Today is commencement day at Spelman College. For this carefully selected group of young women from across the globe, it marks the beginning of their lives as alumnae. Today they will leave these gates and go out into the world and represent Spelman as mothers, wives, attorneys, doctors, nurses, scientists, entrepreneurs, educators and change agents. The love they have for Dear Spelman is in its infancy and they will only come to love her more as their experiences in the world help them to realize and appreciate the tools Spelman has equipped them with.
Today marked the end of my twentieth reunion. Twenty years ago, I was happy, but not fully in the moment and unaware of what was really happening. I had turned in my last paper, completed my last final, defended my senior dissertation, and made sure I didn’t have any late fees at the library so I could be cleared for graduation to pick up my regalia. My family was coming to town from Texas and I had to help coordinate airport pickups and hotel accommodations. By the time commencement came, I was wound up so tightly that I was there but not present.
Each time I return for reunion, I imagine that many of my graduating sisters feel the same way I did. When I return for reunion, I am able to be present and re-live my own graduation. As alumnae, we attend convocation with the graduates for what will be their final time as students. I sing the Spelman hymn with tears in my eyes as I reflect on what the college has been and will continue to be to and for me. I look around at my sisters who love Spelman as much as I do. As a graduating senior, I would sigh when Dr. Joyce Johnson began to play the massive organ in Sister’s Chapel for what always seemed life forever. As an alumna, I now see Dr. Johnson as a queen ascending to her organ throne and my heart is moved to tears when I hear the beautiful music she has blessed the college with for sixty-three years.
As a graduating senior, I remember standing in the heat in my black regalia as we waited an eternity for all of the alumnae to walk through the arch before we FINALLY got our chance to walk through the sacred symbol. At first, I took pictures and joked a little but by the time we walked through, I was happy because I knew it was a big accomplishment but I didn’t really understand what it meant. As an alumna, I stood with my class dressed in the traditional (and mandatory) white dress attire. I stood with my freshman roommate and sister-in-love, Tara Jaye Frank, just as I had the first time I walked through the arch with our families cheering on. We held hands and squeezed tightly as we walked through the arch together again twenty years later. We stood behind the classes (as far back as 1936!) who guided us through the arch and in front of the classes we would usher and welcome into life as a Spelman alumna. Like many of the young women who followed us through that arch this week, I didn’t get it then, but I sure do now.
I am a first generation Spelman woman. As a school-aged child, I never had the privilege of observing the sacred traditions that make Spelman experience about more than obtaining a degree. For the last two reunions, I have dressed my daughters in white dresses and black shoes and I have brought them with me to convocation and any other reunion activities they are allowed to attend. I answer their questions. I explain the traditions. Their first reunion in 2011, I walked them to my former dorm room in Packard Hall and escorted them all over campus telling stories. My goal was not to force them toward Spelman, but only to plant the seed for them to understand my love for her.
This year my daughters returned. Two of the three of them will be graduated by the next reunion in 2021 and my niece will be graduating from high school. As we walked around campus, they said, “There’s mommy’s old freshman dorm. It’s an office now, though. Her room was the second window! Right there!” “Mommy we shouldn’t stand in line with you while you wait to walk through the arch. We’ll stand over there, ok? This is just for ladies who graduated already.”
One day, between the never-ending chain of activities, my oldest daughter asked me, “Mommy, if I go to Spelman, do you think that I will be friends with my classmates and have as much fun with them as you do? You guys are like sisters, for real.” I will admit that my eyes got a little watery as I responded, “Absolutely, but even better.”
Spelman, thy name we praise. Standards and honor raise. We’ll ever faithful be, throughout eternity…”
I’m Joslyn Jackson. I have so many kids that I have to stop and take a headcount sometimes. This is my blog. That guy is my husband and he runs the circus. I am also a lawyer who loves to write about the absolute insanity that is my life. I started this blog to embarrass my children. That is my number one goal. If you are entertained in the meantime…great.
I am not dedicated to Spelman because of a popular athletics program…I am dedicated to Spelman because of her commitment to rich traditions, encouragement toward accomplishment and mostly the sisterhood.
If I have typos….remember I said I’m not perfect.
That’s it! Love, Peace and Souuuuuuuuuuullllllll!