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GUEST POST: My OUT on the Hill 2012 Experience

I experienced the most exciting, engaging, empowering, and transformative four days of my life at the National Black Justice Coalition’s (NBJC) OUT on the Hill Black LGBT Leadership Summit. Thank you, NBJC, for inviting me into a space so wonderfully and artfully created by your leadership team. I have not stopped gushing about my experience since I've been back home. In fact, I've made a commitment to ensure that Morgan State University doubles the size of the student delegation next year so more students will have the opportunity to be a part of such a life-changing experience.

There is an inspirational and non-quantifiable affirmation in seeing so many Black queer people who are successful and true to their whole selves in one place. OUT on the Hill has given me the greatest gift of all, the gift of renewed hope. Coming into the summit, I felt tired, stressed, over-worked, and alone. It seemed that many of the students I'd depended on to come had backed out at the last-minute, I had too much class work to do, and I wasn't sure that the work in the movement I was attempting was realistic or successful.

However, as I continued through OUT on the Hill, I felt more and more affirmed, empowered, and hopeful. I felt a part of a family filled with mommas, daddies, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunties, and uncles who shared their stories with me, embraced me, comforted me, praised me, and even admonished me in love. While speaking with another student from Morgan State on my way back home on Saturday, we both agreed that this is what family feels like. When Elder Mandy Carter shared her knowledge of how the Black versus gay narrative came into being, I felt tears well up in my eyes. Her presence was laced with so much perseverance, history, and pride. I know that experience will stay with me for the rest of my days.

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of speaking with CNN/ESPN contributor/commentator and OUT on the Hill national chair LZ Granderson, whose wisdom literally changed my life. He told me, very plainly, to cultivate my own power. Talk about an Oprah moment! When NBJC executive director and CEO Sharon Lettman-Hicks said that she was not here for 15 percent of the crumbs because she came to have the whole pie, I died thrice. And when Charles Pugh gave me permission to be a leader outside of anyone else's authority on my position of leadership, something within me was reborn.

While fellowshipping with several of the students from Florida A&M University, I got some amazing information and perspectives that I'd never considered, and in the Emerging Leaders Caucus, I received insight and ideas on how I could build better, stronger, and broader coalitions.

In the coming weeks, I'd like to share my student experience report that I'll submit to The Spokesman, the university newsletter, as well as to senior administrators on my campus. I hope the model will be a helpful tool for students who would like to persuade their university to cover or subsidize the costs of OUT on the Hill in future years. Furthermore, I can't wait to see what the amazing NBJC team will do with next year's summit!

NBJC provided a spring of knowledge and allowed us to sup from it, and for that I am forever grateful.

With humble thanks and immense love,

Samantha Master

Samantha Master is a senior and Communications major at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland where she served as the Community Service and Outreach Coordinator of the school's LGBT student alliance, Rainbow Soul, from 2008 – 2010. Master is also a member of NBJC's Leadership Advisory Council.

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.