An HBCU blazes the trail in championing LGBT rights on their campuses. Maryland’s Bowie State University is the first historically black college or university to introduce a resource center specifically catering to the LGBT community, according to the LGBT advocacy group human rights campaign. Bowie State opened the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersexed and Allies (LGBTQIA) Resource Center in April, though students and advisors have been organizing plans for the progressive union since 2007.
“…Throughout the years, it started falling apart and, because of money and a lot of resources,” Adrian Krishnasamy, an assistant professor of communications at Bowie State who serves as the director of the program told NPR. “But we had a solid backing up from the high administration and a very strong student body and they have been very supportive about our measures towards that. So, ever since then, it had been an ongoing effort.”
The LGBTQIA Resource Center addresses homophobia on the Bowie State campus by ensuring that this demographic of students has a safe place to converse about their issues.
“We are just there to basically be representatives of that culture to say hey, you know, it’s OK,” Krishnasamy explains. “And to kind of say I can identify with this person, you know, how did you come out? Sort of sitting in that space and sort of sharing that, I think that is the biggest experience of it as of all.”
Since the center opened its doors, students have been using most of the resources available.
“I am so thankful that this resource center exists,” says Ashley Brown, senior, psychology major. “Free HIV testing is what makes me most excited. We’re tackling HIV and homophobia. Bowie State is doing great things.”
The 2012 – 2013 academic year will be the first full one for the progressive center, which expects to attract a large portion of the student population with programming and HIV testing. It will open daily from noon to 5 p.m. and will also offer counseling for students struggling with personal problems.
Bowie’s gay-straight alliance is also expected to plan workshops and programs that raise awareness about sexual orientation.
LGBT supporters have high hopes for the future of similar resource centers at other HBCUs. Lauren Waters, a graduate of Bennett College, and a youth and campus outreach coordinator for the Human Rights Campaign works directly with Bowie State and other HBCUs to lead similar initiatives.
She wants to see this spread to other historical black colleges and universities.
“Historically, HBCUs aren’t necessarily hostile to LGBT people, but they’re not necessarily all-inclusive of LGBT people,” Waters told Black On Campus. “I definitely think this is kind of starting the fire.”