By Deborah Bailey,
AFRO DC News Editor
Generations of Howard’s fine arts community demonstrated how the torch has passed to the famed HBCU, both on the podium and in the audience at Howard University’s 154th launch celebrated on May 7.
Taraji P. Henson, Howard University alumnus, Oscar-winning actress, producer and director, has returned to the familiar surroundings of Georgia Ave. to deliver the opening address to the shouts and cheers of the audience.
“Do you all know the saying that you don’t look like what you’ve been through? Henson began his speech in front of his Howard University audience.
“You triumphed over circumstances that would have eliminated lower beings, but you’re still here,” said Henson, who has also been outspoken about erasing the stigma around mental health in the black community. Henson is the founder of the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in 2018 in honor of her father who suffered from mental health issues without receiving services or support.
Shortly before Henson’s address to the graduates, the president of Howard University, xc, awarded Henson an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
“The breadth of your roles is extraordinary,” Frederick said of introducing Henson to his alma mater. He then listed the many roles Henson played in, each, before a screaming audience of receptive students.
“Let it be the infamous Cookie, the lion of the Empire; Catherine Johnson in Hidden Figures; Civil rights activist Anne Atwater in The Best of Enemies; Queenie in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, for which you received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress… Detective Carter in Person of Interest; Shug in Hustle and Flow; Sherry Parker in Karate Kid or Yvette in John Singleton’s Baby Boy, you…bring new life to your Swahili first and middle names, hope and love,” Frederick boasted.
Henson spoke of the special bond Howard students had when she was at school at “Hilltop”, the nickname many students and alumni have for the institution and revealed how generations of the fine arts of the University come together to help each other.
“You know that I became a mom at Howard. When I was six months pregnant… two Howard godmothers, Dean Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen who helped me stay in school,” Henson said of the scholarship she was awarded created by Rashad and Allen in honor of their father.
“I would not have graduated without their support. So Howard Bisons, we need each other. Henson reminded graduates.
However, Henson wasn’t the only black media celebrity to attend the May 7 graduation at Howard University’s gymnasium.
Rashad was on hand at the end of her first year as Dean to introduce the graduates under her care.
“I present to you the first class of graduates from Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts,” she beamed. The College of Fine Arts has changed its name to honor the Oscar-nominated actor and Howard University alumnus following his death from colon cancer in August 2020.
Another torch passed once more as “Black-ish” TV actor Anthony Anderson received the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Anderson first dated Howard decades ago and dropped out for financial reasons. Anderson re-enrolled in 2018 and credits his 22-year-old son, Nathan, who encouraged him to finish.
“To quote Biggie, ‘IT WAS ALL A DREAM!'” Anderson posted on Instagram regarding graduating from Howard University.
“Words can’t begin to describe the emotional roller coaster I’m on right now. It’s literally been 30 years in the making,” he wrote.
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