Commentary Strange Fruit

Ten years ago, Brian Buford was put in charge of the LGBT Center at the University of Louisville. That same year, U of L created its Audre Lorde Chair in Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality Studies — a position held ever since by our own Dr. Kaila Story.

The campus wasn’t openly hostile to gay students then, but it wasn’t explicitly inclusive, either. And those at the intersections of queer and Black were feeling even more unsure of where to find belonging.

Buford says he knew they had their work cut out for them.

“How do we go from a quiet acceptance to a campus where we’re actively advocating for you,” he says. “We’re sending a message of welcome and inclusion and support.”

Now, 10 years later, U of L has been held up as a nationwide example of LGBT inclusion — from the Bayard Rustin Themed Living Community to their program teaching medical students how to interact with their future LGBT patients.

Buford was just named grand marshal of this year’s Kentuckiana Pride Parade in honor of his work (he says he was visiting his parents’ house when he got the news, and he woke them up to tell them, like a kid on Christmas morning!).

And even in the midst of his excitement, he makes it a point that it took a lot of academics, volunteers, students, allies and others to make the school what it is today.

“I think we share this as a campus community,” Buford says. “The work has been all of our work.”

He joins us this week to talk about that work, what he still hopes to accomplish and what in the world he’s gonna wear to the parade (it’ll be hard to top last year’s fairy wings and rainbow tights).

Laura produces Curious Louisville, Strange Fruit, and other audio news stories for WFPL.