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Spelman College's Class of 2019

Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipient(s)

2019 Speaker:  Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms Spelman CommencementKeisha Lance Bottoms is the 60th mayor of Atlanta.

A daughter of Atlanta, Mayor Bottoms is committed to realizing her vision of One Atlanta – an affordable, resilient and equitable Atlanta – which stands as a model city for both commerce and compassion.

A lifelong public servant, 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.

Mayor Bottoms’ notable accomplishments to date include the establishment of the City’s first fully staffed Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the appointments of a LGBTQ Affairs Coordinator and a Human Trafficking Fellow, the citywide elimination of cash bail bond, the closure of the Atlanta City Detention Center to ICE detainees, and the rollout of the most far-reaching financial transparency platform in the City’s history – Atlanta’s Open Checkbook.

Under Mayor Bottoms’ leadership, the City of Atlanta led the historically 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.

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.

An active member of the community, Mayor Bottoms is a member of the State Bar of Georgia, Jack and Jill of America, The Links Incorporated, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. She has also served on the board of Families First, and shares her personal story of adoption, and advocates on behalf of adoption and foster care.

Mayor Bottoms is the daughter of Sylvia Robinson and R&B icon Major Lance. She resides in historic Southwest Atlanta with her husband Derek W. Bottoms, their four children -- Lance, Langston, Lennox and Lincoln, and their family dog Logan.

Commencement 2019

Spelman College's 132nd Commencement will take place on Sunday, May 19, 2019 at 3 p.m.
Doors open at 12 p.m. and close promptly at 2:30 p.m.

Georgia International Convention Center (GICC)
2000 Convention Center Concourse, College Park, Georgia 30037 |

Honorary Degree Recipient: Sonia Sanchez

Spelman Honorary Degree Sonia SanchezPoet. Mother. Professor. National and international lecturer on Black culture and literature, women’s liberation, peace and racial justice. Sponsor of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Board Member of MADRE.

Sonia Sanchez is the author of over 20 books including “Homecoming,” “We a BaddDDD People,” “Love Poems,” ”I’ve Been a Woman,” “A Sound Investment and Other Stories”, “Homegirls and Handgrenades,”  “Under a Soprano Sky,” “Wounded in the House of a Friend” (Beacon Press, 1995), “Does Your House Have Lions?” (Beacon Press, 1997), “Like the Singing Coming off the Drums” (Beacon Press, 1998), “Shake Loose My Skin” (Beacon Press, 1999) and “Morning Haiku” (Beacon Press, 2010). In addition to being a contributing editor to “Black Scholar and The Journal of African Studies,” she has edited an anthology, “We Be Word Sorcerers: 25 Stories by Black Americans. BMA: The Sonia Sanchez Literary Review” is the first African American journal that discusses the work of Sonia Sanchez and the Black Arts Movement.

Sanchez is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts award, the 1984 Lucretia Mott Award, the Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women, and the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. She is also a winner of the 1985 American Book Award for “Homegirls and Handgrenades,” the 1988 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Humanities, the 1989 Peace and Freedom Award from Women International League for Peace and Freedom (W.I.L.P.F.), a 1992-1993 PEW Fellowship in the Arts, and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award.

Her work, “Does Your House Have Lions?” was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and she is the recipient of the 2018 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets for proven mastery in the art of poetry. She is also the recipient of the 2016 Shelley Memorial Award, and the Poetry Society of America’s 2001 Robert Frost Medal. A Ford Freedom Scholar from the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, her poetry also appeared in the movie “Love Jones.”  

Sanchez has lectured at over 500 universities and colleges in the United States and has traveled extensively, reading her poetry in Africa, Cuba, England, the Caribbean, Australia, Europe, Nicaragua, the People’s Republic of China, Norway and Canada. She was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University where she also held the Laura Carnell Chair in English. The recipient of the Harper Lee Award and the 2006 National Visionary Leadership Award, Sanchez is a 2004 Alabama Distinguished Writer. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Leeway Foundation Transformational Award and the 2009 Robert Creeley Award.

Sanchez is one of 20 African American women featured in “Freedom Sisters,” an interactive exhibition created by the Cincinnati Museum Center and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. In December of 2011, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter selected Sanchez as Philadelphia’s first Poet Laureate, calling her “the longtime conscience of the city.” "BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez," a documentary about Sanchez’ life as an artist and activist by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater and Sabrina Schmidt Gordon, was nominated for a 2017 Emmy. She is the 2018 recipient of the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets. In 2019 she was awarded the Anisfield Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award.

2019 Baccalaureate Speaker: The Reverend Dr. Alisha Lola Jones

Alisha Lola Jones Baccalaureate Speaker 2019 Spelman

The Reverend Dr. Alisha Lola Jones will deliver her Baccalaureate address on Saturday, May 18, at 9 a.m., on the Oval at Spelman College. 

A fourth-generation, ordained, itinerant preacher, the Reverend Dr. Alisha Lola Jones has preached internationally and has spoken before organizations such as the Student National Medical Association on tapping into their genius. She has spoken alongside notables such as Dr. Dorothy Height, Judith Jamison, and Attorney Star Jones, and has worked for ministries in Connecticut and Illinois. She is an associate pastor at Greater Grace Christian Church in Bowie, Maryland where Rev. Dr. Martha Jones is senior pastor. She will deliver her Baccalaureate address on Saturday, May 18, at 9 a.m., on the Oval at Spelman College.


Photography and Videography Release

Please be aware that photographers and members of the media will be taking photographs and filming Spelman's Commencement activities. Your presence at the ceremonies constitutes your release, permission, and consent to be photographed and/or recorded. Pictures and/or recordings of you may appear in future printed materials and online, including in commercially available publications.

If you do not wish to be photographed and/or recorded, please be aware of the presence of photographers and members of the media and take steps to avoid contact.



For the Media

Mashaun Simon

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