Winston-Salem State University Gay-Straight Student Alliance Attends White House Policy Briefing
LGBT advocate and Morehouse alumnus Reverend George B. Walker, Jr. (center) with WSSU GSSA students Branden Summers, Loren Campbell and Da’Lauren Mouzon-Smith. Chevara Orrin, WSSU director of business services and advisor to the WSSU GSSA, is second from left.
The students were Loren Campbell, Da’Lauren Mouzon-Smith and Branden Summers. Chevara Orrin, WSSU director of business services and advisor to the WSSU GSSA, also attended as Black LGBT students and community leaders from across the nation were brought together to participate in this briefing. The National Black Justice Coalition, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force all collaborated through the White House Office of Public Engagement.
“Last year was the first time in the history of our nation that the White House doors were opened to specifically acknowledge, support and hear the voices of Black LGBT students. As the dialogue continues and as President Obama and his administration work to ensure equality for all Americans, we can be assured that a new cadre of leaders is being nurtured and taught advocacy,” said Orrin.
Students and alumni representing Howard University, Norfolk State University, Morgan State University, University of California Los Angeles, Morehouse College, Spelman College, and other colleges and universities participated in lecture presentations and discussion with Obama Administration officials. Attendees were also provided with an update on current LGBT initiatives and the Administration’s policy priorities by Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President. Topics that were addressed at the briefing included “Safe Schools/Bullying, Youth Entrepreneurship, Faith Outreach, and HIV/AIDS.
“From this experience I have gained the confidence to reach for what I previously viewed as unobtainable and I am truly blessed to have been able to seize this opportunity to participate in such powerful discourse among such powerful individuals,” said Mouzon-Smith. “My eyes have been opened up to the unlimited possibilities that this world has to offer me and how my sexual orientation, race, or even academic major cannot hold me back from excelling in limitless fields of work,” she added.
This is the fourth opportunity that WSSU GSSA members have had to participate in events at the White House during the past two years. In 2010, GSSA president, Michael Evans was selected to represent LGBT students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities at President Obama’s signing of the Executive Order “Promoting Excellence, Innovation, and Sustainability at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).” This past fall, WSSU GSSA members also participated in several LGBT leadership conferences, including OUT for Work and the Human Right Campaign HBCU Leadership and Career Summit.
The WSSU GSSA was founded fall 2008. Six months later, the University Board of Trustees unanimously voted to include sexual orientation among the protected groups of individuals in university policies. The GSSA has been at the forefront of raising awareness and creating initiatives and programs to promote equality, human rights and social justice on campus and in the broader community.