Bowie State University will make LGBT history come April 2.
On that Monday, the university will become the first Historically Black College or University (HBCU) to open a resource center for ”lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex” (LGBTQI) students and their straight allies. The center is intended to provide information, resources and counseling to LGBTQI students, as well as a ”safe space” for them on campus.
The center’s opening ceremony will be held April 2, from 4 to 6 p.m., in suite 301 of the Martin Luther King Jr. Building, where the center’s permanent home will be.
Adrian Krishnasamy, director of the new resource center and assistant professor in the school’s Department of Communications, says that Bowie State has been trying to establish a resource center since 2007, but was unable to move forward until 2011 because the university lacked sufficient funding to support it.
The center, open daily from noon to 5 p.m., will provide students with access to a meeting space, computers and a library of educational materials, as well as to a trained counselor who can help students with personal problems. Krishnasamy also expects the school’s gay-straight alliance to plan and design workshops or programs to raise awareness of issues related to sexual orientation among the larger student body of about 5,600 people.
Lauren Waters, youth and campus outreach coordinator for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, works with several HBCUs in her job. She says Bowie State’s status as the first HBCU to get an LGBT resource center will not only lead to more inclusion on Bowie State’s campus, but will likely lead other HBCUs that have been discussing the possibility of opening similar centers of their own to move forward with their plans.
”Historically, HBCUs aren’t necessarily hostile to LGBT people, but they’re not necessarily all-inclusive of LGBT people,” says Waters. ”I definitely think this is kind of ‘starting the fire.”’
Waters says that while other HBCUs often have official gay-straight alliances, particularly those in the D.C. area, a designated ”safe space” where LGBT students can congregate is rare.