Spelman College Hosts Historic LGBT Summit

The event marks an important milestone for the nation's historically black colleges.

By Thoai Lu May 06, 2011

Atlanta’s Spelman College kicked off its first open dialogue on LGBT issues, reported Rod McCullom. The all-day event, titled "Facilitating Campus Climates of Pluralism, Inclusivity, and Progressive Change at HBCU’s," is the first of its kind at a historically black college, and involves participants from other black colleges across the nation, including Howard, Clark Atlanta, Southern and several others.

Hortense Barber of BET wrote about why the significance of the moment for HBCU’s. "Black colleges as a whole have been slower to take on this public dialogue on lesbian and gay issues for a few reasons," Barber wrote. 

According to Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall, the founding director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center at Spelman, the relative silence on the issues mirrors the black community’s attitude as a whole. "Some [schools] were founded with religious affiliation," she added as rationale for the colleges’ slow efforts toward inclusivity.

Back in 2009, Morehouse College officials caused a national controversy after instituting a dress code that banned students from wearing clothing "associated with women’s garb (dresses, tunics, purses, pumps, etc.)." Last fall, Aliya S. King wrote a widely circulated piece for Vibe Magazine that look a deeper look into the college’s queer community, which many claimed the university had driven underground and were trying to do away with completely.

Yet in light of last year’s rash of LGBT suicides at schools and colleges across the country, many colleges have been forced to take a second look at how their institutional policies might be silencing queer students. Kyle Bella also wrote for Colorlines about how schools could better address anti-gay bullying.

Today’s summit at Spelman will give each HBCU a 300-page packet of recommendations to promote course offerings, staff training and campus activities.