By Howard University Students
Howard University students protested when President Joe Biden gave the commencement address May 13, 2023. Below is their written statement.
The Howard University Commencement Ceremony is a joyous occasion, a celebration of achievement in the face of generational, ongoing and systemic adversity. For Black students, graduating college is a success beyond measure. We are proud to have attended the illustrious Howard University, our historically Black University, our Mecca.
Yet, while we are excited to finish our last endeavor at Howard University, we are infinitely angered and exhausted by the many forms of ongoing white-supremacist violence in the United States of America and internationally.
We are exhausted by the lack of resources we had as Howard Students, struggling to keep up with increasing tuition rates and inadequate housing options, amidst the corporatization of our board of trustees, and the fight to renew student, faculty and community voting representation within it, let alone the ongoing gentrification of D.C. at large, to which Howard University and its affiliates are a party.
We maintain countless grievances and will not sit silently and allow them to go unrecognized, especially in light of campaign season. On today, May 13, 2023, our graduation day and the 38th anniversary of the MOVE bombing, we choose to advocate. When there is no justice, there should be no peace.
As advocates, we are unsatisfied with the action (or lack thereof) from the Biden Administration. We call upon President Joseph Biden to do more than ask for investigations and observe our struggle. We call for immediate action.
We need housing; we need financial assistance; we need loan forgiveness; and above all else, we need consequences for our murdered siblings and justice for the living. We need a demilitarized planet, starting with the heart of the empire here. We need an end to all immoral and unjust systems, especially capitalism. We need action, and we need it now. Our planet can’t wait, and neither can we.
As Black youth, we have watched too many public lynchings in our short lifetimes. We have watched Black people killed over and over again domestically and internationally, without any urgency to protect us. We are graduating a week after a Black youth was killed for being hungry on the subway. We are graduating less than a month after a Black child was shot in the head for knocking on the wrong door. We are graduating the same semester that police killed Tyre Nichols and Keenan Anderson.
When will it end? How many Black people over how many generations have to die? How many will be lynched and killed before a state of emergency is called? We as Black graduates walk the stage today and pray we make it home tonight to rest, as we struggle against state violence, capitalist exploitation, rising costs, housing insecurity and debt.
The Howard University Graduates for Solidarity demand that President Biden act with urgency, because we can not wait. It is and always has been a state of emergency. We demand the release of political prisoners including Mumia Abu-Jamal and Imam Jamil Al-Amin.
We demand consequences and recognition for the murders of Jordan Neely and Tortuguita and Keenan Anderson and Tyre Nichols and so many others. We demand the end of university and government funding to the Zionist entity, as it carries out yet another massacre in Gaza and throughout Palestine, approaching 75 years of the Nakba.
We stand against Howard University’s shameful partnership with the Department of Defense and the country’s shameful partnerships with fascist regimes like Marcos Jr. in the Philippines. We understand U.S. imperialism to be the greatest threat to life on the planet, and we demand to live. We demand structural change, so that all African people wherever we are found can live full happy lives. We as graduates stand united for change, for Black Lives globally.
Joseph R. Biden, you can’t speak to us if you don’t stand with us. You cannot celebrate with us if you do not see us.
Thinking of you Jordan, Ka Joma and Ibrahim Al-Nabulsi,
The Howard University Graduates for Solidarity, class of 2023