again, I am sharing my annual graduation speech in hopes that it will
help African people in America understand the real meaning of these
rites of passage for thousands of our young people who will be
participating in commencement exercises, affirming their graduation
from elementary, middle school, high school, and college in the next
Your life has just begun today, brothers and sisters. This is probably
one of the most important days in your life as you make this
transition, this rite of passage, in moving toward another stage in
your development as young Africans in America.
I’d like to congratulate your teachers, parents, guardians, and
extended family members who are with you today and who have supported
you in reaching this critical stage of your life at this critical hour
I want to have a brief but serious talk with you today, brothers and
sisters. It has been predicted that within the 21st century, if current
trends continue, 70% of African men in America between the ages of 16
and 28 will be either in jail or addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.
Increasingly, this same trend is occurring with African females in
America. One of the purposes of our educational pursuits is to turn
this devastating trend around.
What does all this mean today as you graduate
from this educational institution that professes to be dedicated to the
academic and cultural development of young people like you? As young
Black people, or Africans in America, about to enter a new stage in
life, let me define what being Black and African really means.
First, it is color - your African ancestry.
Second, it is culture: practicing a lifestyle that recognizes the
importance of our African and African in American heritage and
traditions. I am speaking of an African culture that is geared to the
values that will facilitate the present and future development of our
Third, it is consciousness. We should always be conscious of our
strength, beauty, and potential as African people. In this connection,
we should always interpret all situations from the standpoint of the
greatest good for the greatest number of Africans in the world. This is
called the African principle.
Fourth and finally, Black or being African means commitment. It means a
willingness to work tirelessly in the interests of African people and
all oppressed humanity.
So it is, today, that I am challenging you to continue on the path of
becoming independent African people who are not dependent on others
outside our communities for the things we can do for ourselves.
I am challenging you, as you make this rite of passage, to prepare
yourselves to become committed to the struggle for the just and common
cause for the liberation and redemption of African people worldwide.
This dedication to the common cause goes beyond the resources of one
generation. It means we must always learn from previous generations. We
must always learn from the wisdom of our ancestors, using this
knowledge as a way of seeking and struggling for a better way of life
for African people, based on goals and objectives in our own best
In other words, we must stop killing each
other over bruised egos, over material items and drugs that other
people manufacture and bring into our communities. We must stop the
We must seek to prepare the generations to come to develop the skills
and resources for making our ultimate freedom and liberation a reality.
As Malcolm X always said, “education is the passport to freedom.”
As the late, renowned, African in American educator, psychologist, and historian, Dr. Asa G. Hilliard, III writes in SBA: The Reawakening of the African Mind,
“We Africans… have not viewed our problems holistically. After years of
living under conditions of extreme oppression, we have settled for
limited definitions of our problem.”
Dr. Hilliard explains; “A classic example may be taken from the period
of the Civil Rights Movement. The evil and gross injustice of slavery
and segregation violated the civil rights of African people and had to
be addressed. However, the necessary task of fighting for civil rights
was insufficient to allow for the healing of a people. Our healing
requires a greater conceptual frame than that provided by civil rights.”
Dr. Hilliard continues with this insight: “First we must see ourselves
as an African people, or we will be unable to develop this critical
frame. Second, we must understand not only the role that white
supremacy has played in our subjugation, but also the role that we
ourselves have played by not practicing self determination in our
struggle to counter the MAAFA (this is a KiSwahili term that means
disaster or as Marimba Ani has conceptualized it to mean the African
holocaust of Eurasian enslavement / colonialism).”
Remember parents, teachers, and students - as our esteemed ancestor Dr.
John Henrik Clarke repeatedly warned, “Powerful people never teach
powerless people how to take power from them. Education is one of the
most sensitive arenas in the life of a people. Its role is to be honest
and true and to tell people where they have been and what they are.”
Most importantly, Dr. Clarke points out that the role of education and
history is to “tell a people where they still must go.”
This is a great day for you who have make this step in your rite of
passage and transition. We congratulate you in the name of all of our
ancestors and send you forward to the next stage of your development in
the cycle of life.
A Luta Continua - the struggle continues and we will conquer without a doubt. Hotep (peace)!