Dear Howard University Community,
Our goal as an institution is simple: To cultivate a society where all people are free to explore, discover and display their true selves; where all people feel represented and included in business and industry, in culture and media, in art and academia; where all people have an equal opportunity to pursue their fullest potential without structural limitations or restrictions based on prejudice or intolerance; where all people can live happily and healthily and unapologetically take pride in who they are.
As we celebrate Pride Month this June, let us recognize the LGBTQ+ members of our society and our University for their immense contributions in pushing our society closer to attaining this ideal. We should be wary of generalizing or universalizing the experiences of people who identify as LGTBQ+; the struggle of one person will always be distinct from that of another. But as a community, LGBTQ+ people have embraced individuality over conformity and insisted that society embrace people’s authentic identities.
The act of social justice – where we bend the structures of our society to benefit the disadvantaged and eliminate the systems that unfairly favor some while relegating others to the margins – must be predicated on tolerance for people as they are. If people must conform to some perceived norm in order to receive aid, then the help they are given will not be the help they need.
As a historically Black college and university whose founding mission was to educate the recently freed Black slaves, we have naturally emphasized the African American community as we pursued our goal of a better society where all people can enjoy the liberties of self-expression and determination. However, we have made a pointed and deliberate effort to concentrate on other persecuted peoples to ensure they do not slip through the cracks of the social progress we make.
In our institutional history, there are many accolades to hold up and extol; especially in comparison to the society in which we exist, we have often been a beacon of change and acceptance. But we would be remiss to ignore our shortcomings.
For too long, LGBTQ+ students and faculty have struggled to find a place at Howard University. Whether they were outwardly persecuted or unconsciously forgotten, many generations of LGBTQ+ individuals at the Mecca found themselves neither embraced nor represented. To be sure, we have made tremendous progress that should be celebrated. But there is still more work and impact to be made; we must redouble our efforts to make up for our historic shortcomings to ensure that our recent progress is enshrined and rendered unalterable.
As we advocate for change in the world at large, we cannot overlook the conditions within our own halls. This Pride Month, as we continue to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community in society, we will also do more to make Howard more inclusive, representative and tolerant.
Excellence in Truth and Service,
Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA
Charles R. Drew Professor of Surgery