Can't deny the Pride: Visionary leader leads

Apr 18, 2019

Rodney Williams is founder of Claflin Pride. (Panther photo by Angel S. Chedikah)


Rodney Williams, a senior majoring in psychology at Claflin University, is a true visionary leader who has demonstrated his leadership throughout his years at Claflin.

His involvement on campus includes peer and orientation leader, Envogue model and founder of Claflin Pride.

Personal life

Williams is a native of Miami, Florida, and is the third oldest of his siblings. He is a preacher’s child who like many others dealt with the challenges and shared similarities of coming out as a kid.

Being a preacher's child and a queer kind of makes it more judgmental to society. "But when I came out to my parents, I expected my dad to react, but really it was my mom who took it hard at first," Williams said.

"Since I was young, I knew I was different,” Williams said.

A change on campus

Williams decided to give back by investing in an organization called “Claflin Pride."

The idea of starting the organization developed when Williams, who noticed the need for change on campus, gave an orientation tour and was asked about any organizations for LGBTQA.

Claflin Pride is an LGBTQA  organization that accepts everyone through application. Claflin Pride does not discriminate. All are welcome.

“I just wanted the LGBGTQA community to know that we have a place on campus to make them feel like home. Sometimes people's differences are not accepted in society and Claflin Pride allows students to be different and express themselves freely," Williams said.

The motto is to restate the idea of coming to seek validation for yourself rather than for anyone else.

The beginning of success

After deciding to create something welcoming for his peers, Williams went on with the progress. He talked to Dr. Leroy Durant, vice president at Claflin, about the proposal.

It wasn’t until the fall semester (September 2018) of his senior year that the organization was approved, Williams said.

The organization includes four leaders, Zayquan Mcneil, Taylor Johnson, Aleeyah Hosey and Madison Wetson.

“I made a dream of mine came true," Williams said.

"Once I graduate, Zayquan Mcneil will serve as the president and take my lead. It’s a happy feeling accomplishing a dream that I finally made come true, a dream that will help and inspire others. To be able to start an organization and see that it will still be here when I leave feels like a legacy," he said.

Recently, the issue of the United Methodist Church accepting homosexual clergy surfaced. With the help and support of Claflin President Henry Tisdale, "we were able to still stand."

One of the things that surprised Williams while starting the group was the on-campus Claflin Pride clothing design and logo sponsored by Barnes and Noble. "It was unexpected and shows how much we are appreciated and supported by the community and Claflin."

For those interested in joining, there will be a forum in April, Williams said.

One of the issues that Williams sees in society and even at an HBCU is acceptance. "When it comes to homosexuality, especially in black men, is the 'Double Consciousness' that we will continue to feel. The intersection between race and sexuality, but also race," Williams said.

“As a proud queer African-American man, I will feel caution about my sexuality and race due to society's standards of the average stereotypical African-American man. But I am who I am, and I accept myself, and Claflin Pride will too,” he said.


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