Nzinga Shaw, LeMoyne-Owen College’s commencement speaker, brought her three children – ages six, four and two – with her. She wanted them to experience the commencement of an HBCU (historically black college and university).
Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer for the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc., Shaw showered praise on graduates at LeMoyne-Owen College’s 153rd Spring Commencement, which was held at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church-Westwood on Saturday (May 13).
In an interview with The New Tri-State Defender on Friday, Shaw said, “We hope our children will also choose to attend a historically black college. …
“LeMoyne-Owen College has a wonderful story, a story worth telling. The institution deserves all the love and attention we can give. And it is my joy and pleasure to encourage these graduates.”
Two months ago, Shaw, an HBCU graduate, was named the Recording Academy/Grammy’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion chief. In that capacity with the global entity, she leads its DEI Center of Excellence with the focus of enabling a more engaged global workforce and creating enhanced platforms to recognize the diverse array of artists and music professionals.
And while she now has what she described as her “dream job,” Shaw’s focus at the commencement squarely was on LeMoyne-Owen College (LOC), the higher-education opportunity it presents, and the graduates who seized the opportunity and completed the journey.
“I am so proud of this institution and these students,” said Shaw. “Historically black colleges and universities leave a legacy of opportunity and accomplishment. Look at what tremendous challenges these 2023 graduates have come through – a global pandemic and the beating death of Tyree Nichols right here in their city.
“But they powered through with resilience and courage. I am so proud of them.”
LOC President Dr. Vernell Bennett-Fairs embraced Shaw as a “dynamic global leader and HBCU alumnae.”
“As our (LOC) Magicians embark on a new chapter of their lives, we are confident they are poised to go from here and accomplish great things,” said Bennett-Fairs.
“We are just thrilled to have such a dynamic, global leader impart wisdom and inspiration for their days ahead. Ms. Shaw is not only an HBCU alumna, … she continues to strongly advocate for their legacy, importance, and support.”
In her interview with the TSD, Shaw recalled her own 2001 commencement experience at Spelman College in Atlanta.
“It was filled with inspiration, love, joy, and excitement. I want these awesome, young people to also feel loved and inspired.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree from Spelman College, Shaw received her master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Before joining the Recording Academy, Shaw was the first Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer for both Starbucks and the National Basketball Association’s Atlanta Hawks.
An adjunct professor at Fisk University, a United Negro College Fund member, Fisk University, Shaw also teaches in the Honors Program at the John R. Lewis Social Justice Institute.
Her HBCU roots run deep.
“My parents came from historically black colleges,” she said. “My mother graduated from Benedict College, in Columbia, SC, and my father graduated from Morgan State University, in Baltimore, MD. As children, we always knew we would be attending a historically black college. The only question was which one. …
“In such an important moment in a young person’s life, historically black institutions provide cultural socialization and build a sense of community. They cultivate self-esteem and (provide an) enriched structure that adds value to the student.”
Historically black colleges such as LeMoyne-Owen, “let black students know that they are both seen and esteemed,” she said.
(Photos: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)