BTR Graduate Shevonne Commock delivered a powerful speech during June 25th’s commencement ceremony, where she and 17 other residents walked the virtual stage! You can read her speech in its entirety below.
I am humbled and deeply honored to have been chosen by you – my fellow residents, friends, and collaborators in this work of social transformation – as one of the graduation speakers. Thank you for giving me this platform to culminate a year, which for all of us has manifested in an unprecedented form. This foreign landscape is accented by a virus that has decimated many communities across this country (especially those populated by black and brown folks), corroded the comfort that characterized some of our lives, and awakened a torpid nation to the unresolved contradiction in its founding ethos: equality.
For some, this reality feels surreal, for others, like me, it is undergirded by the same institutions that are the architects of oppression.
Today, we are inducted into one of those institutions: the Boston Public School System. Today, we inherit the legacy of segregation, miseducation, over policing, and institutionalized racism that characterize this system. As heirs of this legacy, we are no longer afforded the comfort of detached objectivity. We are no longer passive bystanders privileged to reflect on the inequalities and inequities we witness in the safe spaces of academia. Action is now the weapon we must wield.,
As seekers of truth and justice, we are compelled to action.
For my white colleagues, that action is the rejection of inaction. Silence is no longer a salve for your discomfort. Silence is a guttural articulation of privilege; it is an abdication of your obligation (for those of you who identify as allies) to use your power to dismantle the suffocating mechanism of white-supremacy that permeates every institution in our democracy, running deep like an undercurrent. Now is the time to speak up and to speak out, to denounce, to repudiate.
For my black colleagues, we can no longer teach our children how to survive in a society that is hostile to their existence. Survival is NOT living. We must empower our children to light up the world with the unadulterated luminosity of their brilliance, ferocity, and resiliency. We must cultivate their joy and love of life, not their fear of death.
It is with the aligned vision of creating a more just and equitable world that we begin this work together, that we build a society in which your zip code or your skin color (or any other marker of identity) doesn’t preclude you from a life of safety, dignity, and opportunity. We are the architects, the visionaries, and the change makers charged with deconstructing a dilapidated educational system that is too effective at demarcating and re-inscribing racial lines.
“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” In the immortal words of Tupac Shakur, we may not change the world in our lifetime, but I guarantee you we will spark the brain that will.”
Congratulations to each and everyone of you. You have left an indelible mark on me, and I am eternally grateful to you for your generosity of wisdom and spirit, your empathetic ear, your dedication to radically transforming the educational landscape, and the relentless ways in which you have loved and supported your students this year. This is not where our journey together ends; it is where it begins.
Now let’s go to work!”