BALTIMORE — Prominent civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump took time off Saturday from fighting for racial justice to address the Morgan State University commencement and advise 1,000 graduating students to share their achievement.
During a 32-minute speech interrupted a half-dozen times by applause and cheers at the prominent HBCU, Crump recited the gist of a Chinese proverb from an unknown author: “Education is of no value if you keep it amongst the educated.”
Crump advised the graduates at the school’s 146th commencement ceremony “to take their education back to the ‘hood” to those who have not had the opportunity to obtain schooling.
“Think strategically and use your newfound education to combat the enemies of equality,” he told the spring class of 2023. “Fight for those who will follow behind us until hell freezes over, then fight on the ice,” he said.
Crump, who has figured in every prominent civil rights case in recent years, took it back to family for the crucial parts of his address, recalling wise words from his mother. “ ‘Life is hard, and you make it easier by what you bring to the table. If you don’t bring anything, don’t expect anyone to let you sit down at the table.’ “”
And while Crump offered advice for the graduates’ futures, he also told them they’d already made their mark in the world. He thanked them “for being co-counsels to his legal team.”
“Because of you guys consistently marching in the streets, signing petitions, and using your social platforms, justice was served,” Crump told the crowd gathered at Morgan State’s Hughes Stadium.
For example, in the case of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman fatally shot in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment in 2020 after a botched police raid, the family received a $12 million settlement from the city of Louisville and four current and former police officers received federal charges for wrongful death of a Black woman – the first time in history police have been so charged in the death of a Black woman, according to Crump.
While representing George Floyd, a Black man who died after a former Minneapolis police officer held a knee to his neck for more than 9 minutes, Crump obtained a groundbreaking $27 million settlement for Floyd’s family and a landmark verdict of guilty against that police officer, Derek Chauvin.
Crump rose to national prominence in 2012 when he represented the family of Trayvon Martin, a Florida teen fatally shot by a self-appointed neighborhood watch volunteer.
After his speech, university President David K. Wilson awarded Crump an honorary doctorate of laws degree for his lifelong advocacy in civil rights and supporting families whose lives have been forever changed by race-related crime.
The writer is multimedia journalism student in the Morgan State University School ofGlobal Journalism and Communication