The 8th annual LGBTQIA Lavender Reception, an official homecoming event, celebrated the Howard LGBTQIA community and scholarship recipients.
Members of the Howard community gathered in the Armour J. Blackburn University Center Ballroom full of lavender and white-colored balloons, decorations, and lights at 7 p.m. on Oct. 19. Some attendees even showed up dressed in their lavender-colored clothing to honor the reception.
Da’Quan Cooney, a sophomore musical theater major from Atlanta and Vice President of Internal Affairs on CASCADE, was one of the receptionist hosts alongside junior health sciences major from Decatur, Georgia, Danielle Jones.
The event started with words from Howard’s 18th president, Ben Vinson III. This year’s homecoming was the first with Vinson as president.
“Howard University has always been at the front of social promise. This is unwavering. It is only fitting that we have this lavender reception during homecoming to celebrate and embrace the LGBTQ+ members of our community to celebrate everything that you bring to this campus,” Vinson said.
“We’ve made some recent strides over the years, but we must acknowledge that there is a long way to go. Today, we come together to honor the community at Howard and beyond in the spirit of revival and to recommit ourselves to creating a more inclusive campus,” he added.
Dr. Cynthia Evers, Vice President of Student Affairs here at Howard, followed his sentiments and announced that Howard has been acknowledged as the best HBCU for LGBTQ+ students by bestcolleges.com.
The Lavender Fund Scholarship was founded in 2015 by Christopher Cross, Howard alum, who was recognized as the first openly gay graduate student at Howard University. It was established as a way to financially support students within the Howard community who identify within the LGBTQIA community and are firm advocates for their rights and visibility on and off campus.
When speaking with The Hilltop, Cross mentioned last year his feelings about why it was so crucial for the Lavender Fund to be created. But this year, as the recipient pool expands to over 30, he is now thinking about ways to push the fund further.
“I really want to be more intentional about how we engage each other to build on work products, think about what has been Howard’s LGBT roles in civil rights events, or in the ballroom community or in politics. I think there’s a lot of untold stories where we have been a part of, and I would love to see us uncover that history, but in addition to that, I think career development is key,” Cross said
There were 17 Lavender Fund Scholarship applicants in 2023, and eight recipients were chosen out of that pool. The eight recipients included Jesiah Allen, Zoe Coker, Nok’khanya Edwards, Aniyah Genama, Joshua John-Louis, Murphy Jones, Jordan Richardson and Tya’lana Tomlin.
John-Louis, a junior music education major and classical voice minor from Houston, attended last year’s reception. Attending this inspired him to apply as an applicant, and he was able to be selected as a 2023 recipient.
“I haven’t been here for all the previous years, but I think in the previous years the Lavender Fund was like, ‘well okay, we’ll give the gays something to move with,’ but now it’s something that people respect,” John-Louis said.
“Because all along, it has been our stories being told, our experiences at Howard University being widely underrepresented, and I think we’re showing that we can do things just like everyone else can,” John-Louis continued.
Outside the ballroom, the student health sex table accompanied the check-in tables. On this table were pamphlets full of information on holistic wellness, candy, bracelets, bags and contraceptives. John Benton-Denny, a health educator at the Howard University Student Health Center, mentioned that they were at the reception as a form of support and outreach for the student body at Howard.
“I think it’s strategic. Just having the option and resources available to students is so much like having a support system,” Benton-Denny said. “You may not always tap into it, but just knowing it’s there is really important.”
The event concluded with words from JaQuwan Ward, program coordinator, and Janelle Howard, assistant director of the Intercultural Affairs and LGBTQ+ Resource Center, which was launched last year during the 2022 Lavender Reception.
“It is a large effort for us to continue to support these spaces and make sure that they’re inclusive, and make sure that the Howard community is being pushed forward in that space,” Ward said.
Copy edited by Diamond Hamm