The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Allies Resource Center will offer students a library of LGBT educational materials, student meeting space, counseling services, workshops and programs to raise campus awareness about issues related to sexual orientation, according to a press release from the university.
"What we’re trying to do is to get a coherent approach in identifying and spreading the awareness in dispelling myths about the (LGBT) community itself and educate individuals that come into the university so that we send our students out of this campus with the knowledge of the extreme level of diversity," said Adrian Krishnasamy, director of the Resource Center and assistant professor in the Department of Communications for Bowie State University.
Krishnasamy currently oversees the operation of the center along with two student volunteers. However, the university is seeking funding to staff the center. The Resource Center has been funded through donations from The DC Center for the LGBT Community and other organizations.
Jamale Stevenson, a sophomore at Bowie State University, said the center is already making a difference. "I think the reason why is that most HBCU’s are founded on Christian values because most African-Americans are Christians," Stevenson said. "So with Christian values, homosexuality is not really looked at fondly. People just don’t like it, they like to shove it under a rug and see it as something that doesn’t exist."
Bowie State University is part of the University System of Maryland. BSU is located in Prince George's County, was founded in 1865 and is Maryland's oldest HBCU.
Many historically black colleges and universities are affiliated with religious organizations and have not been especially welcoming to openly LGBT students. Only a handful of HBCU recognize LGBT student groups. In some cases, the colleges outright prevent gay students from forming groups. The plight of LGBT youth on HBCU campuses becomes all the more critical in the wake of recent news stories, such as the hazing death of Robert Champion at Florida A&M.
Morehouse College has seen several well-publicized cases of homophobia, harassment and anti-gay violence in recent years. In November 2002, one Morehouse student nearly killed another student with a baseball bat because he believed the student was gay and made a pass at him. In May 2010, three gay students were carjacked, kidnapped, robbed at gunpoint and called "faggots." In October 2009, a controversial dress code was enacted that banned womens' attire, accessories or makeup. The code was endorsed by the campus' sole gay student group.
Spelman College has taken the lead in addressing LGBT issues among HBCU. The women's college hosted an all-day summit on LGBT issues in May 2011. The conference was the first of its kind for HBCU. Nine college presidents were invited. Only one president attended—Spelman President Beverly Daniel Tatum.
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