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Inspirational Speakers Kick Off HBCU Graduation Season

Posted by Casey Kelley on

Chad Boseman, Chance the Rapper and Angela Rye Among Group of Impressive Commencement Speakers

With graduation season quickly approaching, seniors across the country are looking toward their future and asking themselves the same age-old question: so what happens next? What many of these young graduates have not yet realized is that the answer to that question is simple…anything. This month, a handful of inspiring HBCU commencement speakers will work to remind these graduates of their endless potential as they choose to pursue further education or to begin a new career.

For those who are unfamiliar, the term “HBCU” was established shortly after the Civil War, as African American education opportunities began to grow. Through the work of black ministers and white philanthropists, schools all across the South were established to educate those freed from slavery. These schools became known as historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs.

The list of HBCU speakers for the 2018 season boasts names like Chance the Rapper, April Ryan, Chadwick Boseman and more. The majority of these speeches will take place throughout the month of May. Here is just a taste of what can be expected from this commencement season!

HBCU Speakers

1. Chadwick Boseman, Howard University

The “Black Panther” star spoke at his alma mater, Howard University, while also receiving an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, the college’s highest honor. Boseman encourages graduates to keep striving to reach “The Hilltop”, as he refers to as being the pinnacle of the intellectual and spiritual journey that all students have undergone to reach that long anticipated graduation day.

HBCU speakers

2. Chance the Rapper, Dillard University

Grammy award-winning rapper and activist Chance the Rapper helped to kick off the graduation season with a clear message for graduates: push yourself as far as you think that you can, and then push harder. He encouraged graduates to strive to reach the places in life where those who inspired them most have reached. He then encourages them to realize that this is not where the road ends, but rather that this is a starting point of something even greater.

3. Tom Joyner, Morgan State University, Morris Brown College

While Joyner may be best known as “The Hardest Working Man in Radio”, he will be imparting his knowledge on recent graduates this May at both Morgan State University and Morris Brown College. Joyner is no stranger to the change that educated, motivated youth can create. While attending Tuskegee Institute in the late 1960’s, Joyner took to the streets to effect change as a part of the “Tuskegee Boycott” when local stations in his hometown of Tuskegee, Alabama refused to play “black” music on the radio. Joyner will undoubtedly work to impart this same zeal and inspirational work ethic to his upcoming speeches this May.

HBCU speakers

4. Angela Rye, Southern University and A&M College

CNN political commentator and social justice activist Angela Rye worked to remind students that  their immediate goals after graduation should not only include those that build their own legacy, but that they must work to build the legacies of those around them as well. She warned students not to lose their desire and motivation to work toward change and social justice in our society, even after leaving the safety of their collegiate experience. Rye works to remind us that activism is not only a choice, but a duty. You can watch a portion of Rye’s speech here

5. Dr. Mae C. Jemison, Miles College

Dr. Mae C. Jemison, engineer, physician and first ever African-American female astronaut, led the commencement ceremony of Miles College, with a record-setting graduating class of approximately 300 students. Jemison is no stranger to the power of education, being a member of the National Academy of Medicine with a medical degree from Cornell University. Jemison took her medical training and decided to join the Peace Corps, volunteering her skills as a medical officer in Liberia and Sierra Leone for over 2 years. This is just one small example of the life-changing and history-making accomplishments of Jemison. She is a perfect example of using hard work and education to reach your #SquadGoals!

While these are only a few of the inspirational and motivational speakers that HBCU graduates can anticipate hearing from in this coming month, there are several other commencements to look forward to. For a complete listing of speakers, look below.

Allen University - Rev. Dr. Mark K. Tyler, Pastor of Mother Bethel AME Church, film maker, educator and talk show host (Baccalaureate speaker)

Bishop State Community College - Dr. Jill Biden

Alabama State University - Duncan Kirkland

Bowie State University -  Eunique Jones Gibson Founder of the Because of Them We Can Campaign

Claflin University - April Ryan, Author and political commentator

Concordia College - Tom Joyner, radio host

Dillard University - Chance the Rapper, musician

Elizabeth City State University - Margaret Spellings, UNC System President

Florida A&M School of Law - Loretta Lynch, 83rd Attorney General of the U.S.

Howard University - Chadwick Boseman, actor

Jackson State University - Chokwe Lumumba, Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi

Jarvis College - Jesse J. Holland, Author

Miles College - Dr. Mae C. Jemison, former astronaut, engineer and physician

Mississippi Valley State University - Sean Suggs, President of Toyota Mississippi

Morgan State University - Tom Joyner, legendary radio host

Morris Brown College - Tom Joyner, legendary radio host

Morehouse College - Reverend Michael A. Walrond, U.S. Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr.

North Carolina A&T University - Joel Ford, State Senator

Paul Quinn College - Harry LaRosiliere, Mayor of Plano, Texas

Prairie View A&M University - Lonnie Bunch, III, founding director of the Smithsonian African American Museum

Savannah State University - Dr. Marion Orr

Southern A&M University - Angela Rye, Attorney, political analyst and commentator

Spelman College - Rosalind Brewer, COO of Starbucks & Spelman Alumna

Stillman College - Dr. William F. Pickard, Chairman of Global Automotive Alliance, and Co-Managing Partner of MGM Grand Detroit Casino

Tennessee State University - Eric Thomas, undergrad speaker and Keisha Lance Bottoms, Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, graduate speaker

Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law - Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Tougaloo College - NAACP National President and CEO Derrick Johnson

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff - Johnny C. Taylor

Voorhees College - Sheryl Underwood, Actress, and TV Host

Wiley College - Dr. David Beckley, President of Rust College

HBCU speakers

Graduation season isn’t just for the celebration of graduation, it’s a celebration of achieving your #SquadGoals! Show off what you’ve accomplished with a new #SquadGoals backpack available here.





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