Black LGBTQ+ discussion builds solidarity

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

The Office of Intercultural Student Programs organized an open discussion on the state of LGBTQ+ representation in the Black community at Tech on Wednesday, March 27 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Titled “Inclusive Intersections: Black Queer Lives Matter,” the event was held in the Bill Moore Success Center’s Press Room. The African American Student Union (AASU) and Organization for Social Activism (OSA) were also involved in the organization of the event.

Efiotu Jagun, fourth-year PUBP and Diversity Ambassador at the Office of Intercultural Student Programs, moderated the event. Jagun started by reading out an open letter she wrote to the Black community of Tech in February, which was also published in Volume 109, Issue 21 of the Technique. The letter questioned Black Student Organizations (BSOs) on their attempts at engaging with the Black LGBTQ+ community on campus, highlighting specific issues that the intersectional group faced on campus.

“I am graduating from Tech this semester. As I reflected on my time here, I thought of what I wished I could have had to support me. I wanted to leave Tech with a bang,” Jagun said, explaining why she wrote the open letter.

A total of 20 participants occupied three round tables. Almost all of those present belonged to the Black LGBTQ+ community. Jagun led the discussion by reading out some questions she had prepared. She allowed the groups to discuss for five to 10 minutes before asking one member from each table to
summarize the discussion.

The first question pertained to peoples’ experiences with the Black queer community. Participants spoke of a general lack of understanding and support that they experienced on campus. Some participants felt that the absence of a support circle meant they knew few people who were Black and members of the LBGTQ+ community prior to the event.

Maintaining the focus from her open letter, Jagun’s next question was about what Black campus organizations were doing for the queer community. Many participants in the discussion were part of BSOs on campus and expressed their desire to do something on behalf of their organization for the intersectional group. Other participants felt that there was little support and recognition for the group within organizations they had interacted with.

Jagun’s third question transcended the walls of the Institute and asked participants to discuss unique challenges faced by the Black queer community within and outside campus. Students highlighted how growing up in areas of the United States where socially conservative Protestant Christianity plays a strong role in society has made activism and acceptance particularly difficult. They also felt the creation of a group chat for queer and transgender people of color (QTPOC) would help build connections within the community.

The idea of a group chat for members of the community resonated with a lot of participants. Jagun spontaneously created a GroupMe chat for those present in the room to join. The organizers also shared QR codes for the creation of an interest list and subscription to a newsletter about Black queer student affairs. William Britto, Assistant Director of the LGBTQIA Resource Center, highlighted the QTPOC chats that take place alternate Mondays at 6 p.m. in Suite 140 on the lower level of the Smithgall Student Services Building.

Jagun’s fourth question, about what BSOs could do to be more inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community, drew the most suggestions from participants. Measures ranged from simpler efforts such as the use of pronouns at Greek life events and organization of events for Pride Month, to structural changes such as more LGBTQ+ representation on executive boards of BSOs.

The organizers pitched in on this topic, suggesting that the training programs offered by the LGBTQIA Resource Center be made mandatory for BSOs. They also felt events held by these organizations could avoid playing into gendered tropes and ask for pronouns during registration. A participant also suggested that non-BSOs like the Writing Club at Tech could host sessions about writing intersectional characters.

“There is a tightrope we walk, where we can’t hold events excluding students of a particular racial group or sexual orientation — which also stops us from hosting events specific to Black queer students. The work-around is for student organizations to host more events where a diverse set of people are highlighted, including Black queer personalities,” Jagun said.

Britto then took the mic to share his thoughts. He explained that the small Black student population on campus — about 7% of all students — was representative of a historical issue and explained the lack of solidarity within the Black LGBTQ+ community. He also put pressure on participants to envision what enriching the Black LGBTQ+ community on campus could look like.

“I am closer to the white queer students at Tech, because I see so few of you at the LGBTQIA Resource Center. I want to reach a level where I can forget some of your faces because there are too many of you. It is up to you how you build a rapport with each other and the Resource Center,” Britto said.

The Technique spoke to Jordyn Sanai Spruell, third-year PHYS and one of the participants at the discussion about their experience at this event and past events.

“I’ve gone to [the] QTPOC [event] and some of the coffee houses the Resource Center hosts, so this wasn’t my first time. The turnout was more than I expected. Sometimes people don’t have much time. I was surprised to learn today that you could talk to the Assistant Director at any time,” Spruell said.

The Office of Intercultural Student Programs and the LGBTQIA Resource Center organize events for cultural awareness and appreciation throughout the year. More information about their programmig can be found at and