April 22, 2019


I am pleased to share that The Honorable Keisha Lance Bottoms, the current mayor of Atlanta, has been named keynote speaker for the Spelman College 132nd Commencement ceremony. The 60th mayor of Atlanta will address 474 graduates in the Class of 2019 and 9,000 of their family and friends on Sunday, May 19, 2019, at 3 p.m., at Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta. Mayor Bottoms will also receive the National Community Service Award in recognition of her service as a lifelong public servant and commitment to addressing local, state and national issues.

An Atlanta native, Mayor Bottoms is the only mayor in Atlanta’s history to have served in all three branches of government, serving as a judge and city council member before being sworn in as mayor. Leading with a progressive agenda focused on equity and affordable housing, Mayor Bottoms serves as chair of the Community Development and Housing Committee for the United States Conference of Mayors.

Atlanta is fortunate to have such a dynamic leader as Mayor Bottoms, whose commitment to the city includes a strong commitment to the Westside, where Spelman is located. She has been a bedrock for civil and human rights, while navigating complex issues, prioritizing civic engagement and advancing Atlanta’s progress in global commerce and equity.

During Commencement, Carla Hayden, Ph.D. the 14th Librarian of Congress, and Sonia Sanchez, poet, playwright, professor and activist, will receive honorary degrees. Alisha Lola Jones, B.M., M.Div., and Ph.D., assistant professor of Ethnomusicology, African Diaspora Studies, and Religious Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, will serve as the Baccalaureate speaker on Saturday, May 18, 2019, at 9 a.m. on the Spelman Oval.


Carla Hayden, Ph.D., the 14th Librarian of Congress, will receive the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. The first woman and the first African American to lead the national library was nominated to the position by President Barack Obama. Previously, Dr. Hayden served as CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland, for more than 20 years. Her earlier roles include deputy commissioner and chief librarian of the Chicago Public Library and assistant professor for Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Hayden has served as a member of the National Museum and Library Services Board, was president of the American Library Association from 2003 to 2004 and, in 1995, became the first African American to receive Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year Award.

Poet, playwright, professor, activist and one of the foremost leaders of the Black Studies movement, Sonia Sanchez will receive the Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. A lifelong advocate for the rights of oppressed women and minority groups and a sponsor of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Sanchez has lectured at more than 500 colleges and universities internationally on Black culture and literature, women’s liberation, peace, and racial justice. The author of more than 20 books, Sanchez is a contributing editor to Black Scholar and The Journal of African Studies, and has edited several books and contributed poetry and articles on Black culture to anthologies and periodicals. Her many honors and awards include being named Philadelphia’s first Poet Laureate and receiving the PEN Writing Award, the American Book Award for Poetry, the National Academy of Arts and Letters Award, the National Education Association Award, Academy of American Poets’Wallace Stevens Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pew Arts Foundation.


Alisha Lola Jones, B.M., M.Div., and Ph.D., assistant professor of Ethnomusicology, African Diaspora Studies and Religious Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, will serve as Baccalaureate speaker to the class of 2019. A musician, social entrepreneur and fourth-generation preacher, Rev. Jones focused her research interests on musical masculinities, music and theology, the music industry, the music of the African diaspora and emerging research on music and future foodways. She has received academic acclaim and support for her research with fellowships from Andrew W. Mellon; the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality; and the Franke Institute for the Humanities, among others. As a performer-scholar, Dr. Jones has lectured on her research throughout the world at institutions such as Oxford University, Howard University, Boston University, Duke University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her writings on African-American religious music, gender, and sexuality in ethnomusicological research appears in various publications.

The entire Spelman community looks forward to celebrating the Class of 2019 during Commencement weekend.

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.

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