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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to Deliver Commencement Address to the Spelman College Class of 2019 Share a Spelman College Press Release

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For Immediate Release

Media Contact:  
Mashaun D. Simon
404-270-5893 (office) 
Twitter: @SpelmanMedia

Mayor Bottoms Spelman Commencement SpeakerATLANTA (April 22, 2019) – The Honorable Keisha Lance Bottoms, current mayor of Atlanta, has been named keynote speaker for the Spelman College 132nd Commencement ceremony. The 60th Mayor of Atlanta will address 474 graduates in the Class of 2019 and 9,000 of their family and friends on Sunday, May 19, 2019, at 3 p.m., at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta. Mayor Bottoms will also receive the National Community Service Award in recognition of her service as a lifelong public servant and commitment to addressing local, state and national issues.

Mayor Bottoms is the only mayor in Atlanta’s history to have served in all three branches of government, serving as a judge and city councilmember before being sworn in as mayor. Leading with a progressive agenda focused on equity and affordable housing, Mayor Bottoms serves as chair of the Community Development and Housing Committee for the United States Conference of Mayors.

Only the second woman to be elected to Atlanta’s highest office, Mayor Bottoms has demonstrated her courageous leadership through initiatives like the citywide elimination of cash bail bonds, the closure of the Atlanta City Detention Center to ICE detainees, and the launch of Atlanta’s financial transparency platform – Open Checkbook. During her time on city council, she launched Invest in Southwest, a 360-degree urban planning initiative with the goal of revitalizing and expanding economic development within the Southwest Atlanta community. She also authored panhandling legislation, which combined empathy with enforcement, and resulted in offenders receiving often-needed social services to help break the cycle of recidivism.

“Atlanta is fortunate to have such a dynamic leader as Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who has had a tremendous impact on the city, in particular on the Westside, where Spelman is located,” said Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. “She stands as an example for Spelman students of how to effectively lead the country’s bedrock for civil and human rights, while navigating complex issues, prioritizing civic engagement and advancing Atlanta’s progress in global commerce and equity. We look forward to Mayor Bottoms sharing her experience with the class of 2019.”

Under Mayor Bottoms’ leadership, the City of Atlanta recently led the successful staging of Super Bowl LIII, which included unprecedented community benefits – a $2.4 million renovation of John F. Kennedy Park on Atlanta’s Westside, more than 20,000 trees planted throughout the community and the seamless coordination of 40 federal, state and local public safety agencies.

Mayor Bottoms has volunteered and served on the board of numerous community organizations, including The Children’s School, the Firefighters’ Pension Fund, the Andrew and Walter Young YMCA, the YWCA of Atlanta, Cure for Childhood Cancer and Central Atlanta Progress. She has been a member of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights – Women’s Solidarity Society and also served on the board of Families First, where she often shared her personal story of adoption and advocates on behalf of adoption and foster care.

“Spelman College is a beacon of excellence across the globe and I am honored to stand among the many fearless women who have graced this space to share life lessons with the graduates as they journey into their next chapter,” said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “I am equally grateful to receive the 2019 National Community Service Award. Thank you, Spelman College, for the thoughtfulness in this recognition.”

A product of Atlanta Public Schools, Mayor Bottoms graduated from Frederick Douglass High School and received her undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University. She earned her Juris Doctorate from Georgia State University College of Law.

Spelman Honorary Degree Sonia SanchezHonorary Degree Recipient – Sonia Sanchez, Poet, Playwright, Professor, Activist
Poet, professor, activist and one of the foremost leaders of the Black Studies movement, Sonia Sanchez will receive the Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. A lifelong advocate for the rights of oppressed women and minority groups and a sponsor of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Sanchez has lectured at more than 500 colleges and universities internationally on Black culture and literature, women’s liberation, peace and racial justice. The author of more than 20 books, Sanchez is a contributing editor to Black Scholar and The Journal of African Studies, and has edited several books and contributed poetry and articles on Black culture to anthologies and periodicals. She has taught at San Francisco State University, Manhattan Community College, Amherst College, and Temple University, where she was the first Presidential Fellow. Her many honors and awards include being named Philadelphia’s first Poet Laureate and receiving the PEN Writing Award, the American Book Award for Poetry, the National Academy of Arts and Letters Award, the National Education Association Award, Academy of American Poets’ Wallace Stevens Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pew Arts Foundation. 

Alisha Lola Jones Baccalaureate Speaker 2019 SpelmanBaccalaureate Service
Alisha Lola Jones, B.M., M.Div., and Ph.D., assistant professor of Ethnomusicology, African Diaspora Studies, and Religious Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, will serve as Baccalaureate speaker to the class of 2019. A musician, social entrepreneur and fourth generation preacher, Rev. Jones has focused her research interests on musical masculinities, music and theology, the music industry, music of the African diaspora and emerging research on music and future foodways. She has received academic acclaim and support for her research with fellowships from Andrew W. Mellon; the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality; and the Franke Institute for the Humanities, among others. As a performer-scholar, Dr. Jones has lectured on her research throughout the world at institutions such as Oxford University, Howard University, Boston University, Duke University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her writings on African-American religious music, gender and sexuality in ethnomusicological research appear in various publications.

Baccalaureate service will be held on Saturday, May 18, at 9 a.m., on the Spelman Oval.

To request media credentials, email For details about Commencement media coverage, click here.

To learn more about Spelman’s 132nd Commencement, click here.

About Spelman College 
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by U.S. News and World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 51 among all liberal arts colleges and No. 1 among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund Founder Marian Wright Edelman, Starbucks Group President and COO Rosalind Brewer, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna President Audrey Forbes Manley, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones. For more information, visit


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