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First openly gay Mr. TSU works toward LGBTQ inclusion in Tiger Land.

From staff reports

Texas Southern University has a history of standing up for the oppressed, but when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion, the historically black college tends to lean toward conservative ideals.

Moses Mbai is trying to change that.

Since being elected as the eighth Mister Texas Southern University, and becoming the first openly gay person to hold the title, Mbai has made LGBTQ inclusion a top priority. He is working toward launching an LGBTQ student group at TSU, as well as opening a campus Equality Center that will provide a safe space to meet.

Mbai has also established a scholarship fund—the Moses Mbai Equality Scholarship—to support TSU students who identify as LGBTQ or allies, and who have demonstrated courage in the face of adversity or discrimination.

Last month, after gathering hundreds of signatures from students, faculty, and staff in support of the Equality Center effort, Mbai hung an LGBT Pride flag in TSU’s Ernest Sterling Student Life Center for the first time.

tsumbaimoses“Today—May 9, 2017—on the campus of Texas Southern University, my dream towards LGBTQ equality and inclusion [is one step closer to] fruition,” Mbai wrote on Facebook, below a photo of himself holding the flag. “My intention as the 8th Mister Texas Southern University has been to make sure that all students, especially those who identify as a member of the collegiate LGBTQ community here at TSU, feel welcome, safe, and included here on our beloved campus. I now celebrate this accomplishment with all of you.”

Although he graduated in May, Mbai told OutSmart that he plans to continue his efforts at TSU this summer. “I’m confident our LGBTQ leaders of tomorrow at TSU will implement this student group, and I’ll be there along the way to see this out,” he says, adding that he’s also “super excited” about the Equality Center.

Originally from Fort Worth, Mbai moved to Houston to attend TSU’s prestigious Jesse H. Jones School of Business. Between high school and college, he came out to a very supportive family. But he said “it takes a lot of courage” to be openly LGBT on the campus of a historically black college.

Mbai said he was “appalled but not surprised” by some of the backlash he’s received, particularly at the hands of international students from countries that don’t support the LGBTQ community. Mr. TSU is an official part of the executive branch of TSU’s Student Government Association, but Mbai said he received little support for LGBTQ initiatives from other cabinet members during the year. However, after launching his Pride flag campaign, he was buoyed by an outpouring of support from the student body and beyond.

“I have been receiving much more feedback simply by walking in my truth,” Mbai told OutSmart. “I receive messages from people all over the world encouraging me to continue standing up for what I believe in.”

At his graduation, Mbai got to see his father—who lives in Kenya—for the first time in five years. His mother also made the trip from Fort Worth, despite recently undergoing a double mastectomy.

“The greatest gift I could have ever given you was my degree,” Mbai wrote on Facebook on Mother’s Day, above a photo of him and his mother. “You’ve given me the world, and now I have the chance to take care of you.”

After earning his degree in business management, Mbai has plans to go to work for GEICO.

“As I climb the corporate ladder, I plan to stay active within the community through advocacy projects and initiatives,” he said. “I would not feel complete without continuing with my work for the betterment of humanity.”

To support Mbai’s scholarship fund, visit tinyurl.com/mbaifund.

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John Wright

John Wright is the editor of OutSmart magazine. He has spent two decades in the mainstream and LGBTQ media. Most recently, he served as senior editor of Dallas Voice, and covered LGBTQ issues in the state Legislature for The Texas Observer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Wright earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He resides in the EaDo area of Houston, where he is currently remodeling a 1930s row house.

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