Historically Black Colleges and Universities are very rarely in the news when it comes to supporting their openly gay students and very few have clubs on campus specifically for those who identify as LGBT. But Albert Smith and Lamont Joseph(pictured) along with thirty other brave individuals who make up the campus organization "Life Club" have rewritten their story on the campus of Medgar Evers College.
After four long years of grappling with homophobic slurs from fellow students, Smith became the school's first member of an openly gay club to graduate - an unusual achievement at Medgar Evers College.
"I made a mark for myself and the college, too," said Smith, 29, who lives in Flatbush. "It was the greatest feeling in the world to know I had so many supporters."
"Life Club" is Medgar Evers' first sanctioned openly gay club in the schools 38 year history. "The campus is rampantly homophobic", according to Smith.
At the first meeting, only Joseph and another student were present, but fears of harassment caused Medgar Evers to station a security guard outside just in case. "People weren't always welcoming, but the staff was," said Joseph, who still attends the school.
School officials said they were fully supportive of the group - it now has about 30 members - but acknowledged that bigotry on campus was rampant.
"I think it's very notable, what they've done," said Kenny Bain, assistant director of student life and development at Medgar Evers. "Sometimes in minority communities, there's a lack of understanding about homosexuality. They're trying to change that." Even guests noticed that Smith was a big deal.
"He had these beautiful white shoes, like gladiator boots, and they came above his ankle," said an awed Councilwoman Letitia James (WFP-Brooklyn), who attended the graduation and, like many others, was immediately taken by Smith.
"He ... was making history at Medgar Evers," added James, who said Smith raised the bar - and eyebrows - by wearing "big Elton John glasses."
"They were Gucci," Smith corrected, noting that his ensemble included a custom-made linen shorts set that he wore under traditional graduation garb.
"I'm really out," said Smith.