The Graduation of an Uppity Negro

The reason it’s been so long since I published a post was because I was going into finals week, turning in last minute papers before grades were due, trying to sort out many particularities surrounding graduation, my car went out on me the week before graduation, and my car’s been in the shop ever since graduation, trying to figure out what jobs leads and other opportunities were open to me after graduation and…

…did I say graduation?

Yes, as of May 8, 2010, I am the proud graduate of my institution and am now in possession of two earned masters degrees: Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Church Music.

This graduation put me in an different space.  It’s the first real graduation I’ve had since high school.  My undergraduate graduation was a botched deal at Fisk University as a result of my Hurricane Katrina kid transfer status.  The week before graduation they told me that I wasn’t going to be able to walk and then the day before Baccalaureate service they told me they would let me walk–so of course I had told my family not to come.


My graduation didn’t really hit me until the night before as I was about to go to sleep.  In much of the HBCU tradition, we have a Baccalaureate service which is really the church service where one is supposed to get all of the emotions out so that on the day of the graduation, the ceremony goes on in a dignified manner.  That didn’t exactly happen for me namely because I was on the organ that day and I had to play for the service, so I hadn’t really let the experience become real for me.  The morning of graduation, as I was walking down Beckwith St. and made the left turn on the Promenade, I ran into some random cluck and some dude with her pushing a baby stroller and there was no baby in there, just some random junk.  She saw I had my cap, gown and two hoods and asked “Oooh, you graduating today?” and I turned around and said “Yes ma’am.” Of course saying in my mind, “Of course you dummy! Why else would I be carrying this?”  Naturally she responded, “Oh congratulations.”

And so far so good.  I was okay.

Then she said, “I’m proud of you.”

And I almost lost it right there in front of Robert Woodruff library.

I don’t know what it was about that moment, but somehow I really felt it was a genuine “I’m proud of you.”  As if when she said that she was acknowledging that  she knows that her life may not be some shining exemplar of what to do, but still, somehow, in the ancient African sense of community, she was happy to see another “one of us” make it to the next level.

So my final walk down the Promenade, particularly through Clark Atlanta’s campus because that was where I spent the last year being up there with the the chapel ministry and choir and praise team, was more than nostalgic and I realized finally that this was it.  It was time to move on to the next phase of life.

So, this time, for these degrees., the Baccalaureate and Commencement services went on without a hitch–aside from my car being out of commission for now going on two weeks.  As a result of my car not working, I’ve been stuck, and I do mean stuck, here in Atlanta more or less since last Wednesday because that was the day I initially planned on leaving. So, for the last five days I’ve been here…in Atlanta…ready to go home.

I’ve graduated, but I’m still in the same place.

It’s a very interesting place, and a very unique place to be in.  Most of my friends know how much I’ve railed against Atlanta and of course they expected me to be on the first thing out of the city, but as fate would have it, here I am, still in Atlanta.  My status as a student and graduate has changed, but my location has still remained the same.  Yes, there is a certain level of anxiety and frustration that I’m having to deal with.  I’m not going to lie and say I understand it, but I must admit that there is something at work that is bigger than me with regards to this.

So stay tuned, I’m sure I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled blogging soon enough.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

4 thoughts on “The Graduation of an Uppity Negro

  1. Congrats man! I’m happy for you, although you were about to send us all into a tizzy over your tweets that day. I’m reading them like “This boy is about to pass out!” LOL… Glad that you made it through the ceremony. On to bigger things!

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