Civil rights attorney Ben Crump invoked the names of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd in calling on Florida A&M University (FAMU) 2020 graduates to continue the fight for justice and equality.
“Because of you, Graduating Class of 2020, who stood up and said Black lives matter, it was because of you we were able to achieve victory; because of you graduates of 2020, justice was served. You won the verdict – guilty, guilty, guilty,” said Crump, referring to the case against the Minneapolis police officer convicted of killing Floyd. Crump also acknowledged the difficulties faced by the class of 2020, whose last year was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t take it for granted what you had to endure. You represent the best we have to offer the future. You are the answered prayers of our ancestors. You represent the hope of the slaves in the cotton fields. You are the dream come true of the dream deferred. So many people prayed for you; so many people sacrificed for you,” said Crump, who addressed the College of Science and Technology, CAFS, School of Architecture and Electrical Technology, School of Journalism & Graphic Communication, School of Nursing the College of Engineering Sunday morning.
In the Sunday afternoon ceremony, he addressed 2020 graduates of the College of Education, College of Law, and School of Allied Health Sciences. Like Friday and Saturday commencement speakers Monica Rainge and Marcelia Freeman, Crump reminded graduates of their communal responsibilities.
“You have to take the education back home to the community,” said the Tallahassee-based attorney. “If one of us can make it, it gives us hope that all of us can make it. You are the benefactors of people who sacrificed; you have an obligation to go and use this education to do things in the world that are not being done. You have an obligation to take on challenges that others are afraid to tackle. Go speak truth to power. You have an obligation to say things that are not being said.”
Crump has established himself as one of the nation’s foremost lawyers and advocates for social justice. He has worked on some of the most high-profile cases in the U.S., representing the families of Floyd, Taylor, and Trayvon Martin as well as the residents of Flint, Michigan, who were harmed by contaminated water from the Flint River.
In 2016, he was designated as an Honorary Fellow by the University of Pennsylvania College of Law. His October 2019 book, “Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People,” reflects on the landmark cases he has battled and how discrimination in the courthouse devastates real families and communities.
During both Sunday ceremonies, Crump was accompanied by a crew filming for a Netflix documentary expected to air in 2022. As he ended his 20-minute speech, Crump raised his clenched right fist in the air. A group of Marching “100” drummers entered the auditorium.
“You have an obligation to go out into the world and strike and strike again,” he said, quoting former FAMU President Frederick S. Humphries, Ph.D.
“You have to sacrifice for your children and children yet unborn. It’s the right thing to do to speak up for future children; it’s the right thing to fight for our future children. You are going to help us win this fight. You are the reason we are going to win this war, win against enemies of inequality, those who continue to try to oppress us and mark us as inferior, that our Black lives are not equal to others,” Crump intoned. “Whatever they throw at us, we are going to be alright because you are our future. You will continue to make sure we rise up as a people and rise up as a collective force. Because of you, the Class of 2020, we will continue to rise up. Rise up, Class of 2020! Rise Up!”