Award-winning author, esteemed public intellectual, and noted political analyst Michael Eric Dyson, Ph.D., will address Prairie View A&M University’s (PVAMU) class of 2021 during the 139th Spring Commencement Convocation on Saturday, May 15 at 8:30 a.m. in Panther Stadium. Dyson currently serves as Centennial Chair and University Distinguished Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies in the College of Arts and Science and University Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Society in the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University.
Alumna and award-winning comedienne, host, and actress Loni Love has been tapped as the ceremony orator for the 2020 Recognition Ceremony on Friday, May 14. The ceremony is a special celebration honoring the spring, summer, and fall graduating classes of 2020 who could not experience a traditional in-person ceremony due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“In choosing this year’s speakers, and with every other aspect of these momentous occasions, the Commencement Steering Committee is committed to making both events memorable,” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs James M. Palmer. “Furthermore, both of our speakers exemplify the determination and drive that our students need to embody as they navigate through the current times.”
COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER: MICHAEL ERIC DYSON
A native of Detroit, Michael Eric Dyson has authored more than 23 books, including seven New York Times bestsellers on subjects such as the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Nas’s debut album Illmatic, Tupac, Marvin Gaye, and Hurricane Katrina’s devastating and long-lasting effects. He is also a contributing opinion writer at the New York Times, an MSNBC political analyst, and a contributing editor at the New Republic. Dyson received his Ph.D. in Religion from Princeton University in 1993.
Dyson is a two-time NAACP Image Award winner (“Why I Love Black Women” and “Is Bill Cosby Right?”) and the winner of the American Book Award for “Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster.” His book, “The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America,” was a Kirkus Prize finalist. In 2020, he received the Langston Hughes Festival Medallion, which is awarded to highly distinguished writers from throughout the African American diaspora for their impressive works celebrating the memory and tradition of Langston Hughes.
Essence magazine named Dr. Dyson one of the 40 Most Inspiring African Americans, and Ebony magazine listed him among the 100 Most Influential Black Americans. He often speaks at universities and political conventions, but he is also known for his speaking engagements at union halls, prisons, classrooms, and churches. Dyson is an ordained Baptist minister. For more than 40 years, he has mounted many of the nation’s most esteemed pulpits to deliver sermons, including, most recently, the Washington National Cathedral, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his last Sunday sermon.
Throughout his career, Dyson has had a profound effect on American culture and thinking. His latest book, “Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America,” examines the social and cultural forces that have influenced our nation in what he describes as “the brutal crucible of race.”
Dyson has also served for the last 30 years as a media commentator and occasional host on several prominent radio and television shows. He has even found the time to make guest appearances on scripted cable and network television programs such as Soul Food, The Game, and Black-ish.
Dyson has taught at some of the nation’s most distinguished universities, including Georgetown University, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, Chicago Theological Seminary, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“I am extremely excited to hear Michael Dyson speak simply because I know he will bless the Class of 2021 with all of the wisdom and knowledge that he has gained over the years,” PVAMU Senior Class President Kyana Norman said. “From his numerous accolades and background as a whole, I have a strong desire to hear him elaborate on how Black people and other minorities can rise above the ongoing oppression, especially throughout their upcoming careers.”
CEREMONY ORATOR: LONI LOVE
Emmy and NAACP Image Award-winning co-host of “The Real,” Loni Love, stars on the one-hour nationally syndicated talk show, which airs daily on Fox stations across the nation. The show is now in its seventh season and has featured many high-profile guests, including United States Vice President Kamala Harris, former First Lady Michelle Obama, Idris Elba, and more.
Along with “The Real,” Love co-hosts the GRACIE Award-winning weekend radio show “Café Mocha” with rapper YoYo. She has interviewed a variety of A-list guests, such as President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, as well as superstars like Fantasia Barrino Taylor, Patti LaBelle, John Legend, Tyler Perry, Jam & Terry, among many others. “Café Mocha” is the only nationally syndicated show of its kind created exclusively by and for women of color. The show is broadcast on over 35 stations, including SiriusXM satellite radio.
Additionally, Love is the executive producer of a new show, “Little Women Unfiltered: Atlanta” – an after-show of “Little Women: Atlanta” on Lifetime. Love also worked with Lifetime as the host of the “Salt-N-Peppa Interview Special” with the legendary artists. She is also excited to be the new narrator for the 13th season of “Bridezillas” on WETV. In addition, she served as the solo host for the “2020 Daytime Emmy Awards – Children’s, Lifestyle and Animations Ceremony.” Love is also a recurring guest judge for Season 13 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Along with her work on television, Love has appeared in myriad movies, including “Mother’s Day,” “Paul Bart: Mall Cop 2,” the “Bad Ass” franchise, and “Adopt A Highway.”
Love is the subject of the documentary “Being Loni Love,” which traces her life story from her early days as a latchkey daughter growing up in Detroit’s Brewster-Douglas housing projects to national stand-up comedienne, successful host and actress, and author (“Love Him or Leave Him but Don’t Get Stuck with the Tab” and “I Tried to Change So You Don’t Have To: True Life Lessons”).
A philanthropist, Love is an ambassador for Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote, NAACP, LA Mission, Dress for Success, Reach Higher, LA Regional Food Bank, Project Angel Food, Girl Scouts, and the UNCF, to name a few.
Love is a frequent speaker for organizations in her hometown. She believes in the power of education and is a proud graduate of PVAMU, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.
Since President Ruth Simmons joined PVAMU in the spring of 2018, she has secured a number of high-profile speakers for the university’s commencement ceremonies: Founding Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture Lonnie G. Bunch III; UNCF President and CEO Michael Lomax; trailblazing entertainment executive Debra L. Lee; Dallas Fire-Rescue Chief and PVAMU Alumnus Dominique Artis ’93; Rice University Provost Reginald DesRoches; social activist and PVAMU Alumnus Robbie Tolan ’19; and KPRC-TV’s Khambrel Marshall.
This spring semester, PVAMU expects to award degrees to over 1,000 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students completing their studies. Last year, the university awarded 1,739 degrees, bringing the total degrees awarded in the university’s 144-year history to over 77,000.
To learn more about this semester’s graduation events, visit www.pvamu.edu/commencement.