Due to the response efforts for COVID-19, academic institutions around the country, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been forced to cancel or postpone graduation ceremonies. In an effort to celebrate the achievements of more than 27,000 HBCU graduates, Black leaders and 78 HBCUs are joining forces virtually for the “Show Me Your Walk HBCU Edition” commencement event presented by Chase on May 16 at 2:00 pm ET. The event will be live-streamed on Chase’s YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn channels, as well as HBCU Connect’s Facebook page and Essence Studios.
"Congratulations to our Benedict College Class of 2020-the graduating class that commemorates the 150th year founding of this great institution!" states Dr. Roslyn Clarke Artis, President and CEO of Benedict College. " The opportunity to jointly recognize all of the nation's HBCU graduates is a unique and unexpected blessing. While we are still planning for our Benedict College commencement ceremony in August, this is an additional chance to celebrate The BEST of BC!."
President Barack Obama will share a special message during the event. Hosted by Kevin Hart, guest appearances for the 2-hour event will include Steve Harvey, Chase Consumer Banking CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett, Ariel Investments Co-CEO and President Mellody Hobson, National Urban League president, Marc Morial, and academic leaders from participating HBCUs. Other participants include 10-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul, 8-time NBA All-Star Vince Carter, Debbie Allen and Vivica Fox.
"We have taught our students to be willing to embrace wonder, to experience unexpected discovery, and to go in unknown directions," noted Dr. Janeen Witty, Vice President of Academic Affairs for Benedict College. "I am so proud of how our graduates have already shown their resilience, flexibility, and ability to rise above the challenges of a global pandemic and to graduate as the BEST of BC!"
The virtual commencement will also include performances by Anthony Hamilton, Wyclef Jean, Omari Hardwick and other musical guests—as well as a drumline mash-up featuring Doug E. Fresh.
During the event, HBCUs will showcase and highlight past and current graduates, including Class of 2020 students from Benedict College, Howard University, Delaware State, Paul Quinn College, and Florida Memorial College. More information is available on chase.com/hbcustudent, including a list of participating schools.
“Every student graduating in the Class of 2020 deserves to celebrate this moment—they earned it, even more so during a challenging year for our country and the world. We are showing up for them because we recognize they are our now and our future, and the way forward is full of opportunity,” said Duckett.
The idea for hosting a virtual commencement ceremony for HBCU students was conceived by Dr. Michael Sorrell, President of Paul Quinn College (PQC) and member of the ABP Advisory Council. Additional organizers for the event include Howard University, The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and the National Basketball Association (NBA.) Essence is supporting the event as a livestreaming partner.
“As a result of COVID-19, our students have been robbed of a moment that they and their families have earned,” Sorrell said. “I am so grateful that this coalition of partners stepped up to answer the call of the HBCU community and stand in the gap for our students and their families.”
JPMorgan Chase is supporting “Show Me Your Walk HBCU Edition” through its Advancing Black Pathways (ABP) initiative, created to help black communities close historical achievement gaps in three key areas: wealth creation, educational outcomes and career success. Support for HBCUs is a core focus for JPMorgan Chase because of the vital role they continue to play in helping African Americans forge pathways to long-term success. The first HBCUs were founded before the Civil War, and these institutions educated generations of African Americans during a period when other colleges and universities would not.
Today, HBCUs produce 70% of African American doctors and dentists1, 50% of black lawyers and 80% of black judges.2 HBCU graduates can also expect work-life earnings of $130 billion—an additional $927,000 per graduate, 56 percent more than they could expect to earn without their HBCU degrees or certificates, according to UNCF.
“Historically Black Colleges and Universities remain a critical resource in educating our young people and putting them on a path to lasting and rewarding careers,” said Sekou Kaalund, the Head of ABP. “Here at JPMorgan Chase, we are firmly committed to supporting HBCUs and helping them continue a tradition of excellence that has helped generations of black people achieve academic and professional success.”