Bamboo Earrings? Check. Jordans? Check. Flex on your ex? Check. Oh, and don't forget that cap & gown- check, and check!
We're going to let the rest of you finish and all but um.. our wonderful reader Juliet Doris may have had one of the best graduation speeches ever, after beating the odds and graduating with her Masters.
The single parent and UCLA post-graduate received her Masters in Social Work and was asked to speak at UCLA's 2015 'Afrikan Graduation' where she pretty much blew attendees out the water with her words of encouragement and inspiration. With the theme of the evening being #BlackGraduateLivesMatter, the mother of three served up modern-day scholar meets fly girl realness, and spoke extremely candidly and openly about fitting the stereotype of the assumed "Black Welfare Queen," and as a result, feeling ashamed to even consider going back to college. However, not only did Juliet go back to school after over a decade of being "out," the now two-time graduate and key speaker, helped to create programs and on-campus communities that embrace and advance other women and mothers who were, and still are, in her very same position.
Chunking a duece to her haters, and speaking on behalf of the Black lives lost last year, Juliet went on to say:
Look around you, make no mistakes, the system of higher education was not created with folks like most of us in mind. Let alone, to support our diverse needs of how we often disrupt the social norm and or stereotype of Black communities. But here we are ya'll, nonetheless, I stand before you today, a member of UCLA's undergraduate class 2013, and a Masters of Social Work 2015.
My words today are inspired by and dedicated to all Black lives, that have not just today, but for the past 7 generations have been stolen from our friends, families, loved ones in our communities.
Why do Black Lives matter?
They matter, because I matter. And who am I? Hmph!
I am the right wing's poster child for the deficit, stereotype of a welfare queen.
I am the unapologetic, pregnant teenager, who flunked the 9th grade, only to get pregnant in the 10 grade, but with God's grace, miraculously, I graduated from a high school, but a high school specifically for teen mothers and pregnant teenagers.
I am one of many reasons why society tells us that Black lives don't matter, and often perceived as a menace to our countries hegemonic, social norms [that are] rooted in slavery, capitalism and patriarch, ya'll.
I am the former undergraduate, transfer student, representing a part of the undergraduate population that has one the highest rates of going onto graduate schools. That's right- transfer students have one of the highest rates of going on to graduate school.
But I do not stand here alone today. I am one of you and collectively, we are "we."
Who are "we" they ask? Hmm.
We are the single parents trying to navigate our way through the education system pipelines of UCLA, the welfare pipelines and people's personal perception pipelines of who they think we are.
Who are we, they ask?
We were all human until...
Race disconnected us
Religion separated us
Politics divided us
and now- the world classifies us.
Who am "I", you ask?
I'm the shattered spirit, pushing past her intellectual insecurities, anxiously sitting for the G.R.E. I am the Bruin mom editing her graduate school statement for the eighth time, not sure if she's finally good enough to join the rest of the nation's elite graduate students. I am the phenomenal woman, gathering the strength she needs at 2 o'clock in the morning to finally click "submit" on her pending graduation school application.
Who am I?
I am the broken-hearted lady who had to work on recovering her security level. The lady who was hurt every time society reminded her that she need to lose weight. I am the 320 pound lady who hid behind her UCLA sweatshirt in the summer time.
I am the lady that my male cohorts labeled as 'cool, funny and smart,' but never asked out on a date. Yo bad!
I am the rejected beauty who hid behind the fake smile and went on to be both mother and father. Nah girl, I don't have a husband. I'm the one who holds it down. I gotta cook, clean, pay the bills, do homework with the kids, take out the trash, put them to bed, and then work on my 15 page 'Policy Analysis' paper and lose out on sleep.
Am I tired?
Girl,of course I'm tired. But I don't have time to complain because the demands of motherhood, internship work and school didn't give me a chance to negotiate the weight of my eyelids.
Who am I?
I'm the unmarried Black prototype. The lady presumed to be another poor whore, welfare queen, single parent with a bunch of baby daddies- presumably.
See, I'm a strong Black woman and this is what I'm supposed to do. But I'm the one who has been blessed with a second chance towards an education, I'm not going to mess up this time. I can't afford to, literally.
See, if my peers get a bad grade on their record- it's just a "ding." But if my GPA falls below a 3.0, I'm physically and institutionally homeless again.
And who can I run to? My brother? He can't help me. He's too busy trying to dodge the police to prevent getting choked, shot and murdered with his hands up while saying 'I CAN'T BREATHE.' All because he was trying to find his way through a world that has perceives him to be a menace to society.
Who are we, you ask? Hmph!
We are the assumed welfare queens, who are now transforming academia. Even when society considered us damaged goods and wrote us off as liabilities, marginalized single parents who are perpetuating a cycle of poverty.
See, we are human thinking subjects. Diving into power points once again, proving we are scholars too. See, scholars before we [even] had one degree. We existed as such before their eyes perceived. So when the world caught up, what was once perceived as arrogance was justified as reality.
See, we are who were were, before they knew what it was. We have spunk. We have personality. "We's important too."
We are the ones we have been waiting for.
Who am I, you ask?
I'm the one I have been waiting for, I am a mentor to young lost women. I'm a grown ass woman who has finally found love within her, the woman who been celibate for some type now.
I am the hyper-educated woman whose lost over 85 pounds and who is now comfortable in her own skin.
I am perfectly imperfect. I am my tattoos. My Jay's (Jordans) and my piercings- which narrate just a part of my story.
I am the educated descendent of an African slave whose learned that she can not just dismantle the master's house using the master's tools, but instead- (pauses) you gonna let that marinate? - but instead learned how to theorize and develop new tools to which to learn how to demolish the master's house, and in his place, plant seeds of transform and resistance, creating ages of change and not ages of "trends" ya'll!
For the generations to come, I am the graduate student who is glad she chose UCLA, when BOTH USC and UCLA were knocking on her door.
Who am I, you ask? I'm the one I've been waiting for. "Ms. Juliet C. Doris"- for now- one of UCLA's newest masters of social work graduates. But keeping in the eye of the PhD horizon, and someday I will be Dr. Juliet C. Doris of Harvard, Columbia, or maybe even that other university across town, right?
But with that said- I am you. You are me. And our lives matter. And this is why- BLACK GRADUATES LIVES MATTER!
Beautiful! The courage it took to get up there and sacrifice her truth in exchange for inspiring an entire generation of people- bravo Juliet!
Catch the full video (and pics of Juliet getting her life as a grad student) below!
Originally published June 19, 2015