Do you know who Simone Bell is? If not, you must learn! She’s the first ever African-American (out) lesbian voted to serve in a U.S. State legislature. She’s also an Agnes alum, class of ’03.
As part of our campus-wide MLK, Jr. celebration, she came to campus last week to tell us her story.
She came out when she was 13 and found a support group with other LGBT friends, including a friend’s mother. After attending Fisk University in Nashville for a year, she dropped out because of the anti-gay discrimination she faced. Several years later she applied to Georgia State, but was not accepted. Upon advice from a mentor, she looked into Agnes Scott. She was doubtful at first because Agnes Scott was a “young white women’s school.” On her first visit to campus, however, she described the experience “holiness.” She applied, and after an honest, tearful interview was accepted.
During her time at Agnes Scott, Simone decided she wanted to continue pursuing social justice and human rights work, but wasn’t sure what a job in those fields would look like. Before politics, she worked in healthcare and law. After seeing Obama’s inauguration, she came back to Atlanta with a new energy, inspired to take another approach to activism: running for a political office.
With only half the time and funding as her opponent’s campaign, she won.
I learned a new term as she talked about her political career: she identifies as a “progressive politician,” someone who tries to consider everyone her decisions affect, as opposed to considering only the district she represents.
She expressed doubt that gay marriage will become legal in the next few decades, but explained the importance of focusing on more pressing concerns, such as ensuring that everyone has equal opportunity for education and prompt, thorough, affordable healthcare.
In the Q & A session afterwards, she emphasized the importance of discovering who you are, and staying faithful to yourself. During her time at Agnes Scott she did a lot of affirming work, stating aloud and reminding herself who she is; “Simone Bell is Love,” “Simone Bell is honest,” “Simone Bell loves God” were several phrases on her list.
At the end of her talk, I had to agree with Marisela, Director of Intercultural Affairs: I, too, had “speaker crush!”
I am so proud to be an Agnes alum and a Georgian in such a pivotal time–congrats again to Simone and thank you for sharing your story with us.