Bethune-Cookman Grads Keep it 100: They Are Not Here for Devos at Their Commencement

Oh, Becky. (Oops, Betsy.)

The Bethune-Cookman class of 2017 did not come to play with you. They did not come to the Ocean Center Daytona Beach to listen to empty platitudes from someone so clueless about their heritage, HBCUs, and education in general. They came to honor the culmination of their hard work, their families’ support, and their founder’s legacy.

They tried to let you and their university president understand this by signing petitions and protesting your approaching presence, but y’all didn’t want to listen. Nevertheless, they persisted — booing you and turning their backs to you, fists raised in resistance.

And to be clear, Mary McCleod Bethune, said founder of this HBCU, would not be mad at that.

Born to former slaves in 1875, Bethune went from picking cotton as a child to attending boarding school as a teen to going to college as a young adult and ultimately opening her very own school in 1904. Originally known as the Daytona Beach Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls, it merged with nearby Cookman Institute (an all-boys school) in 1929 to become Bethune-Cookman College (now University).

All the while, Jim Crow was well underway, the KKK was running rampant, and thousands of people were being lynched just for being Black. Instead of attempting to discourage her students from activism with ridiculous threats (mail the degrees, then pres!), Bethune set a gang of examples of what resistance looks like. She founded the National Council of Negro Women, she served as president of the NAACP’s Florida chapter (and later led it nationally), and she advised President Franklin D. Roosevelt on minority affairs, among other things. In addition to all that, Bethune racked up 11 honorary degrees — all of which she actually deserved.

Let this be a lesson to you, Betsy. There will always be those looking to kowtow for a buck and a smile, but for the majority of us with sense, the resistance is alive and well and always will be.


Quarterly print teen magazine for Black girls ages 13 to 19. Covering The Black Girl's Mainstream™

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