Lavender Fund’s Work Lauded At LGBTA Renaissance Reception

Participants at the LGBTA Renaissance Reception. Photo by Arfie Ghedi, Howard University News Service.

Howard University’s Lavender Fund awarded scholarships to three students tonight at the LGBTA Renaissance Reception.

The second annual Howard Homecoming event was organized by the Lavender Fund in association with the Office of Student Affairs and showcased Howard’s LGBTQ community’s achievements.

“The Lavender Fund started as a conversation in our living room and transformed into this,” said Terrence Tarver, a PhD candidate at Howard and one of the founders of the Lavender Fund.

Tarver pointed to a need for accessibility as one of the main reasons the Fund was started. “It’s important to remember the shoulders this institution stands on–those of James Baldwin and other pioneers like him.”

The evening began with speeches from faculty who made the event possible. Gaëlle Ivory, coordinator of intercultural affairs at Howard, introduced the event, emphasizing the admiration she has for Howard’s LGBTQ community. “I have learned so much from this diverse group of individuals, and it is clear to me why they are some of the highest achieving students at this institution,” she said.

Ivory wasn’t the only person who lauded the achievement of Howard’s LGBTQ students. Justin Calhoun, president of CASCADE, Howard’s LGBTQ activism group, shared similar sentiments. “LGBTQ students need to be a priority [at Howard], not just visible,” he said.

Calhoun, a recipient of last years Lavender Fund scholarship, also mentioned the work that can be done in prioritizing LGBTQ students. Through CASCADE and the Lavender Fund, an advisory council for LGBTQ affairs was started and is currently moving through an agenda of 16 key points of change, including the initiation of gender neutral bathrooms and gender inclusive housing. Calhoun also stressed that there is more work to be done. “Howard can do much more for its LGBTQ students,” he said.

Earlier this semester, Howard’s Student Association was criticized for voting against a proposed LGBTQ fund that would allocate a small percentage of money to enhancing the safety of Howard’s queer community. In a long list of proposals, it was the only one denied. While HUSA is a student-run org, its funding and attitudes are understood to mirror those of the faculty. Despite this, Tarver and other alumni feel the Howard’s administration is doing the best that it can. “President Frederick is a champion for change, as you can see by the event we are holding tonight.”

The event’s guest speaker was Ryan Jamaal Swain, a Howard University alum who is most notable for his role on FX’s Pose, a television show exploring the ballroom scene in 1980s New York City. Swain spoke at length on his time at Howard and how he grew to love and appreciate himself with the help of his Howard family. “I embraced the totality of my truth and when I did so, I was able to service others in discovering their truths,” he said. “Truth and service: they go hand in hand.”

The Lavender Fund awarded three scholarships of $1,000 each to graduate and undergraduate Howard students.