Saturday, May 3, 2008 was one of the proudest days of my life. It marked the end of a long journey. I finally walked across the stage and shook the hand of Dr. Larry E. Rivers, 8th president of The Fort Valley State University as a graduate, no longer a student.
My family, friends, and classmates made the day all the more worthwhile for me. Being that I am a little older than the average graduate, I wasn’t very excited at first. I contemplated not walking, but I wanted pictures of the special day for my children. But oh, when I arrived!
First, I was stunned by the number of people who were there. They came in droves. Traffic was backed up on State University and on Carver Dive at 8 a.m. Some came to share the moment with a loved one and others came just because it was graduation at FVSU and that’s what they do. Many of us were late for lineup because we couldn’t get through the traffic. I had no idea people would turn out so early for graduation! I had only seen crowds like this at FVSU for homecoming.
My heart burst with joy and pride as I crammed my way into the already packed room designated for graduates. As I gazed upon the students dressed in their regalia I thought, “Wow! Look at all these educated, young black people.” I then realized that I was one of those people! I quickly suited up. Everybody was so happy for each other, we bonded even if commencement was our first time meeting on campus. The two graduates I met appeared to be non-traditional as myself. I was struggling with my white collar and they lent helping hands.
When the door flew open and I heard Pomp and Circumstance echoing throughout the HPE, my heart raced with excitement. It was at that moment that I knew, regardless of what I had been through to get there, I deserved that moment. It’s amazing that I heard the song over the shouting fans. My heart-felt pride was interrupted by a loud “STACIE!” over my head. As I looked up, I saw my husband Robert and his best friend Demarcus acting like pure nuts. They were more excited than me. It was kind of cute. They were really happy for me. Right next to them were my children. I could even hear their little voices calling, “Mommy, mommy!”
I once made the comment that for an HBCU, the campus is dead, but the cheering, waving, dancing spectators brought it back to life Saturday. This is only the second HBCU graduation I attended. It was a rowdy time, but rowdy in the best way. The Valley overflowed with admiration and pride Saturday. As Dr. Rivers cited a well-known Bible verse: “This is the day that the Lord has made,” I rejoiced and was glad in it!
--Stacie Barrett works in the Office of Marketing and Communications