This Diploma is not a reward. Nor is it an award.
It is a promise to myself and a responsibility to humanity.
Never take for granted the power and privilege of an education.
With great power comes great responsibility. To myself. To my community. To my nations. To my people. To Africans. To Blacks. To Women. To humanity. To the world.
I’m lucky enough to come from a pretty educated family (my dad had a PhD and my mom has a masters). Going to college was never a question for me – it was just a matter of where and what. I realize – even when I was applying to schools – what a privileged mindset that is.
I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the myriad of people who paved the way for me. From Rosa Parks and Mandela, to my ancestors and parents, to my teachers and mentors. Who am I to keep that investment to myself?
In addition, I am acutely aware of how lucky I am to have been born into my circumstances and afforded the opportunities I have. When I was in Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal, I saw the many women selling peanuts or other trinkets on the side of the road with their children around them. In them I saw my mother. I saw my siblings and I saw myself. ‘That could have been us,’ I think. When I see older Black men homeless on the streets of DC or New York, I think, that could have been my father. I know there is a lot of stigma around giving money to people on the street, but when I see an older Black man is when I’m most likely to give money. Not that I do it all the time, but I do it when I can and especially when something good just happened to me.
But more than just these little instances of giving back, it’s important for me to work towards a world where the circumstances you are born into do not dictate what you can and cannot do with your life. Not the fact that you’re a woman. Not the fact that you’re Black. Not the fact that you’re African. Not the fact that you’re an immigrant.
This desire pushes me to always do my best and strive to make the world a better place than how I found it. And most of all, I want to inspire others to do the same.
And all of that is possible through education. Formal education for all children of the world. But also educating those who hold the power and fail to acknowledge the privilege of their circumstances.
No one is discounting hard work – I know the sacrifices and sweat my parents put into raising us, but it then just made it all the easier for me to focus and work hard on my own studies. And my grandparents before them instilled valuable lessons and put my parents through their primary and secondary education. I’d be kidding myself if I said I achieved this diploma only through my own sweat and hard work. No, this diploma belongs to all the people who came before me and all those that will come after.
To all the civil rights advocates. To all my ancestors. To my mentors and teachers. To all Blacks. To all women. To all Black women. We did it. We’re doing it. Here is to a brighter future for all.