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Commencement Speaker – Erika Alexander
Actor. Activist. Creator.
Bennett College is pleased to announce that ERIKA ALEXANDER, actor, activist, and creator, will be the Commencement Ceremony speaker for the graduating Class of 2023. The Commencement Ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 13, 2023, at 11:00 am on the campus quadrangle. Faculty, staff, trustees, family, and friends will gather on the lawn in front of the iconic Annie Merner Pfeiffer Chapel to witness young women stepping confidently into their roles as global leaders.
Erika is beloved for her iconic acting roles as Maxine Shaw (Living Single; garnering two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actress/Comedy Series), “Linda Diggs” (Wutang: An American Saga), “Barb Ballard” (Run The World; nominated for NAACP Best Guest Actor), and most recently as “Meredith Lockhart” in (Swimming with Sharks), the critically acclaimed Apple+ series starring Elisabeth Moss.
Erika wears many hats; actress, trailblazing activist, entrepreneur, creator, producer and director — and is one of the country’s boldest, most daring, and powerful voices. As a creator, she recognizes the power of storytelling and believes that though content must be entertaining, stories have tremendous capacity to create impact and meaningful social change. As co-founder of Color Farm Media, with partner Ben Arnon, she is on a mission to bring greater equity, inclusion, and diverse representation to both media and electoral politics.
A critical thought leader on racial and gender equity and leadership, she serves as a board member for One Fair Wage and is highly involved with social and racial justice orgs; The Poor People’s Campaign, Color of Change, NAACP, UNCF and others.
She is also creator/writer/producer of 2022 Audible Original’s Best True Crime Series, and duPont Columbia award winner, “FINDING TAMIKA”, and producer of three time, EMMY nominated Best Documentary and winner NAACP Best Documentary, “JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE”.
Erika has boldly stepped into the arena of film director, with her debut film, “THE BIG PAYBACK”, co-directed with Whitney Dow. The film debuted at Tribeca Festival and premieres on PBS January 16, 2023 MLK Jr. Day. The documentary chronicles the story of the first reparations bill in American history for African Americans.
Other entertainment credits include: Shining Girls as “Abby Keegan.” Upcoming projects for Alexander include the independent films WILDFLOWER (Toronto Film Festival, starring alongside Jean Smart, Kiernan Shipka and Alexadra Daddario), “EARTH MAMA” (Sundance 2023) for A24, and T-Street / MRC’s “THE UNTITLED NOVELIST” project, directed by Cord Jefferson; with Jeffrey Wright, Tracy Ross, Sterling K. Williams and Issa Rae.
Baccalaureate Convocation Address – Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II
Bennett College welcomes The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II to deliver the Baccalaureate Convocation address for the class of 2023. Dr. Barber is a highly respected leader, social justice advocate, and scholar, and his work has had a profound impact on communities across the United States.
The Baccalaureate Convocation will take place on May 12, 2023, at 6:00 p.m., in the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Chapel on campus. The ceremony is open to the public.
As President and Senior Lecturer of Repairers of the Breach and Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival, Dr. Barber is a leading voice for moral activism and public policy. He has been recognized with numerous awards for his tireless work promoting social justice and equality.
Dr. Barber’s address promises to inspire, challenge, and empower the graduating class of Bennett College to lead with purpose, integrity, and a strong sense of self-worth. Through his leadership, Dr. Barber has demonstrated the transformative power of activism and the importance of standing up for what is right. His message will resonate with the mission of Bennett College and the values that the institution instills in its graduates.
Dr.Barber is also Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival, Bishop with The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, Pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Goldsboro, NC, for the past 29 years, and Professor in the Practice of Public Theology and Public Policy and Founding Director of the Center for Public Theology and Public Policy at Yale Divinity School.
He is the author of four books: We Are Called To Be A Movement; Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing; The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and The Rise of a New Justice Movement; and Forward Together: A Moral Message For The Nation.
Dr. Barber served as president of the North Carolina NAACP from 2006-2017 and on the National NAACP Board of Directors from 2008-2020. He is the architect of the Forward Together Moral Movement that gained national acclaim in 2013 with its Moral Monday protests at the North Carolina General Assembly. In 2015, he established Repairers of the Breach to train communities in moral movement building through the Moral Political Organizing Leadership Institute and Summit Trainings (MPOLIS). In 2018, he co-anchored the relaunch of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival— reviving the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign organized by SCLS, under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., worker’s rights movement, women’s rights movement, religious leaders, and people of all races to fight poverty in the U.S.
A highly sought-after speaker, Rev. Dr. Barber has given keynote addresses at hundreds of national and state conferences, including the 2016 Democratic National Convention, the homily at the 59th Inaugural Prayer Service for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the Vatican at Pope Francis’s encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home” and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. In June 2018, he addressed the 5th Uni Global Union World Congress to more than 25 countries.
Dr. Barber is regularly featured in media outlets such as MSNBC, CNN, the New York Times, Washington Post, and The Nation magazine. He was named one of 2020’s BET 100 Entertainers and Innovators and one of the 2019 recipients of the North Carolina Award, the state’s highest civilian honor. He is a 2018 MacArthur Foundation Genius Award recipient and a 2015 recipient of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award
and the Puffin Award.
Dr. Barber has had twelve honorary degrees conferred upon him. He earned a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina Central University, a Master of Divinity from Duke University, and a Doctorate from Drew University with a concentration in Public Policy and Pastoral Care.
Baccalaureate Convocation & Commencement Ceremony
Baccalaureate – Friday, May 12, 2023 at 6:00 p.m. EST
Commencement – Saturday, May 13, 2023 at 11:00 a.m. EST
In case of rain, the 2023 Commencement Ceremony will be moved indoors to the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Chapel on campus. Tickets will be required. Each graduating senior will be issued tickets that they distribute to their guests. Due to capacity limitations inside the Chapel, only those guests with tickets will be admitted. Live Streaming will be available at www.Bennett.edu/LIVE. The link is also above on this page or via the Watch Live link on the homepage.