New Orleans’ own Dillard University will hold its 81st commencement on May 13 at 8:00 a.m. and present over 160 undergraduate degrees. This year, Dillard University is proud to welcome a famous, multi-talented guest to deliver the 2017 commencement address.
Multi-Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter, and Academy Award-winning actress, producer, and CoverGirl spokesperson Janelle Monáe is not only a natural talent and trailblazer in the Entertainment business, but she is also an inspiring activist who has spoken out against social injustices, police brutality, and civic rights. Last fall, Monáe launched a civil rights initiative called “Fem the Future” aimed at promoting the awareness, inclusion, and opportunities for women and those who identify as women through music, arts, and entertainment.
President of Dillard University, Walter M. Kimbrough, Ph.D. explained his longtime wish to bring in Monáe as the Commencement Speaker. Along with her successful activism, Monnáe’s accomplishments in music, arts, film, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), all of which are top programs at the University, make her a model candidate to deliver the Address. For over a year, Kimbrough sought out Monáe, reaching out to magazine reporters, record companies, and finally, the national president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority to invite Monáe to New Orleans to give his students an important message.
Discovering her passion for the performing arts at an early age, Monáe founded her record label, Wonderland Arts Society and released her EP album, “Metropolis: Suite I.” In the following years, Monáe would release several highly-acclaimed albums and singles, such as “ArchAndroid,” “Tightrope,” and “Electric Lady.” Finally, after years of musical success, Monáe created her own label, Wonderland Records, in 2015.
At the end of 2016, Monáe found herself taking her talents to the film industry, starring as a lead in the movies Hidden Figures and Moonlight. Both movies deal with Monáe’s passion for civil rights, including struggles with issues like racism and sexual identity. Using her fame as a platform for her activism, Monáe continues to speak out for those who cannot with the performance of her protest song, “Hell You Talmbout,” and her performance at the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, which generated unimaginable crowds. In an interview with TeenVogue, Monáe shared her hope for the future of women, saying, “I hope we see more girls from all backgrounds working in STEM as a result of it being on-screen.”