Nobel Peace Prize nominee to speak for Coming Out Day

Jennie Kushner

In honor of National Coming Out Day, Mandy Carter, a 2005 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, will speak to students tonight at 7 p.m. in Alston 30.

National Coming Out Day is an internationally observed awareness day for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to come out and discuss issues, said Joshua Burford, coordinator of student development programs.

“These issues are complicated,” Burford said. “We could work together for quality on campus. If one group is fighting, everyone should be fighting with them.”

Carter is a founding member of the National Black Justice Coalition and the former executive director of the Durham-based Southerners on New Ground.

In 2006, she received the Spirit of Justice Award from the Boston-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders for the lasting impact she had on the progress of LGBT civil rights in the United States.

Burford said there is a large LGBT community in Tuscaloosa and the state of Alabama.

Burford said it’s hard to fight an idea.

“[Some students] don’t feel like they have a place for their voice in the culture as LBGT people. There is this idea of the UA campus that isn’t reality.

“If you talk to individual students and faculty, we are progressive,” he said. “There is a lot more opportunity here than people think.”

The event is sponsored by 14 organizations including Capstone Alliance, NAACP Black Student Union and Delta Xi Phi multicultural sorority.

“I am very excited about the level of sponsorship on all levels, from student organizations all the way up to the faculty,” he said.

Carter also worked with Martin Luther King. In 1968, she worked with the Poor People’s Campaign that was organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that was the last project that King worked on before his assassination.

Burford said last year the keynote speaker was Robin Oches and about 200 students attended her lecture. Burford hopes for an even bigger turnout this year.

Buford said he met Cart at a conference two years ago.

“I met her at a group discussion and when we were done, I felt both challenged and relieved that people were doing this kind of work,” he said. “As an African-American woman, I felt like we needed her to come here and talk to us about working together as a minority.

“It’s hard not to like her. She is amazing, and I think students will be on board with what she is doing.”

Students are looking forward to Carter’s lecture.

Ashley Crenshaw, a junior majoring in women studies, said he thinks Carter’s visit is needed.

“This campus needs to be exposed to a strong African-American woman who isn’t afraid to voice her opinion,” she said. “Carter is a role model to us all, and I hope a lot of students will make the effort to attend her speak and really soak in what she is saying.”

Alex Proctor, a sophomore majoring in criminal justice,  said he thinks our campus needs someone who speaks their mind.

“I feel like this campus is very conservative, and people are scared to say what they really are thinking or feeling,” he said. “National Coming Out Day is about putting your fear behind you and just being yourself. I hope students will take advantage of this day and this speaker.”