By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]

Facing the challenges of a new world order and armed with degrees, over 700 students were conferred as graduates of Bowie State University on May 17. With confidence and enthusiasm the latest group of BSU alumni was charged by peers, their president and the keynote speaker, Roland Martin to succeed professionally but to make a difference in the world.

“You have been given everything you need make a living,” said Diamond Bracey, president of the Graduate Student Association.  “Dive in, find your way and make the world a better place.”

Bowie State University held its commencement on May 17 at Bulldog Stadium with multimedia journalist Roland Martin serving as the keynote speaker. (Photo by Rob Roberts)

The Spring commencement marked the first time the ceremony was held on campus since 2013.  Dr. Aminta H. Breaux, the university’s first woman president, also made history by helping return the annual rite of passage to the site of Maryland’s oldest HBCU campus in the heart of Prince George’s County.  Moving forward, the school will continue to hold its graduation on campus at Bulldog Stadium.

“Many in the community felt it was in the best interest of the university and for the graduates to return this historic event to its home, on the land that was once the old Jericho Farm,” Breaux said.  “This has been a time of great success at Bowie State University and a time to celebrate our graduates.”

With this being his 15th time HBCU commencement address, multimedia journalist and commentator Roland Martin took control of the audience by playfully bringing them to their feet.  He ordered the orchestral band to bring the flavor homecoming to the proceedings with an uptempo beat to wake the crowd up like it was halftime of a football game before he spoke.

Martin challenged the class of 2019 to stand for the change during the social revolution facing this country.  In his 25 minute address – that was pastoral in tone – he charged the graduates to follow in the footsteps of the 1969 class who celebrated their 50th anniversary with their neophyte counterparts.  

Bowie State University moved their graduation back to Bulldogs Stadium after not holding a commencement there since 2013. (Courtesy Photo)

The irony of the changing times for this generation seem to intersect with the same climate of change that the Bulldog alumni elders faced a half century ago.

“This class is facing tremendous social challenges right now,” 1969 alumnus Gordon Sampson told the AFRO. “With the climate of the country the way it is today their challenge is just as great as ours.”

Martin also told the newest free state HBCU graduates that this generation inherits the responsibility to lead and its their time to step to the front lines and “fight for what’s right”.  He encouraged them to lead the resistance against the legislative attacks facing people of color today which have the appearance of trying to repeal the gains of legal quality earned during the original Civil Rights Movement.

“Every generation had to fight for what is right and this us your time,” Martin said.  “We owe the next generation 50 years from now more than just lip service.”

Martin urged the class to keep the pressure on Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to resolve a long-running dispute over Maryland’s treatment of its historically black colleges. He said the state needs to do better than the $100 million settlement offer over 10 years proposed in 2018.

Men’s basketball coach Darrell Brooks also earned his Masters of Arts in organizational communications. Brooks, who earned an undergraduate degree from BSU in 1979 has led them to two CIAA basketball championships.

“As I moved toward the next phase of my career as an athletic administrator, I knew I would need a master’s degree and this is just another step,” Brooks told the {AFRO}.  “Everything that’s happened for me professionally I owe to Bowie State.”