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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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Brenda Drew, BlacQ Space’s president and programming director. Brenda Drew, BlacQ Space’s president and programming director.

Finding a home in a BlacQ Space

Brenda Drew found a home in SDSU’s lone Black LGBTQIA+ organization. Now, they are giving back to the community in a noteworthy way.
By Aaron Burgin

Brenda Drew arrived at SDSU in 2018 looking for a place where they could find solidarity and family in San Diego State’s LGBTQIA+ community. 

Drew, who identifies as queer and nonbinary, grew up in what they called an “ultra-conservative, religious Black household,” where they often had to hide their true, authentic self. 

Drew found their home in BlacQ Space, SDSU’s lone Black LGBTQIA+ organization. 

Four years and one pandemic later, Drew is helping the next generation of queer students find the safe space to thrive during their time at SDSU.

Drew currently is BlacQ Space’s president and programming director, works in the SDSU Pride Center and was recognized as a Royal for the 2021 Homecoming Court for their leadership and service on campus.

“I really owe a lot to BlacQ Space,” Drew said, fighting back tears. “There is so much love there. Folks in that space believe in giving back to the community. I believe in that community.”
Drew, a Chula Vista native who attended Hilltop High School, said they knew they were queer from a young age, citing the fictional relationship of Santana and Brittany in the show “Glee” as the moment they knew. 

Growing up, Drew leaned on their older sister, who also identifies as queer, as both role model and confidante. 

“She was a huge part in that, making me feel that it was A-OK to be who you are, and don’t try to suffocate yourself to fit a standard that isn’t for you,” Drew said. 

Drew, who is known for their incandescent positivity, joined BlacQ space during fall 2019, the semester before students were moved to remote learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

BlacQ Space was founded in 2017 as a discussion group and student organization that is dedicated to fostering community dialogue and healing for Black sexual identities and gender identities within the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, said its founder, Amber St. James. It became a recognized student organization a year later. 

“I was lucky enough to spend the semester in person, really touching base with a lot of them, solidifying myself within the community before the pandemic, so that during the pandemic I had a support network to tap into,” Drew said. “They provided me with a lot of love and resources that I wouldn’t have necessarily had access to if I didn’t meet them before the pandemic hit.”

Throughout the pandemic, Drew was able to maintain the connection with the community while working with The Pride Center as a community programmer, helping organize virtual events. 

Kay Wong, a coordinator at the Pride Center who has worked alongside Drew the past two years, called Drew a “cornerstone” of the university. 

“I met Brenda in their second year at SDSU and immediately knew they had a light and energy, so special and rare,” Wong said. “Since then, Brenda has grown into a cornerstone of this institution. They support not only LGBTQIA+ students on and off campus, but they care and love for everyone their encounter.”

Now back on campus, Drew wants to help the next generation of LGBTQIA+  students much like their mentors helped them find a home on campus. 

“One of our members was the very first person I met at State, and they really helped me get solidified in BlacQ Space and the Pride Center, and I owe them a big part of my growth,” Drew said. “Looking at my experience, my hope is while I am at State to be that for somebody else.”

That person was St. James, a drag icon and activist who graduated from SDSU in 2020 and who is also a founding member of the Sisters of St. James Productions and the mother of the Haus of St. James. 

Upon meeting Drew, St. James saw “such an amazing light and such a caring soul that would be such an amazing and empathetic leader. To see them now has reaffirmed my initial thoughts on them.”

Drew, a fourth-year history and Africana Studies major, wants to become a history teacher or possibly a college professor, “maybe at State.”

But Drew has another ambitious long-term goal: to return to SDSU as the director of the Pride Center. 

“I very much want to do that, Lord willing,” Drew said. “I know it will be a long process, and who knows, maybe the position won’t be open when I am ready for it, but that is my ultimate goal.”
Drew’s supporters believe they will achieve the goal. 

“To be able to see Brenda achieve their goal and to be able to come back to give back to a space I know they hold so dear would be such an amazing and precious full-circle moment,” St. James said. 

For more information on how to connect with the SDSU Pride Center, visit the website and Instagram page