The Human Rights Campaign Foundation recently hosted a summit with twelve presidents and senior executives from historically Black colleges and universities to discuss and strategize approaches to LGBTQ inclusion on campus. They covered a wide range of issues, from campus facility accommodations for transgender students to HIV prevention. The summit included a talk with two HBCU alumni who are parents of transgender children. They discussed what they hope to see for their children when they go to college, ideally at an HBCU. While some HBCUs have already implemented LGBTQ initatives on their campuses, some proposals for new initiatives included adding gender-neutral housing on campus, a presidential task force to discuss LGBTQ issues, and events that serve as both support for LGBTQ students and an educational opportunity for faculty, staff, and fellow students.
Corey Ponder, a technology policy professional committed to inclusion, explains that being an ally requires time, practice, honesty, confidence, and accountability for results. That’s why he committed to a 21-day ally challenge, where he publicly posted about an ally action he took each day. These ranged from reading and researching about bias and inclusion, to taking Implicit Associations Tests, to finding an accountability partner and joining community resource groups. It also included self-reflection writing assignments, learning the value of even just a 10-minute conversation about prejudice, and listening to others share their stories. He says allyship is about going outside your comfort zone and checking for blind spots in your thinking. He writes, “…challenging accepted group dynamics and recognizing that being part of the in-crowd should not supersede the importance of supporting individuals that are outsiders or that lack a voice in the in-crowd.” In essence, he says that allyship is empathy in practice.
While many consider Starbucks’ recent plastic straw ban to be a win for environmental rights, many people with disabilities say their needs have been overlooked in this decision. For those who physically depend on plastic straws to be able to eat and drink, plastic straws are “more than just a convenience…[they are] a necessity,” explains Sharon Shapiro-Lacks, executive director of Jewish disability advocacy organization Yad HaChazakah. In response to an upcoming protest organized by disability rights activists, Starbucks released a statement “specifying that straws would be available for anyone who asks to use them.” Activists, however, say this doesn’t yet meet their specific demands for single-use plastic straws, which currently outperform alternatives due to their flexibility, durability, and ability to withstand extreme temperatures safely. Shapiro-Lacks says she hopes to find a better solution, to set a positive example for the increasing number of companies now implementing their own bans against plastic straws. “If we do reach a good solution with Starbucks, that will be major,” she states. “And…if they’re off track, it sets a very poor example.”