DURHAM, N.C. – One of N.C. Central’s groundbreaking achievements can be found in the basement of its student union.
What You Need To Know
N.C. Central’s LGBTA Resource Center is one of a few at North Carolina HBCUs
The center is an inclusive space for LGBTQ+ students to hang out and find leadership opportunities on-campus and professionally
The director of diversity and inclusion says leaders at other HBCUs are coming to them for ideas to build a center on their campus.
In 2013, the university became the first HBCU in North Carolina to open an LGBTA Resource Center. It’s a safe space for students to relax and hang out with those who support them.
Kyra Gibson visits the resource center a few times a week.
“A lot of people didn’t know about my sexual orientation,” Gibson said. “So it was easy to come hide here.”
Gibson was a sophomore when she came out to her mother over the phone.
“I told her, ‘Mom, I don’t just like boys I would if I told you that,’” Gibson recalls. “She said it doesn’t surprise her, and that she still loves me regardless.”
Gibson, who is now a senior, reflects on how she felt free to finally share her truth.
“I wasn’t keeping a secret from my mom anymore … a secret that didn’t need to be kept from her in the first place,” Gibson said. “But how society is … it’s difficult to say that.”
Over the years, Gibson has struggled with her identity while hanging out with some students on campus.
“Hearing the homophobic things they may say, and it may be someone who I thought I would be very close to,” Gibson said. “And they’ll say something, and it ruins everything.”
Gibson enjoys stopping by the resource center to study, read a book or relax with allies of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Outside of my mom and my siblings, I don’t have that support for being a part of this community,” Gibson said. “I can’t talk to a lot of people about certain things, but here I can.”
About a dozen students visit the resource center on a daily basis to feel included, find leadership opportunities and plan events on campus.
Gibson, who recently became president of an LGBTQ+ student group, is grateful for the resource center.
“I’m able to be open at 21 years old and be free and not care if you like what I do or not,” Gibson said.
The resource center is moving to the new student center in 2022. Director of Diversity and Inclusion Jennifer Williams says the new space will help increase its visibility on campus.
N.C. A&T and Fayetteville State are the other HBCUs in North Carolina that also have an LGBTA Resource Center on campus.
Williams says leaders at other HBCUs in North Carolina and across the country have come to them for ideas to build a center on their campuses.
Equality N.C. says more LGBTA resources are needed on historically Black college campuses to help those students navigate challenges.
“They’re critical for creating a welcoming environment and beginning a culture change inside of institutions that should be building students up for success,” Equality N.C. Executive Director Kendra Johnson said.
Johnson says HBCUs are historically underfunded to meet many needs and create spaces like an LGBTA Resource Center. However, she implores students to “never underestimate the power of your own voice.”
“If you want to build something on campus – you’re not alone,” Johnson says. “There are likely other students who want to do it, and Equality N.C. will be a huge support as well as many other entities around the state.”