Last night I had the opportunity to hear the controversial Bishop Carlton Pearson speak on what he calls "The Gospel of Inclusion" on the campus of Morehouse College. The lecture was titled "Claim It: Your Truth, Your Faith, Your Sexuality", and was sponsored by the HRC and SAFE SPACE, an LGBT club created by a group of openly gay Morehouse men.
The hour long message from Bishop Pearson gave the audience insight on the rise and fall of one of the Black church's most influential and wealthy leaders, and the new doctrine that he now preaches that has caused old friends to abandon him and new friends to embrace him.
When I first heard that he had been invited to speak at Morehouse I was in shock. HBCU's are generally conservative and rooted deep in tradition, a tradition that has a reputation for excluding and mistreating it's gay and lesbian students.
It was my first time on Morehouse's campus so I had a close friend who is on staff there give me a tour. As we walked around the yard I couldn't help but notice the large number of SGL men that I saw walking in every direction, but in the opposite direction of Bishop Pearson's lecture. I would later find out that homophobia still runs deep at Morehouse even in some gay circles, most likely resulting in the small number of students and faculty who are out on campus.
In November of 2002, a gay bashing sent shockwaves through the school when then 19 year old student Aaron Price assaulted Gregory Love, another student who he perceived to be gay in a shower stall with a baseball bat, leaving him with a fractured skull. Former Morehouse student Jason Harrell shares his experience as an openly gay man at Morehouse here .
I never attended an HBCU and for a moment walking on campus I felt like I'd missed out on a wonderful experience. But the further I walked and the more I learned of the college experience of many of my gay brothers, the less I felt like I'd missed out on a golden opportunity. The conservatory I attended on Manhattan's upper west side began to look even more like a cultural hotbed of diversity.
I always thought that Morehouse and gay men went hand in hand, you couldn't possibly have one without the other. It's obvious that LGBT folks are apart of the student body, but unfortunately because of conservatism and the hostile environment towards gays they remain closeted.
Hopefully Bishop Pearson's presence will spark the long overdue dialogue about the need for tolerance and acceptance on the campus of Morehouse and other institutions of higher learning.