Biden Appointee, Education Leader Addresses Medgar Evers Grads
Lezli Baskerville, a renowned attorney and education advocate, addressed Medgar Evers College’s 860 2023 grads
Emily Rahhal, Patch Staff
Posted Thu, Jun 1, 2023 at 4:19 pm ET
CROWN HEIGHTS, NY — Attorney and renowned education advocate Lezli Baskerville addressed Medgar Evers College’s 2023 grads, who moved their tassels Thursday and prepared for post-grad life.
Some 860 students walked across the Ford Amphitheater’s stage in Coney Island Thursday morning, reminded by their president of their school’s rich history — “birthed out of the Black community of Central Brooklyn with social justice in its DNA,” said President Patricia Ramsey.
“Graduates, we must remember from whence we come, because we didn’t get here all by ourselves,” Ramsey said. “We must remember to reach back and help others along the way.”
Baskerville, an attorney consistently ranked among the country’s most powerful education advocates, addressed the graduates, pro bono — and left with the school’s Presidential Medal of Distinction.
Baskerville in April was appointed to a Biden-administration advisory commission on increasing educational and economic opportunities for Black Americans.
She helms the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education — which represents historically and predominantly Black education institutionsacross the U.S. including Medgar Evers College.
“As you get ready to receive your final paper from Medgar Evers and move beyond this to your next journey, you’re walking into a challenging environment. You’re walking into a nation which is spiraling downward, it’s in moral decay, unraveling.”
Baskerville too reminded students of the legacy of the school’s namesake, Medgar Evers, known for his powerful civil rights advocacy protesting segregation in education, Jim Crow laws and investigating the lynching of Emmett Till.
“You must continue the work that Medgar Evers began,” Baskerville said. “You must find your love, you must find your passion and meld your passion and your profession… [and] you’ve got to do something to continue Medgar Evers’ dream.”
Baskerville shared with students her love of Central Brooklyn. An advocate for the area, Ramsey said Baskerville was responsible for Medgar Evers’ inclusion in a Congressional hearing on education.
“Life is about the journey, not the destination and you cannot sit it out,” Baskerville said. “If you stay focused and you walk deliberately and collaboratively — you focus not on success but on the significance of your work to others, you will realize a distinguished journey.”
Many speakers, including valedictorian and Senior Class President Sharifa Clarke, addressed the impact of COVID on students’ experience.
“We did not waver in our pursuit of knowledge,” Clarke said. “Here we are. Today we stand here not just as students who completed our undergraduate journey… but as warriors, who faced a challenge unlike any other in recent memory.”
But the many trials of their undergraduate years only better prepare the class of 2023 for a powerful future, she said.
“We have the power to shape a future filled with hope, progress and compassion,” Clarke said.
Eric Edwards, a Brooklyn-native and prolific African art collector, joined students in receiving an honorary doctorate degree. His collection includes over 2,500 artifacts ranging from weaponry to art and instruments.