The “Notorious BGS” strikes again. While the rest of us were wringing our hands about the latest far right homophobic attack, Beverly Guy-Sheftall has been quietly working to build institutions that will support us beyond reaction. I pride myself on staying up to date on the happenings of my alma mater but when my Spelman sister Ruha Benjamin forwarded me THE announcement I was shocked! Not only was I shocked by the incredible news, I was shocked to find that I was sitting in the same room with two of the people who made it possible at the moment it was announced, Evelynn Hammonds and of course Beverly Guy-Sheftall.
The news of course is that Jon Stryker of the Arcus Foundation has gifted Spelman College with a $2 Million matching grant to establish the Audre Lorde Queer Studies Endowed Chair, the first of its kind at any HBCU.
The significance of this gift cannot be understated. By establishing an endowed chair, the person hired for this position is freed from the institutional bureaucracy that is often used to silence progressive and radical thought. The person in this position will be free to develop curriculum, programs, and events that support Spelman College and other HBCUs in the vitally important work of gender and sexuality justice.
HBCUs have long been leaders in fomenting racial justice minded graduates but this position has the ability to build on the incredible work that the Women’s Research and Resource Center (WRRC) is already doing to equip these same graduates with a liberatory framework around gender and sexuality. It was less than 15 years ago that the first queer theory course was taught at Spelman or at any HBCU, by alumna Layli Mapayan, and just last year that the WRRC announced the development of a Gender and Sexuality Institute. BGS has been busy.
When folks ask, what’s next after marriage equality, I hope they will look to Jon Stryker’s gift as a possibility model. This is what solidarity looks like and this is what it looks like to use your privilege in the service of others. It’s clear that ally is measured not in word but deed. I couldn’t be prouder of my Spelman sisters Beverly and Evelynn’s radical commitments to Spelman College.