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Renowned Actress Angela Bassett Gives Stellar Commencement Speech At Spelman College

No one gives a speech like multi-time award-winning actress and director Angela Bassett, who delivered the commencement speech during the 2024 Spelman College graduation exercises on Sunday afternoon in College Park. Spelman’s commencement took place inside the Georgia International Convention Center.

“Could the day be any more glorious and could you be anymore beautiful?’” She began her speech, “I think not.”

The invocation was delivered by The Reverend Dr. Neichelle Guidry, Dean of Chapel at Spelman College. During the prayer, Guidry spoke of the graduates being in this place at this time to honor God.

Following an introduction by Spelman College President Dr. Helene D. Gayle, Bassett took the stage to immense applause. Her messages to the graduating class of 2024 ranged from recounting her youth in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the empowerment and high expectations for excellence that her mother had set for her and her sisters to keeping your head high out in the world after you walk across the stage as a Spelman College graduate.

“There will be times when you may feel like the unnamed Black woman, this is especially true when you come across people in your workplace and in your community, and your own home, who may not see your full humanity and all of your glory. But it’s in those moments that I want you to remember who you are, raise your head, and embody the queen that you have been prepared to be.”

A graduate of Yale University and the school’s School of Drama, Bassett emphasized the importance of using the education received at Spelman College while pursuing their dreams.

She shared a story about being deeply moved by a play she saw during a high school trip to Washington D.C. This experience inspired her to pursue a career in acting, despite encountering some negative responses when she initially expressed her aspirations while at Yale.

“I was supposed to go to law school, or become a scientist, or a doctor,” she said.

“Anything but an artist.” During the early portions of her career she told the graduates, their families, and the Spelman faculty assembled in the room that she worked “odd jobs” in between acting auditions. The message: All of those little steps got her to where she is today.

Bassett, a wife and mother who is preparing to begin the collegiate journey with her children, referred to Spelman College as “the Mecca of Black excellence and Black womanhood.” She even took a moment to compare it to a fictional country from one of the more popular movies she starred in.

“Spelman College is the higher education equivalent of Wakanda,” Bassett said to thundering applause. “This special place has prepared you for greatness” and “When the world tells you to be quiet, speak up.”

She closed her time on stage with, “Your tomorrow starts today.”

Actress and director Angela Bassett (not shown) and Supreme Court Justice Dr. Kentaji Brown Jackson (center) were awarded honorary degrees during the commencement exercises on Sunday, May 19, 2024. Photo by Julia Beverly/The Atlanta Voice

Angela Bassett and Supreme Court Justice Dr. Kentaji Brown Jackson were awarded honorary degrees.

Bassett received a Doctor of Fine Arts degree and Brown Jackson received Doctor of Laws. WABE personality and the host of “Closer Look” Rose Scott was also honored. She was awarded the National Community Service Award which is given by the Spelman College Board of Trustees.

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