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Bakari Sellers, Angela Rye and Roland Martin making the rounds at HBCU graduations

Diverse group of speakers to encourage ’19 graduates

If you follow any historically black colleges or universities (HBCUs) on social media, chances are your feeds are full of caps and gowns. Graduation season is upon us and will last through the end of May.

One of the highlights of graduation season is the list of commencement speeches. Students want star power, authenticity and inspiration. Several celebrities are making the rounds this year, including Girls Trip star Regina Hall, who will speak at Dillard University on May 11. Dillard president Walter Kimbrough said the school worked with students to find a speaker. When the decision to go with Hall was announced, the student reaction was positive.

“People are really excited when we announced Regina Hall, particularly because she just had Little that came out last month, and then she’ll be in Shaft later this month,” said Kimbrough. “So we have her in between two big movies. And she’s doing the Showtime series, Black Monday. … We look for someone with new insight and a new perspective to share with our graduates.”

Florida A&M University (FAMU) featured three speakers, including rapper and actor Common. He received an honorary doctorate and gave a commencement address to students on May 3.

Lamman Rucker — an actor best known for his work in the TV series Greenleaf, House of Payne and the film Why Did I Get Married? — spoke at Lane College on April 25. He’ll be at LeMoyne-Owen College on May 11.

Several schools decided to go with politicians. Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke was the keynote speaker for graduation at Paul Quinn College.

Sen. Cory Booker will speak to students at South Carolina State University on May 10. Former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum also spoke at FAMU on May 3. He will be at Clark Atlanta University on May 20.

Some speakers will keynote more than one graduation. Political commentator Bakari Sellers, tapped to speak at three different schools, has made the commencement speaker list every year since 2017. He spoke at Paine College on May 5. He’s scheduled to speak at Lincoln University in Missouri on May 11 and again at the University of the Virgin Islands on May 16 and 17.

Television journalist Roland Martin and political commentator Angela Rye are also HBCU commencement veterans. Martin was at Virginia University of Lynchburg on May 4 and will speak at Bowie State on May 17. Rye spoke at Wiley College on May 5. She’ll be at Texas Southern University on May 18. Author Michael Eric Dyson spoke at Tennessee State on May 4 and will be at Prairie View A&M on May 11.

However, the Rev. Al Sharpton gets the speaker MVP award. He also spoke at Tennessee State on May 4, and then again at Voorhees College that same day. The following day, he spoke at Fisk University.

Below is the list of commencement speakers.

School Date Speaker
Alabama A & M May 3 John O. Hudson III
Alabama State May 3 State Rep. Lataisha Jackson and Brandon Hurst
Albany State May 11 Valerie Montgomery Rice
Alcorn State May 4 Leo Denault
Allen May 11 Joey Jackson
American Baptist May 16 Harold M. Love Jr.
Arkansas Baptist May 4 Major J. Baisden
Benedict May 11 Bobby J. Donaldson
Bennett May 4 Kwanza Jones
Bethune-Cookman May 11 Benjamin Crump and Johanna LeBlanc
Bishop State Community May 21 Josh Duplintis
Bluefield State May 11 Dr. William Robertson
Bowie State May 17 Roland Martin
Central State May 4 Rev. William J. Barber II
Cheyney of Pennsylvania May 11 Susan L. Taylor
Claflin May 11 University president Henry N. Tisdale
Clark Atlanta May 20 Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum
Clinton May 4 Nina Turner
Coahoma Community May 11 Tenn. State and Alpha Kappa Alpha president Glenda Baskin Glover
Coppin State May 22 Robert L. Wallace
Delaware State May 11 U.S. Rep. Alma Adams
Denmark Technical May 3 Barnwell (S.C.) Mayor Marcus Rivera
Dillard May 11 Regina Hall
Edward Waters May 11 Ibram X. Kendi
Elizabeth City State May 11 Tyrone Poole
Fayetteville State May 11 N.C. Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and Mayor Mitch Colvin
Fisk May 5 Al Sharpton
Florida A&M May 3 Norma Ely-Jones
Florida Memorial May 11 Col. (Retired) Norma Ely-Jones
Fort Valley State May 11 Rodney D. Bullard
Gadsden State Community May 9 Dakota Heathcock, Eden Snyder and Ivy McCurley
Grambling State May 10 Marc Morial
H Councill Trenholm State Technical May 10 Porcia Bradford Love
Hampton May 12 Lt. Gen. Darrell K. Williams
Harris-Stowe State May 11 TBA
Howard May 11 Kasim Reed
Huston-Tillotson May 11 Michele Thornton Ghee
Interdenominational Theological Center May 11 Rev. Judge Penny Brown Reynolds
J.F. Drake State Community and Technical May 9 Markeeva Morgan
Jackson State May 4 Brig. Gen. Robert Crear
Jarvis Christian May 4 Donna Brazile
Johnson C. Smi May 19 Ralph H. Groce III
Kentucky State May 9 Rev. Gwendolyn Boyd
Lane April 25 Lamman Rucker
Langston May 18 Dave Hollister
Lawson State Community – Birmingham Campus May 10 Quinton T. Ross Jr.
Le Moyne-Owen May 11 Lamman Rucker
Lincoln – Missouri May 11 Bakari Sellers
Lincoln of Pennsylvania May 5 U.S. Rep. John Lewis
Livingstone May 4 Roslyn M. Brock
Meharry Medical May 18 Stanley M. Bergman
Miles May 4 Richard Arrington
Mississippi Valley State May 4 Victor McTeer
Morehouse May 19 Robert F. Smith
Morehouse school of Medicine May 18 Patrice Harris
Morgan State May 18 U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings
Morris May 4 Lt. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford
Morris Brown May 18 Dominique Wilkins
Norfolk State May 4 Yamiche Alcindor
North Carolina A & T State May 11 Willie A. Deese and Marshall M. Williams
North Carolina Central May 11 N.C. Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and Rev. William J. Barber II
Oakwood May 11 Darryl M. Bell
Paine May 5 Bakari Sellers
Paul Quinn May 4 Beto O’Rourke
Philander Smi May 5 Sophia A. Nelson
Prairie View A & M May 11 Michael Eric Dyson
Rust April 28 Rep. Bennie G. Thompson
Saint Augustine’s May 11 G.K. Butterfield
Savannah State May 11 University president Cheryl Davenport Dozier
Selma June 28 Jimmy Nunn
Shaw May 11 Everette Taylor
Shelton State Community May 10 Kelvin Redd
Shorter May 11 Bobby Acklin
Simmons – Kentucky May 19 James Railey
South Carolina State May 10 Sen. Cory Booker
Southern and A & M May 10 Omar J. Dorsey
Southern at New Orleans May 11 Carmen J. Walters
Southern at Shreveport May 20 Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins
Southwestern Christian May 11 Jeremy Flowers
Spelman May 19 Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms
St. Philip’s May 10 Marc Cross
Stillman May 4 Lyn Stanfield
Talladega May 5 Essye B. Miller
Tennessee State May 4 Al Sharpton and Michael Eric Dyson
Texas May 4 Cynthia Marshall
Texas Southern May 18 Angela Rye
Tougaloo May 5 Stacey Abrams
Tuskegee May 11 Harold Davis
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff May 11 Gwendolyn Boyd
University of Maryland Eastern Shore May 24 John B. King Jr
University of the District of Columbia May 11 Maxine Waters
University of the Virgin Islands May 16–17 Bakari Sellers
Virginia State May 19 Jennifer McLean and Lucy McBath
Virginia Union May 11 Danny Glover
Virginia of Lynchburg May 4 Roland Martin
Voorhees May 4 Al Sharpton
West Virginia State May 11 Rev. Ronald English
Wilberforce May 4 Michael Lomax
Wiley May 5 Angela Rye
Winston-Salem State May 10 Kwanza Jones
Xavier of Louisiana May 11 Pierre Johnson, Maxime Madhere and Joseph Semien