Posted May 7, 2018

A spoken word send-off to the Class of 2018

Hard work drives senior and Africology and African American studies major Jamal Parker, and inspires his original poem dedicated to graduating seniors.

Video Production: Louis Peluyera

Class of 2018, you are the embodiment of tenacity.”

There’s no better ambassador for the tenacious than senior Jamal Parker. As he read those words into a microphone, perfectly even on the first recording, anyone within earshot could detect the honesty in his voice. He believes in each and every word he has written to celebrate the graduating class. 

And Parker, Africology and African American studies major, is someone who takes words seriously. Poetry and creative writing have been a part of his life since he was 8 years old and living in Okinawa, Japan. He wrote a short story about a kid traveling into space that left his teacher pacing the halls making sure everyone who passed by read it.

In high school, words inspired him to walk from his home in Orlando, Florida, to whatever open mic was the closest. Words also brought him to Temple. 

“As soon as I got accepted to Temple, all of my other acceptances or denials didn’t matter,” Parker said. “I made it my focus to go to here.” 

When he was a senior in high school, Parker knew he wanted to leave Florida. Not because he didn’t like it there, but growing up in a military family that moved frequently, traveling became part of this life. His priority was being somewhere that would help cultivate his growth as an artist. 

“I gravitated toward Philadelphia’s poetry scene,” Parker said. “There are people who come to Temple for Babel Poetry Collective. I was one of those people.” 

Babel Poetry Collective is a group of spoken word poets, musicians, vocalists and emcees that was founded at Temple by Malcolm Kenyatta, KLN ’12. The coveted collective is now in its 10th year. Parker just wrapped up his term as artistic director. 

Wrapping things up is common this time of year, as graduating students work hard to tie all loose ends before Commencement. It’s a time of year that, Parker said, everyone has to continue working hard and remember that even when you face setbacks, your journey is your own and something to be proud of. 

That belief—that hard work will get you far—is something Parker’s mother and his mentors instilled into him. It’s something he practices every day from his work with Babel to his time spent coordinating youth open mics at South Philadelphia High School.

It’s a belief that many Owls share, and it’s what drove Parker’s poem to the graduating class. 

“I’m honored to be a part of this and to allocate a voice to thousands of other voices who are about to depart and go on their own journeys after Temple has given them amazing gifts and amazing opportunities,” Parker said. 

Special thanks to members of the Class of 2018 who volunteered to participate in the production of this video. We couldnt have done it without you. Congratulations, Owls

Class of 2018
You are the embodiment of tenacity 
After long nights spent in the TECH Center 
Grinding yourself to dust for those final papers 
Sacrificing your nights just to get to this stage
You earned this moment, 
As you rose to each occasion, 
Left your footprints at the Bell Tower
For someone to see each step you’ve conquered
You’ve left an entire lineage behind you 
Been blessed to have moments shared in these buildings, 
In these dorms, 
The Student Center, 
This campus, a chronicle of your journey 
An undying narrative befit for a scholar 
You’ve excelled in perseverance
From internships in Center City 
To late-night classes 
As the sun descended past Morgan Hall 
Bear witness to yourselves,
You are an exhibition of  
Social justice advocates
From over 127 countries 
You’ve crusaded like a Night Owl 
Soared to the finish line, 
With wings still intact 
Eyes still fixated on your goal like instinct 
With cap and gown in hand 
As you join alumni worldwide 
You are a multitude of diamonds glistening 
That rivals heaven’s gates
Graduates, this is your legacy
As Temple inscribes your name in honor

—Jamal Parker