Chadwick Boseman, aka ‘Blek Pentha,’ Encourages Howard University’s Class of 2018 to Always Seek Purpose

Alumnus Chadwick Boseman addresses the Class of 2018 during the Howard University 150th Commencement Ceremony on May 12, 2018, in Washington, D.C.
Alumnus Chadwick Boseman addresses the Class of 2018 during the Howard University 150th Commencement Ceremony on May 12, 2018, in Washington, D.C.
Photo: Courtesy Howard University

In addition to a slew of notable African-American alumni, including Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston and Phylicia Rashad, Howard alum Chadwick Boseman—the only Black Panther we acknowledge—was the 2018 speaker at the Howard University 2018 Commencement Convocation.


Bosemen, who starred in the record-breaking film Black Panther, graduated from Howard with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2000. He encouraged the audience of more than 8,000 to seek purpose as they move forth in their lives.

“When you have reached the Hilltop and you are deciding on next steps, you would rather find purpose than a career. Purpose is an essential element of you that crosses disciplines,” Boseman said.

“The Hilltop represents the culmination of the intellectual and spiritual journey you have undergone while you were here,” he continued. “Each of you have had your own difficulties with the Hill, but it’s OK because you made it on top. Sometimes you need to feel the pain and sting of defeat to activate the real passion and purpose that God predestined inside of you.”

It’s clear that the actor remains enamored of his alma mater, but he is clear that no place is perfect, calling it a magical place—“where the dynamics of positive and negative seems to exist in extremes.”

He recalled that one of his most memorable moments at Howard was when he met Muhammad Ali on campus.


“I remember walking across this yard, when Muhammad Ali was walking towards me with his hands raised in a quintessential guard. I was game to play along with him,” said Boseman. “What an honor to be challenged by the GOAT. I walked away floating like a butterfly … walked away light and ready to take on the world. That is the magic of this place. Almost anything can happen here.”


According to the school’s press office, Howard is awarding 2,217 degrees, including 343 master’s degrees, and 90 Ph.D.s. More than 382 students received professional degrees in law, medicine, pharmacy and dentistry. The 2018 graduates represent 39 states and 32 countries; 117 graduates are from the District of Columbia, all coming to what former Howard student and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates described as “the Mecca.”

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.


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Now THIS is what a commencement speech sounds like! Others celebrities who are given the chance to speak in front of college graduates should take note.