Education

Queen Latifah Delivers Keynote to Rutgers Newark Graduates

ab895048fe967743d336_RutgersLatifah-2.jpg
Newark Native Queen Latifah was the keynote speaker at Rutgers University—Newark graduation. Credits: Rutgers University
f3b64cb1d7893cdfda76_RutgersLatifah-1.jpg
Newark Native Queen Latifah was the keynote speaker at Rutgers University—Newark graduation. Credits: Rutgers University
72536c33292cce3f3ac3_RutgersLatifah-3.jpg
Newark Native Queen Latifah, with Mayor Ras Baraka, Rutgers—Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor and President Robert L. Barchi and others at the Rutgers University—Newark graduation. Credits: Rutgers University
61dc279a848d0dbaaef1_RutgersLatifah-4.jpg
Rutgers University—Newark graduation ceremony at the Prudential Center in Newark. Credits: Rutgers University
ab895048fe967743d336_RutgersLatifah-2.jpg

Newark, NJ—Queen Latifah returned to her hometown of Newark Monday to deliver the keynote address at Rutgers University—Newark, where she stressed the importance of diversity, remembering where you come from and civic responsibility.

At the commencement, where 2,977 students received degrees, Latifah was presented with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree not only for her contributions as a performer but also for her efforts and a humanitarian and philanthropist.

“It is patently evident she is a woman who hasn’t forgotten where she came from,” said Executive Vice Chancellor Sherri-Ann Butterfield as she awarded the degree and announced Latifah.  

Sign Up for E-News

Latifah was honored for being considered one of hip-hop’s pioneering feminists, for starting a scholarship for low-income youth and working to mitigate home foreclosures in disadvantaged neighborhoods, for advocating for “Let Girls Learn” and for working with and several other charities.  

“I’m touched that you asked me to be your commencement speaker. And what a class you are and what a university this is,” said the hip-hop icon, actress, singer, songwriter, producer, entrepreneur and philanthropist. “Black, brown, Asian, Caucasian, immigrants, the children of immigrants, be proud that 18 years running U.S. News and World Report has rated Rutgers Newark as the most diverse university in the United States.”

Latifah said that though her home sometimes gets a bad rap that today’s Newark is stirring again and that the city’s greatest export has always been and continues to be the people.

“You are the testament to a powerful and enduring truth,” said Latifah. “When we value diversity, when we share individual gifts, our individual stories, we create the mosaic that is America at its very finest, at it’s very best.”

She encouraged the graduates to learn to make their own kind of music and to carry the lessons they learned at home with them.

“I’m coming home. I’m a Jersey girl born and bred," said Latifah. “Born right here in Newark. I could not be more proud to be one of Newark’s own today. This is home. Home with its grit and graffiti and greatness. The streets and steel and strength. These boulevards, these bricks and this brilliance. Home is the fire that fuels our creative collective spirit.”

Latifah told the Rutgers graduates that a responsibility to Rutgers and to their homes to contribute to the world they live in.

“Never forget where you came from,” said Latifah. “Home is what shapes you, but you have a responsibility to your home too. Be a citizen. Get involved. Give back. Pay it forward. Take a chance on that next kid who comes along the way the way somebody took a chance on you. The way somebody took a chance on me. Share your time. Be a mentor.”

Rutgers Chancellor Nancy Cantor addressed the graduates and their families and friends, by thanking them for spreading sunlight at the university and welcoming them to shine that light on the world. Cantor spoke of one student who was wrongfully accused of a crime and then went on the earn his degree. She also highlighted several important projects Rutgers students worked on to make Newark and even other countries better than they were before.

“Life keeps us busy recreating ourselves,” said Cantor, referring to one student’s project. “Think about it. How many phases have you been through in life? We think we’re made, done, shaped, finished. We’ll have more ridiculous former selves to laugh at.”

A common thread existed in the speeches – the importance for embracing diversity and acting a positive for inclusion and equity.

Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka spoke to the Rutgers Newark class and said he wished he could show President Trump the diversity and beauty filling the Prudential Center on Lafayette St Monday.

“Let him know that this is what America looks like. So beautiful,” said Baraka, adding this importance of diversity and students fighting against injustices such as racism. “The world is waiting for you. In fact, the world needs you. We need you to be courageous.”

Robert L. Barchi, president of the university, referenced Charles Dickens and said students witnessed the best of times and the worst of times because they witnessed both great social change and intolerance and cynicism.

“We are confident that Rutgers—Newark has prepared you well,” said Barchi. “You’ve learned that success comes from looking at the world with an open mind. Do not accept the status quo.”

Student speaker Adebimpe Elegbeleye who served as student council president encouraged her fellow graduates to be brave.

“It is okay to fail but it is not okay to let that failure define you,” said Elegbeleye. “No one is more deserving than you. So, dominate.”

Shiela Zegarra, another graduating student speaker who came to the U.S. at the age of 4 and identified as a DREAMer, explained her journey of self-discovery of struggling with her political identity and whether she was American.

“As the years went by the question what makes you American hit me in the face over and over again. By my peers, by strangers who spat at it and by myself,” said Zegarra. “Although I used to fight my own quiet war, one day I dared to ask back define American. Since then I have realized there’s a lot of power in not settling for injustice in your own backyard. There’s a lot of power as you see that there’s a very thin veil separating us as being treated as equals.

“People will ask you to explain yourself for that which you cannot help. Your background, your skin color, your sexual orientation, your gender, your religion and you owe them nothing but a revolution. A revolution in the way that we see and interact with each other,” Zegarra said, to cheers from the audience.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Montclair

Original Pancake House of West Caldwell Evacuated in Possible Pepper Spray Incident

May 20, 2018

WEST CALDWELL, NJ — The Original Pancake House in West Caldwell was evacuated early Saturday afternoon due to a possible pepper spray incident that caused ambulances from the West Essex, Verona and Bloomfield First Aid Squads to assist at the scene.

Bianca Pietro, a West Orange mother of two, said she was seated inside the glass atrium on the south side of the building that faces ...

The Meadowlands' Jeff Gural To Talk Sports Betting On May 18 Broadcast

May 18, 2018

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Meadowlands chairman Jeff Gural will talk about what lies ahead for Garden State bettors Friday night, May 18 as the Big M prepares to take action on professional and college sports in the coming weeks.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with New Jersey and ruled that sports betting is now legal across the country.

Gural will be interviewed by ...

Upcoming Events

Sun, May 20, 1:30 PM

Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown

New Jersey Ballet's Cinderella

Arts & Entertainment

Sun, May 20, 4:30 PM

Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown

New Jersey Ballet's Cinderella

Arts & Entertainment

Mon, May 21, 7:00 PM

Hospital Auditorium, Glen Ridge

Tour of the Birthing Center

Health & Wellness

Letter to the Editor: Gum Litter and what YOU can do about it

May 16, 2018

Gum is non-biodegradable, meaning it doesn't’t break down ever….

Today, the unlikely problem surfaces. The average person chews 275 sticks of gum per year. With the amount of people in daily society, it’s no mystery why chewing gum is the second most littered item after cigarette butts.  Did you know that gum is banned in Singapore?

In addition to littering human ...

Montclair Police Blotter: Montclair Business Burglarized, Arrests and More

May 17, 2018

MONTCLAIR, NJ - The following blotter was released by the Montclair Police Department on May 15, 2018:

Arrest:

05-11-2018 (Orange Road) Mr. Tyrone Davis, 44yoa from Newark, was arrested and charged with DWI.
05-14-2018 (Grove Street) Ms. Sabrina McSwain, 21yoa from Bloomfield, was arrested on an open
warrant out of Glen Ridge ($250)

Burglary/Theft:

05-09-2018 (Union Street) ...

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Sustains Timeless Appeal

SUMMIT, NJ – The Summit Playhouse provides a stellar production of a much loved classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The Harper Lee novel, later a Gregory Peck film and now a stage production, retains all the warmth, intensity and integrity that made it such an appealing hit in the 1960s. And there will be a new production on Broadway in December with a script by Aaron Sorkin ...

'The Sting' with Harry Connick Jr. Slithers and Shakes at Paper Mill

MILLBURN, NJ – In a premiere production of “The Sting,” Harry Connick Jr. commands the Paper Mill Playhouse stage.

Based on the sensational Paul Newman/Robert Redford film in 1973, the 1930s plot centers on a con game and gambling, sometimes on a train between New York and Chicago.  Scott Joplin’s music is intertwined with the show, especially “The ...

Community Movement Project: Montclair's Pay-What-You-Can Movement Program for Adults + Kids

May 20, 2018

The Moving Architects and Central Presbyterian Church in Montclair are partnering together to offer the Community Movement Project, a 4-Week pay-what-you-can movement program for kids and adults, beginning May 14.  Classes offered include Pilates/Barre Blend classes for Adults with free childcare available, and Creative Movement Classes for kids ages 3-9.  All ...