department of Sociology. Dr. Jafari Allen, a Morehouse alumnus and Associate Professor of African American Studies and Anthropology at Yale University, taught “History and Culture of Black LGBT.” The course covered topics like Black feminism and critical cultural theory and methodology. It was described as “an interdisciplinary survey of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) culture and politics.” The course was offered due to the help of Dr. Michael Hodge, Associate Provost for Faculty Research, Scholarship, and Creative Production, and members of Morehouse’s gay-straight alliance/student advocacy organization, SafeSpace. SafeSpace has also offered several campus forums and programs to discuss issues that are facing the Black gay community.
3) North Carolina Central University: LGBTA Resource Center
North Carolina Central University (NCCU) is the 2nd HBCU to open a LGBTA resource center. The LGBTA Resource Center provides opportunities for engagement in personal and leadership development through a variety of student organizations and initiatives. NCCU has 3 major LGBT programs and initiatives: Creating Open Lives and Organizing for Real Success (COLORS), The Lavender Project, and LGBTA Resource Center Ambassadors. The purpose of COLORS is to foster an active and diverse culture at NCCU. COLORS provide opportunities for students to build friendships, while also encouraging open-mindedness, dialogue, and diversity within the community. The Lavender Project offers Safe Zone Training in order to fulfill its promise in making the campus a safe place for all. Resource Center Ambassadors coordinate and assist the LGBTA Coordinator with efforts in planning and implementation of educational, inter-cultural, social, and leadership development programs pertaining to LGBTQ culture and intersectionality.
4) Spelman College: LGBT Faculty Curriculum Committee
Spelman College, the #1 ranked HBCU by U.S. News, is leading the initiative to support LGBT students and their allies by establishing a LGBT Faculty Curriculum Committee. Spelman’s Women’s Research and Resource Center which houses the LGBT Faculty Curriculum Committee has been responsible for educating and empowering lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender students to find their voice and a safe space on HBCU campuses. Back in April 2011, the Women’s Research and Resource Center hosted a historic summit, “Facilitating Campus Climates of Pluralism, Inclusivity, and Progressive Change at HBCUs,” to examine institutional climate issues around diversity, inclusion, gender, and sexuality at HBCUs, the first time a range of HBCUs convened to engage in dialogue about LGBT issues on HBCU campuses.
5) Fayetteville State University: Safezone Office
Fayetteville State University is the 3rd HBCU to open a LGBT office. The purpose of the Safezone Program at Fayetteville State University is to create an affirming and supportive campus climate through identifying and educating members of its campus community who are open to and supportive of all individuals regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The program also raises the cultural competence of Faculty/Staff at the University to include more knowledge of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning population; provides assistance to an often marginalized student group through visible support; educates the student population on the issues and concerns facing the LGBTQ community; refers students to appropriate campus and non-campus resources for issues and concerns; and retains LGBTQ students at the University through assistance and visible support.