“Sisters, You Ought to Help Somebody.” That, along with his “ABCs for life,” was the powerful message delivered during the 2023 Baccalaureate Convocation by Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, President and Senior Lecturer of Repairers of the Breach and Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival. Reverend Dr. Barber spoke to Bennett College graduating seniors during the 2023 Baccalaureate Convocation held May 12 in Annie Merner Pfeiffer Chapel on the campus. The event, presided over by President Suzanne Elise Walsh, JD, brought together faculty, staff, students, family, friends, and special guests: Commencement Speaker Erika Alexander, her mother and niece, Ben Arnon cofounder (with Erika) of Color Farm Media, Theomusicologist Yara Allen and Bennett College Trustees Cassandra Jones Havard, JD and Chair Sen. Gladys Ashe Robinson, PhD ’71, to celebrate and encourage the Class of 2023.
In his message, Reverend Dr. Barber said, “Since Bennett saved you, since you got this degree. You just ought to help somebody.” He added, “Because every generation needs agents of change who will serve humanity. Every generation needs people who say, with my education, I can be trusted to make a difference. We need Bennett Belles and HBCU graduates, who with degree in hand, will say my life is not going to be selfish and stingy; my life is going to make a difference.”
Reverend Dr. Barber’s connection to Bennett College was highlighted through the mention of his daughter, Sharrelle Barber, ScD, MPH ’07. Dr. Barber is Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Director of The Ubuntu Center on Racism, Global Movements, and Population Health Equity, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Urban Health Collaborative at Drexel University. Dr. Barber received her undergraduate degree from Bennett College, a master Public Health from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, PhD from Harvard. She is a social epidemiologist and scholar activist whose research focuses on the intersection of race, place and health.
The Baccalaureate Convocation served as a poignant prelude to the commencement ceremony, instilling a sense of pride, gratitude, and purpose within the graduating class. As these young women embark on their next chapter, Bennett College stands as a beacon of hope, nurturing students to become “Sister Change Agents” being champions of change to ensure a brighter and better future for all.
For those who missed the Baccalaureate Convocation or wish to revisit the inspiring address, the complete service can be watched HERE.