Friday marked the end of Pride Week at the University of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical college, which was a celebration of people in the LGBTQ+ community to come together to celebrate themselves with the rest of the university’s students. During this week, there were a variety of activities held throughout the campus such as tie-dye, movie day, speed friending, mixers and discussions. This week was brought from the LGBTQ+ group, P.R.O.U.D, also known as People Recognizing Our Underlying Differences.
The group, P.R.O.U.D, was founded in 2013 by Gerald Spates, the Multicultural Student Center director at A&T, who transferred to the university recently and brought this organization to A&T’s campus.
P.R.O.U.D has also shared collaborative efforts from other organizations on A&T’s campus such as the Counseling Center, the New Student’s Programs and the Multicultural Center. The club was created as a way for people who are part of its community and beyond to come together and create a safe environment for those who need it. This club helps to raise awareness for LGBTQ+ issues and the impact of these issues on campus. The organization also fights to create a certain atmosphere of understanding for all faculty and students on this campus.
Before the program started, Spates said, “I’m glad to see everyone here. Having you here shows those who ally with us and those of you who are part of this community to come together to help with the fight to keep our safe spaces safe and to keep this week ongoing, is of high importance.” This lead to watching a video from Comcast Newsmakers to talk about the LGBTQ+ representation that is on Historically Black Colleges campuses. The Comcast Newsmakers program featured a speaker from the Black Justice Coalition, Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks.
Sharon Lettman-Hicks was an executive director and chief executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition from October 2009 to August 2017. The National Black Justice Coalition’s mission is to try to end racism, homophobia and LGBTQ+ stigmas.
It was founded in 2003 and has provided leadership for national civil rights groups and LGBTQ+ organizations, advocating for the needs of the African-American LGBTQ+ community especially. During the short clip that was played during the program, it discussed how few LGBTQ+ organizations are available on HBCUs’ campuses. In the clip, Lettman-Hicks says that among the 101 HBCUs in the United States, there are only a few that have safe spaces for its students, and A&T is among them.
In the clip, Lettman-Hicks speaks on the issue of resource scarcity for LGBTQ+ individuals on college campuses. “There’s a difference between being aware and being nurturing and loving of a community,” said Lettman-Hicks. She continued that one can be present yet not have that individual feel safe and welcomed at a place that they pay to earn their college education.
After the clip was played, a discussion was held about how we can advocate for LGBTQ+ rights on HBCU campuses, how they can change the rights for those on A&T’s campus and what we could do to stop it.
A senior Nursing Major at A&T, Angel, said, “For being a gay male on campus, I feel that our safe spaces aren’t safe; they bring religion sometimes into our talks, so I don’t feel comfortable to talk about how I feel.”
The discussion continued on the topic of how to fight for people who will strive to be as neutral as possible when it comes to the various marginalized communities.
Through this discussion, the topic of how to promote a more respectful atmosphere arose, to which A&T sophomore, Imani Robison, said, “We should strive to promote a sort of wellness for ourselves and try to make people more aware of us and how to properly approach us.”