Bakari Sellers

Bakari Sellers, CNN Political Commentator, and the youngest African American elected official in the country, will deliver the Commencement Address at Paine College on May 5th, and Lincoln University on May 11th. The event will begin for Paine College at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday Morning in the HEAL Complex located at 1255 Druid Park Avenue, Augusta, Georgia. The event will begin for Lincoln University at 10 a.m. at Dwight T. Reed Stadium. Paine College and Lincoln University commencement ceremonies are both open to the public.

Elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives at the age of 22, Sellers defeated a 26-year-incumbent and was the youngest member of the state legislature. In 2014, he won the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor of South Carolina, and is considered a rising star and a voice for a generation within the party. Sellers earned his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College and earned a law degree from the University of South Carolina. A practicing attorney, Sellers has been a contributor to CNN, was listed in TIME magazine’s “40 under 40” in 2010, and was on “The Root 100” list of 2014 recognizing the most influential African Americans in the nation.

“We are pleased that Bakari Sellers will address the 2019 graduating class,” said Jerry L. Hardee, President of Paine College. “Bakari Sellers has emerged as the ‘voice’ for his generation. We are certain that his message will inspire our graduating seniors as they embark upon their career paths and lives.”

During Paine’s Commencement weekend of activities, Alumni will celebrate classes ending in 4s and 9s. Of special note, the Golden Class of 1969 will celebrate its 50th anniversary. This year, the College will dedicate the Commencement Convocation to the Paine high School graduates. The Class of 1944 is the last class to have graduate under the Paine High School.

In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved to Robert and Charlene Mitchell Auditorium in Richardson Fine Arts Center at Lincoln University. Livestreaming will be available from anywhere at

ORANGEBURG, SC – SC State University will hold its Spring Commencement Ceremony on Friday, May 10, at 6 p.m. at the Oliver C. Dawson Stadium. New Jersey senator and 2020 presidential candidate, Cory Booker, will deliver the commencement speech to the 2019 graduating class.

A native of Washington, D.C, Booker has dedicated his life to fighting for those who have been left out, left behind or left without a voice. In 1996, he moved to Newark, New Jersey, and founded a nonprofit organization to provide legal services for low-income families, helping tenants take on slumlords, improve their living conditions and stay in their homes.

At age 29, Booker was elected to the Newark City Council, and beginning in 2006, he served as Newark’s mayor for more than seven years. He said he is running for president to reignite a spirit of common purpose to build a fairer and just nation for everyone.

Booker was the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate from New Jersey. In the Senate, he has been a vocal critic of the Trump Administration and has underlined the importance of unity and fundamental American values. He has also championed policies that advance economic and equal justice — including leading efforts to reform the broken criminal justice system, increase wages, ensure hard work is fairly rewarded and protect the rights of all Americans to breathe clean air and drink clean water.

Booker held form at SC State last October on the importance of voting in the primary election of November 2018. During the forum, he emphasized the powerful and vital impact today’s youth can have on society when they use their voices for change.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to address the graduating class at South Carolina State University’s Commencement Ceremony. With so many challenges to take on, I believe that this generation will help to chart this nation’s course for decades to come. By coming together in this moment, we can ignite a sense of common purpose that I believe is vital in moving our country forward,” said Booker.

About South Carolina State University

South Carolina State University (SC State) is a historically Black public 1890 land-grant senior comprehensive institution. Located in Orangeburg, South Carolina, SC State University is committed to providing affordable and accessible quality baccalaureate programs in the areas of business, applied professional sciences, mathematics, natural sciences, engineering, engineering technology, education, arts, and humanities. A number of programs are offered at the master’s level in teaching, human services and agribusiness, and the educational specialist and doctorate programs are offered in educational administration. For more information, visit


PRAIRIE VIEW, TX – Debra L. Lee, Trailblazing Entertainment Executive, to deliver the address to Prairie View A&M University graduates and their families at the fall commencement on Sunday, December 16, 2018, at 2:00 p.m. The ceremony will take place at the Berry Center of Northwest Houston in Cypress, Texas.

According to a press release from the university, Up until May 2018, Lee served as the Chairman & CEO of BET Networks, the leading provider of entertainment for the African-American audience and consumers of Black culture globally.

During her tenure, Lee helmed BET’s reinvigorated approach to corporate philanthropy & authentic programming that lead to hits such as The New Edition Story, Being Mary Jane, The BET Awards, Black Girls Rock!, BET Honors and many more.

In September 2009, Lee managed the launch of Centric, a 24-hour music and entertainment network. Under her guidance, Centric was rebranded in 2014 as the first network designed for Black women. She also oversees the company’s current growth initiatives, including international distribution of the brand in Canada, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, France, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.

Prior to her being named Chairman and CEO, Lee was President and COO of BET Networks for almost 10 years, during which she guided the company to consistent increases in viewership, revenue, and earnings. She first joined BET as Vice President and General Counsel in 1986 after serving more than five years as an attorney with Steptoe & Johnson, a Washington D.C. based corporate law firm. Prior to that, she served as a law clerk to the late Honorable Barrington Parker of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Named one of The Hollywood Reporter’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Entertainment and Billboard’s Power 100, Lee’s achievements in her 30+ year career in the industry, as well as recognition as one of this country’s most respected business executives. Lee was honored with the Destinguished Leadership Vanguard Award by the National Cable & Telecommmunications Association and was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.

In February 2017, the GRAMMY Organization recognized Lee with the Salute To Industry Icons Award, on behalf of her major contributions to American music and culture. Lee is currently the first and only woman to receive the distinguished honor.

Lee is a committed philanthropist, holding a position on The Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, serving as President; is a member emeritus of the FCC’s Advisory Committee on Diversity for Communications in the Digital Age; and sits on the Board of Trustees for the American Film Institute, Brown Universirty’s Center for Slavery & Justive, The Paley Center for Media, and The USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

Additionally, she serves on the Board of Directors for former President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and in 2011 was appointed by President Obama to the White House Management Advisory Board during his tenure. Lee also currently sits on the Board of Directors for corporations like Twitter, Marriot and Washington Gas Light.

Lee earned her Juris doctorate at Harvard Law School, while simultaneously earning a master’s degree in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government. She graduated from Brown University with a bachelor’s degree in political science with an emphasis in Asian politics. In 2014 she was awarded with a Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) from Brown University.

Patricia and Sharra Shavers

PINE BLUFF, AR – In May 2018, Patricia Shavers, 50, and her daughter, Sharra Shavers, 22, will accomplish a goal that most parents and children aren’t able to experience at the same time. During the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s 158th commencement on May 12, they will both receive bachelor degrees.

According to both women, their success is the product of countless late-night study sessions at home, taking turns reviewing each other’s essays and assignments, and a pervasive, shared goal of academic success. In accomplishing their goal, they relied on mutual support and encouragement, as well as self-confidence and faith.

According to the university, Patricia, a major of human development and family studies, decided to enroll at UAPB after Sharra, a major of biology, had already started her studies. A few years later, Patricia’s youngest daughter, Shanna Shavers, a 19-year-old major of physical education, also enrolled at UAPB.

“The experience of attending college at the same time as my daughters has energized me and put the feeling of youth back in me,” Patricia said. “It has been fun to see that I can hang with them and accomplish the same things they are accomplishing. Of course, I occasionally embarrass them when I yell ‘Hey, baby!’ whenever we happen to pass each other on the way to class.”

Patricia said the decision to enroll at UAPB was based on the right circumstances, support from family and colleagues and her longtime goal to obtain a bachelor’s degree. In 2006, after earning an associate degree in early childhood education at Phillips Community College in Stuttgart, Arkansas, she started a job at a childcare facility in England, Arkansas.

“My workplace was helping me earn a bachelor’s degree, until the center was unexpectedly shut down,” she said. “At that point my motivation to continue my education had run out, and I turned my attention toward raising my children and starting a trucking business with my husband.”

In 2013, Patricia started her career at UAPB when she was hired at the Office of Career Services, and in 2014, began working for the UAPB Minority Research Center on Tobacco and Addictions. She said it was during this time that she received encouragement from Dr. Valandra Oliver, director of the center, to enroll in classes at UAPB and obtain her degree.

Thanks to the motivation, in 2015, Patricia took on the challenge of earning her degree in addition to continuing her job at UAPB, as well as jobs at two other organizations – the Community Empowerment CouncilInc. and the Jenkins Memorial Center.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Dr. Oliver,” she said. “She helped take away the doubts I had about returning to school and told me I wasn’t too old to advance in my education and career.”

The experience of obtaining her degree has been transformative, Patricia said. She has become more confident and feels ready to achieve more.

“The challenge was what I liked most about studying at UAPB,” she said. “I was able to learn more about the things I am capable of accomplishing.”

Patricia started her scholastic journey at UAPB after Sharra had completed a summer session with the Lions Program in 2014. Sharra said her decision to enroll at UAPB after graduating from England High School in England, Arkansas was an easy one.

“I’m a country girl and I like being close to home,” she said. “I always knew I wanted to attend an HBCU. UAPB was the perfect choice because of how close it is to home, its family-oriented atmosphere and the fact that several family members are UAPB alumni.”

As soon as Sharra started to get oriented at UAPB and familiarize herself with various campus services during her freshman year, university personnel started commenting on her striking resemblance to a familiar face on campus.

“People would say, ‘Hey, you look really familiar to me,’” she said. “’You look just like Mrs. Patricia in the Minority Research Center. Are you her daughter?’”

Sharra said she appreciated the instant recognition by strangers, as it was always accompanied by praise for her mother. The new acquaintances also expressed a willingness to help her have a good start to her education at UAPB and take advantage of the university’s resources.

She credits the Office of Career Services staff for treating her well and helping her secure part-time work as an emergency technician at the Jefferson Regional Medical Center (JRMC), a job she has held for over three and a half years.

“Working in the JRMC emergency room has perfectly complemented my passion for health care and has influenced my decision to eventually become a nurse,” she said. “I appreciate the small-town, close-knit atmosphere at JRMC. Everyone knows each other, and you get the feeling you are making a difference in your own community.”

Sharra has applied lessons learned from working in the emergency room to her scholastic and personal life.

“When I started working at the emergency room, everything seemed overwhelming,” she said. “The nurses taught me how to focus on the ‘big picture’ of a problem and then take things one step at a time until the problem is solved. This approach has helped me take on the challenge of completing my final semester with a course load of 20 hours.”

Completing her education and working part-time has required a lot of self-discipline, Sharra said.

“Knowing I have made my family proud through earning my degree really makes it worth all the effort,” she said. “My father keeps talking about my mom and I graduating in May. He has been really supportive and seems to be living this moment through us.”

Sharra credits her parents with giving her the motivation to succeed in all areas of her life.

“In my opinion, I have the absolute best parents in the world,” she said. “They always ensured my siblings and I had the best. My father is incredibly motivated and never stops moving forward, and my mother is a very independent woman, who acts selflessly and tries to help others.”

Patricia and Sharra said they were both grateful for the quality of support they received from UAPB faculty and staff throughout their studies.

“Dr. Janette Wheat (associate professor for the Department of Human Sciences) had a great effect on my studies,” Patricia said. “There was never a dull moment in her lectures – just listening to her teach was an incredible experience. Each lecture and assignment was engaging, and I was always eager to find out what we were going to learn about next.”

Sharra said she received constant help and guidance from her major advisors, Dr. Anissa Buckner, chair of the Department of Biology, and Dr. Sederick Rice, assistant professor of biology, as well as from Bobbie Bradley, instructor/counselor for the Department of Basic Academic Services, who advised Sharra during her freshman year.

“My professors ensured I always had a shoulder to lean on,” she said. “I knew that if I ever needed any assistance or advice, they were just a phone call away.”

After she graduates, Sharra plans to continue working at JRMC and enroll in a nursing program, with the goal of becoming a nurse.

Patricia wants to open up her own foster care center or obtain a management position at the Community Empowerment Council, which operates two shelters for foster children.

“I see myself as a noble person, and I want to use my talents to help others enhance their lives,” she said.

In the future, Patricia hopes her daughters are able to use their degrees from UAPB to pursue meaningful careers in the fields they major in.

“I hope they will be successful in whatever career they choose and that they make sure they love their work,” she said.

In light of her mother’s accomplishment of earning her degree while working three jobs, Sharra hopes her mother knows she can slow down the pace of her life if she wishes to.

“My mother has done so much for my siblings and me throughout our lives that we want her to know she can slow down a bit and that we will take care of her,” she said. “But I know she will keep going and continue to challenge herself in new ways – that’s just who she is.”

Patricia is married to Sylvester Shavers. In addition to Sharra and Shanna, they have another daughter, Sharda Edwards, and a son, Jeremy Mitchell.

BALTIMORE, MD – Morgan State University President David Wilson announced on Monday that philanthropist, community activist and renowned national radio host Tom Joyner will deliver the keynote address during the University’s 142nd Commencement. The exercises will take place on Saturday, May 19, 2018, beginning at 9:30 a.m., at Hughes Stadium on campus. In addition to addressing nearly 1,000 degree candidates, Joyner will join two other distinguished citizens in receiving an honorary degree: veteran filmmaker and former Morgan professor Stanley Nelson, and Gloria Ladson-Billings, Ph.D., a university professor emerita, and president of the National Academy of Education.

According to a press release by the university, Known to millions nationwide as “The Fly Jock,” Tom Joyner began his broadcast career in 1970 immediately after his graduation from Tuskegee Institute, an HBCU, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Joyner, a native of Tuskegee, Ala., worked his way up through radio in Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri and Texas before eventually parlaying his distinct humor and energy in urban radio to land a high-profile radio position in Chicago.

“We are very excited to have Tom Joyner, one of the biggest supporters of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their mission, join us on such an auspicious and joyful occasion,” said Dr. Wilson. “Morgan has enjoyed a longtime relationship with Mr. Joyner by way of our involvement with the Tom Joyner Foundation. Having him come to our campus as the Spring Commencement speaker adds yet another layer to that ongoing relationship.”

In 1994, entertainment powerhouse ABC Radio Networks convinced Joyner to take his captivating style of radio nationwide, thus successfully launching “The Tom Joyner Morning Show” into national syndication. Over the years, Joyner has taken his radio program to unexpected heights, using his influence to inspire and activate listeners daily while catering specifically to African-American audiences. Well-known for his dedicated philanthropy and community activism, Joyner has led successful national awareness campaign on voter registration law, family/health initiatives and equitable treatment of minorities. Never one to forget his roots, he created The Tom Joyner Foundation to help retain students in HBCUs. Since its inception, the Foundation has raised more than $60 million.

Joyner has received numerous accolades and awards during his distinguished career, among them a Radio Hall of Fame award, an NAACP Image Award, Impact Magazine’s “Joe Loris Award” for Excellence in Broadcasting and Billboard’s Best Urban Contemporary Air Personality award. Other honors include the BET Humanitarian Award, the Denny’s Community Impact Award, the Septima P. Clark Excellence in Black Education Award and Impact Magazine’s “Best DJ of the Year Award,” which was renamed “The Tom Joyner Award” because he had received it so many times.

Stanley Nelson has been acknowledged as one of the preeminent documentary filmmakers of our time. He has directed and produced more than 12 documentary features, including: “Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”; Freedom Summer, Freedom Riders”; “Joestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple”; and “The Murder of Emmett Till.” Nelson’s latest film, “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities,” which features Morgan and an interview with President Wilson, premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim. Nelson has won many major awards in broadcasting, including a Lifetime Peabody Award, a Lifetime Emmy Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Documentary Association. He is a 2014 National Humanities Medalist, multiple Emmy Award winner, MacArthur “Genius” Fellow and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Nelson, a former professor of film in Morgan’s College of Liberal Art, is also co-founder of Firelight Media, a nonprofit production company dedicated to using historical film to advance contemporary social justice causes and to mentoring, inspiring and training a new generation of diverse young filmmakers committed to advancing stories of underrepresented people.

Nearly 1,000 candidates are expected to receive bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees during the commencement ceremony. Morgan has awarded more than 50,000 academic degrees during its storied, 151-year history, propelling it to become the top-ranking university in Maryland in awarding degrees to African Americans.

HOLY SPRINGS, MS – Rust College’s 152nd Commencement will take place on Sunday, April 29, 2018. Prairie View A&M University’s President Dr. Ruth Simmons will deliver the keynote address.

According to a press release from the university, Dr. Ruth Simmons, an accomplished university president with administrative experience in Ivy schools, a women’s university and a historically black college, serves as President of Prairie View A&M University. Simmons was President of Brown University from 2001-2012. Under her leadership, Brown made significant strides in improving its standing as one of the world’s finest research universities.

A French professor before entering university administration, President Simmons held an appointment as a Professor of Africana Studies at Brown. After completing her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and literatures at Harvard, she served in various faculty and administrative roles at the University of Southern California, Princeton University, and Spelman College before she became president of Smith College, the largest women’s college in the United States. At Smith, she launched a number of important academic initiatives, including an engineering program, the first at an American women’s college. Simmons is the recipient of many honors, including a Fulbright Fellowship to France, the 2001 President’s Award from the United Negro College Fund, the 2002 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the 2004 Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, the Foreign Policy Association Medal, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the Centennial Medal from Harvard University.

Simmons is a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on the boards of Texas Instruments, Chrysler, Mondelez and Square, as well as a number of non-profit boards. Awarded numerous honorary degrees, she received the Brown Faculty’s highest honor: the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal in 2011. In 2012, she was named a ‘chevalier’ of the French Legion of Honor.

Belinda and Karea Berry, a grandmother who graduated college alongside the granddaughter she raised.
Credit: Courtesy GradImages

CHICAGO, IL – This graduation season, a grandmother and granddaughter graduated together from Chicago State University on December 14.

According to ABC 7 Chicago, Grandmother Belinda Berry, who is 62 years old, and granddaughter Karea Berry, who is 25 years old, waited nervously in the Raucous Jones Convention Center for their names to be called.

“It was never planned, we both enrolled in school, and we didn’t know we were going to finish together because I was full-time and she was part-time, and it just worked out that way,” said Karea.

Belinda was top of her class, creating some friendly competition for her granddaughter while earning her bachelors degree in business.

“I have always stressed that education is power,” said Belinda, who went back to school part-time to improve her employment prospects.

“She graduated with a 3.8 GPA and health issues during her last two semesters and so for her to come out on top even more than me is amazing, so she is my inspiration,” said Karea, who graduated with a bachelors degree in criminal justice.

Karea will start in CSU’s Masters in Mental Health Counseling Program in 2018. Belinda is also pursuing a masters in business.

“I am very honored to be a role model, and I hope that I am an inspiration to the young as well as the old, because it is never too late to pursue an education,” Belinda said.

As a predominately black institution, Chicago State University is a public, comprehensive university that provides access to higher education for students of diverse backgrounds and educational needs on the south side of Chicago. CSU celebrates 150 years of serving academic excellence as well as its sesquicentennial.

It was CSU 361st graduation ceremony, but it is the first time a grandmother and granddaughter have graduated together.

“Diversity is valuable not just for the sake of diversity, but for what it engenders for each of the students,” said Rachel Lindsey, interim president of Chicago State University.

For more information about Chicago State University, please visit

HOUSTON, TX – GRAMMY Award-winning Gospel singer, Yolanda Adams, will address graduates at Texas Southern University’s Winter Commencement on Saturday, December 16, 2017, at 9:30 p.m. in the Health and Physical Education Arena on campus.

According to a press release by the university, Adams has claimed five GRAMMY Awards and a host of Stellar, Dove and NAACP Image Awards during her 29-year career. She has earned other accolades from Billboard, BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), BET (Black Entertainment Television), as well as American Music and Soul Train Music Awards. Adams has recorded numerous Gospel Hits, including Be Blessed, Open My Heart, The Battle is the Lord’s, Hold On, Be Still, Continuous Praise, and many others.

“It is an honor and privilege to encourage our fall graduates on their special day. To graduate from a university is an undertaking that requires skill, discipline and perseverance until the desired outcome is met. I am proud to officially speak hope and positivity into their dreams,” Ms. Adams said.

Adams graduated from Texas Southern in 1984 with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism. She went on to serve as an elementary school teacher in her native Houston before starting an illustrious music career in 1988.

ELIZABETH CITY, NC – Elizabeth City State University’s 165th Fall Commencement will take place on Saturday, December 9, 2017, at 10 a.m. in the R.L. Vaughan Center. Dillard University’s president Dr. Water M. Kimbrough will deliver the keynote address.

Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough

According to a press release by the university, Dr. Kimbrough is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia, and Miami University in Miami, Ohio, Dr. Kimbrough earned a doctorate in higher education from Georgia State University. He has made his career in student affairs, serving at Emory University, Georgia State University, Old Dominion University, and Albany State University in 2000, where he became the Vice President for Student Affairs at the age of 32.

In October of 2004, at the age 37, he was named the 12th president of Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 2012 he became the 7th president of Dillard University in New Orleans.

Kimbrough has been recognized for his research and writings on HBCUs and African American men in college. He has also has been noted for his active use of social media in articles by The Chronicle of Higher Education, and in the book “Follow The Leader: Lessons in Social Media Success from Higher Ed CEOs.”

He was cited in 2010 by Bachelors as one of 25 college presidents you should follow on Twitter, by Education Dive as one of 10 college presidents on Twitter who are doing it right (@HipHopPrez), and in 2015 he was named by The Best as one of the 20 most interesting college presidents.

A 1986 initiate of the Zeta Pi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., at the University of Georgia, Dr. Kimbrough was the Alpha Phi Alpha College Brother of the Year for the Southern Region and served at the Southern Region Assistant Vice President. Dr. Kimbrough has forged a national reputation as an expert on fraternities and sororities, with specific expertise regarding historically Black, Latin and Asian groups. He is the author of the book, “Black Greek 101: The Culture, Customs and Challenges of Black Fraternities and Sororities.”

Dr. Kimbrough was named the 1994 New Professional of the Year for the Association of Fraternity Advisors. In 2009, he was named by Diverse Issues in Higher Education as one of 25 To Watch. In 2010, he made the Ebony Magazine Power 100 list of the doers and influencers in the African-American community, joining the likes of President and Mrs. Obama, Jay-Z and Tyler Perry.

In February 2013 he was named to NBC News/The’s 100 African-Americans making history today, a group which includes Kerry Washington, Mellody Hobson, and Kendrick Lamar. Dr. Kimbrough was named male HBCU President of the Year for 2014 by HBCU Digest.