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Home » Ruha Benjamin’s Speech at Spelman Convocation 2024 (Transcript)

Ruha Benjamin’s Speech at Spelman Convocation 2024 (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Sociologist Ruha Benjamin’s Speech at Spelman Convocation 2024.

Listen to the audio version here:



President Gayle, Board of Trustees, beloved faculty, staff, students, alumni, fellow honorees, and everyone working behind the scenes to gather us in this space, my heartfelt thanks for this special recognition. To my village, my family, my friends, my sisters from other misters, my Baha’i family and aunties, my beloved professor, Dr. Barbara Carter, Sister Omelika, so many more I won’t belabor.

So what a lovely video introduction. Like most beautifully produced and polished bios and resumes, it necessarily leaves out the messy parts of life, including the fact that when I was a student at Spelman, I was somewhat of a troublemaker.

Truth is, I have never quite identified with the idealized image of a Spelman woman. And still today, I’m not what you might call a school spirit girly, which I know is a weird thing to admit given the occasion. For starters, I really struggled to pull together a white outfit, because after all these years it’s still not my color. But perhaps more revealing is that the first time I stood at this podium giving the valedictory speech to my class in 2001, I had just given birth a week before.

Embracing Differences at Spelman

So, not quite the idealized Spelman woman, but that’s also what I loved and I love deeply about this place. That precisely by bringing us all together under the umbrella of black womanhood, we get to experience our many shades of blue as a blues people. Unlike predominantly white institutions where black students may feel a need to put up a united front to survive the everyday stresses and strains of navigating a hostile environment, here in this place, we have more space to explore the full range of our humanity, if we choose. When we do, we get to appreciate our breathtaking differences and our quirky individuality.

Like the way that growing up in South Carolina versus Seattle, Louisiana versus Lagos, shaped our experiences and worldviews. And in that, we have so much to share and learn from one another. When we bear witness to our many shades of blue, we necessarily begin to reckon with the way that classism, colorism, ableism, lookism, homophobia, fatphobia, and more create fault lines and hierarchies that complicate the ideal of sisterhood. And that’s when our real education begins.

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