Alicia Keys has levelled with graduating students who might not feel like celebrating right now, but should honor themselves nonetheless.
Students are graduating across America, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and after weeks of protests for racial justice and against police brutality, following the police killing of George Floyd, who died after an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
It is a unique time in history to be finishing school or college, to say the least.
On Sunday, as part of a YouTube Original series of virtual commencement events called Dear Class of 2020, celebrities and public figures including Beyoncé, Michelle Obama, and Keys addressed newly graduated students in heartfelt speeches from home — and they all recognised the significance of what a time it is to be graduating right now.
“Let’s be honest, it’s been a hard week,” Keys began. “A hard week and a hard month and a hard year, and I know right now, it might not feel like there’s a lot to celebrate — and that’s OK. It’s OK to not be OK right now.
“I know so many of you are not thinking about your time at school, you’re thinking about what’s happening right now in the present. You’re thinking about marching and protesting and making sure that your voices are heard in a time that we cannot be silent,” she said.
Keys commended the collective action of those who have joined the fight for justice in whichever way they can. “You’re taking your heartbreak and your outrage and you’re putting into into action and you are showing that your generation is the one that’s going to heal this.”
She also took a moment to reflect that “the world feels broken” right now, and that this moment of action, outrage, and uprising has been a long time coming. “The pain we’re experiencing right now, it’s not new. But it feels different this time, right? I think for the first time, all of us, no matter what we look like or where we’re from, we can see so clearly what injustice looks like and now we all can choose how to respond.
“But change only happens if all of us educate ourselves, if we hold each other accountable, when we register to vote in November, when all of us recognise our biases and we find ways to empathise with people that look different from us or seem different from us on the surface. That’s the key right there,” she said. “So, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the inspiration, for inspiring the world to see our collective humanity.”
Keys ended with a call for students to take the moment to celebrate their accomplishments, and to take whatever hat they have and throw it in the air, to honor themselves “in the most powerful time to be coming of age.”
It’s just under four minutes, but it speaks loud and clear. Mandatory viewing for students who no longer have to answer to anyone telling them something is mandatory viewing.
While you’re at it, why not spend a moment with the Schitt’s Creek cast thanking your teachers. (There’s a performance in it for you, don’t roll your eyes.)