LGBTA center coordinator Eric Martin’s message to NCCU students: ‘You belong here’

September 30, 2022

Tucked away in a corner on the second floor of the New Student Union is a room filled with beautiful bright variously colored flags representing different sexualities and genders. The shelves are filled with books exploring topics like gender, sex, race, sexuality and feminism. On top of the bookshelves lie bookmarks with quotes from various activists like Malala Yousef, Eartha Kitt and Marsha P. Johnson.

Today there are only four HBCUs with LGBTQIA+ centers for their students. N.C. Central University established its center as the first HBCU center in the southeast in 2013.

Eric Martin, LGBTA Resource Center Coordinator, says he is thankful there’s a space for both himself and students to be visible.

Eric Martin, LGBTA Resource Center Coordinator

His hair is tied back, but the bright blue tips are still visible. He sits in a chair inside his corner office with a large window where he can oversee students sprawled throughout the center eating lunch, doing homework, reading and chatting with friends. He often stops what he is doing to wave to students coming and going.

“I think when students see the flags in the windows – even if they don’t decide to come by my office – they know I’m here. That the space is here. That they belong,” said Martin, whose energy and smile match the colorful nature of the, LGBTA space.

Sarah Richardson, an NCCU nonbinary student who goes by “she” and “they” pronouns, works closely with Martin. Richardson is on the executive board of COLORS, the campus LGBTA student organization.

“I know if I ever have an issue, I can always come to him and his door is always open,” said Richardson.

“I see him around campus, and I can say hey and give him a hug. It’s very genuine. Some people say they have a support system, but with him, it’s really there. His presence is well known in my life.”

Martin, who earned both his undergraduate psychology degree and his higher education administration graduate degree at NCCU, clearly has a deep understanding of just how important it is to build genuine connections with students.

“There’s richness in blackness and there’s a richness in queerness. And when you marry the two it’s gold. But with gold, you have to mine for it. And when you mine for gold you’re going to have to go through some things,“ Martin said.

“Identity development in college is so crucial. Students need someone who, not only just understands them, but that they can also have an honest conversation with. If you can come into my office and just be your authentic self, if only just for 15 minutes, I think that’s important.”

Martin, the first black male to hold the position of LGBTA resource coordinator, says he uses his identity to build bridges between the LGBTA center and the NCCU Men’s Achievement Center. For Gwenn Mangine, a graduate intern at the LGBTA center, Martin brings a unique form of masculinity into the space.

“He does not fall into a lot of the stereotypes about toxic masculinity,” said Mangine. “He’s a feminist, he’s aware of the identities he holds and how they interact with other people. He’s a great person for his job, and the students seem to really trust him.”

Martin says he dreams of seeing more inclusive programs, but his goal is to continue making an impact on students. “I always had this motto that if I can change one student’s life then my job is done,” said Martin.

Tucked away in a corner on the second floor of the New Student Union is a room filled with beautiful bright variously colored flags representing different sexualities and genders. The shelves are filled with books exploring topics like gender, sex, race, sexuality and feminism. On top of the bookshelves lie bookmarks with quotes from various activists like Malala Yousef, Eartha Kitt and Marsha P. Johnson.

Today there are only four HBCUs with LGBTQIA+ centers for their students. N.C. Central University established its center as the first HBCU center in the southeast in 2013.

Eric Martin, LGBTA Resource Center Coordinator, says he is thankful there’s a space for both himself and students to be visible.

His hair is tied back, but the bright blue tips are still visible. He sits in a chair inside his corner office with a large window where he can oversee students sprawled throughout the center eating lunch, doing homework, reading and chatting with friends. He often stops what he is doing to wave to students coming and going.

“I think when students see the flags in the windows – even if they don’t decide to come by my office – they know I’m here. That the space is here. That they belong,” said Martin, whose energy and smile match the colorful nature of the, LGBTA space.

Sarah Richardson, an NCCU nonbinary student who goes by “she” and “they” pronouns, works closely with Martin. Richardson is on the executive board of COLORS, the campus LGBTA student organization.

“I know if I ever have an issue, I can always come to him and his door is always open,” said Richardson.

“I see him around campus, and I can say hey and give him a hug. It’s very genuine. Some people say they have a support system, but with him, it’s really there. His presence is well known in my life.”

Martin, who earned both his undergraduate psychology degree and his higher education administration graduate degree at NCCU, clearly has a deep understanding of just how important it is to build genuine connections with students.

“There’s richness in blackness and there’s a richness in queerness. And when you marry the two it’s gold. But with gold, you have to mine for it. And when you mine for gold you’re going to have to go through some things,“ Martin said.

“Identity development in college is so crucial. Students need someone who, not only just understands them, but that they can also have an honest conversation with. If you can come into my office and just be your authentic self, if only just for 15 minutes, I think that’s important.”

Martin, the first black male to hold the position of LGBTA resource coordinator, says he uses his identity to build bridges between the LGBTA center and the NCCU Men’s Achievement Center. For Gwenn Mangine, a graduate intern at the LGBTA center, Martin brings a unique form of masculinity into the space.

“He does not fall into a lot of the stereotypes about toxic masculinity,” said Mangine. “He’s a feminist, he’s aware of the identities he holds and how they interact with other people. He’s a great person for his job, and the students seem to really trust him.”

Martin says he dreams of seeing more inclusive programs, but his goal is to continue making an impact on students. “I always had this motto that if I can change one student’s life then my job is done,” said Martin.

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Eric Martin, LGBTA Resource Center director.
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