20l3 Student Commencement Speaker – Ms. Dominic Green
Friends, family, and colleagues, it is with great pleasure and gratitude that I extend my congratulations to the class of 2013 graduates! I am so grateful to a woman that put eternal fear in my heart academically for this opportunity to stand before you. Thank you, Dr. Sutherland, and a tremendous thanks to the faculty and staff of the Department of Africana Studies for challenging us, motivating us, feeding us, and letting us sleep in the graduate lounge during midterms and finals. Particular thanks to Dr. Leonard A. Slade Jr. with whom I have connected with personally as a mentor and friend. A special mention goes to Dr. Joseph Bowman, with whom I had the delight to work with through the Center for Urban Youth and Technology before he passed in April. As a student, Dr. Bowman, alongside the Black Student Alliance, rallied SUNY’s Administration in order to create the Department of Afro-American Studies in 1969. He, as well as many of you, have dedicated your life’s work to the advancement of those who are unfairly disadvantaged, and for that we admire you.
Thank you to the loved ones who have labored for us and supported us through a trying time; we hope you will share in the reward as you watch your family members begin graduate school, start a career, begin a family, or grow a business. I thank my own mother, Minister Felecia Foster, who is my role model, my accountability partner, my confidante, the person I occasionally borrow money from, and now that I’m older, I can call her my friend. I also honor Attorney Dona Bulluck for opening her home to my son Hudson and me, for being a wonderful grandmother and accepting any babysitting opportunities that were placed before her, so that I could focus on finishing graduate school. It is with immense pride that we celebrate the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another on this day.
When I began to write this speech, I wondered why me? What was I going to say, and I thought about the very first time I saw an eagle. I was in my sophomore year in college at the University of Houston. I lived on the 15th floor of my dormitory, in a great room with floor to ceiling windows. At night I could see the city come alive with lights and I loved it. One particular day, I walked in to see an eagle, very regal, perched on the ledge outside my window. This great bird was doing what it was designed to do. The eagle’s eyesight is astonishing, its’ vision is five times sharper than a human’s. The eagle will fly great distances just to find food worthy enough to eat. With a wingspan of seven to eight feet the eagle is often called the master of soaring!
I challenge each one of you to become a master of soaring, be fearless, don’t worry about what anybody else thinks of you, and do what you have been specifically designed to do!
New York Times best-selling author, Barbara Sher wrote a book entitled, Refuse to Choose!, in which she states, “You are the owner of a remarkable, multitalented brain trying to do its work in a world that doesn’t understand who you are and doesn’t know why you behave as you do. And unless you know who you are, you’re going to agree with them!” Today, friends, marks the day where you begin a new way of looking at yourself as being purposefully and unapologetically designed to make a change.
As a graduate of The Department of Africana Studies at some point in your career you will be asked, “Africana studies, what can you do with that degree?” I must be frank in saying that at first I could not answer that question. In fact, at 27 years of age, now working full-time in Higher Education advising students, my friends, I am no surer of what I want to do now than when I began. Thirteen years of grade school, plus an additional four more years of college equaled no real education of our rich ancestry, it wasn’t until I enrolled in the Department of Africana Studies that I knew what it truly means to be Black in America, what a Diaspora is, or what issues are plaguing minorities across the world.
I can tell you what this Department did for me: It allowed me to see the world from a point of view that embraces Africanity, feministic tendencies, and a burning desire to question everything around me. It wasn’t until I entered this Department that I ever thought I was talented or intellectual enough to pursue a PhD, and being the first in my family to graduate with a degree (as some of you can relate), not everyone was on board with my decision to continue with my education. And it was through this Department that I earned my Master’s degree, and I am now soaring to greater academic and professional heights, as I am convinced many of you plan to also do.
As you go from SUNY Albany today, be confident in the irrefutable fact that there is no one like you. There is no one person who possesses the same concoction of talents that you do. There is no one who will impact this community, or this world the same way that you will, you just have to seize the opportunity and do it! Do not let the naysayers, the haters, or your own crippling fear dictate your actions. If no one else will support you, you get up in the morning and look in the mirror and tell yourself, “I can do it and I know it, and I’ve got what it takes.” As Erykah Badu soulfully sings,
“Time to save the world
Where in the world is all the time
So many things I still don`t know
So many times I`ve changed my mind
Guess I was born to make mistakes
But I ain`t scared to take the weight
So when I stumble off the path
I know my heart will guide me back”
Class of 2013, Congratulations! Now, Soar to great academic and professional heights! Best Wishes!!
Photo gallery of 2013 Africana Department Graduation
Keynote Address by the Governor General Hall of Jamaica at UAlbany
* Assistant Professor of African-American Studies at SUNYA from 1969-72.
Mr. Gilliam developed and taught courses in Civil Rights/Constitutional Law, and Political/Economic Development.
Ahati N. N. Toure. Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Africana History and Black Studies, Department of History, Political Science and Philosophy, Delaware State University Alumnus Speaker at The Department of Africana Studies' 40th Anniversary Dinner/ Dance Gala held on Saturday, September 26, 2009