Legendary hip hop artist LL Cool J delivered the keynote address to more than 800 Twin Cities African and African American graduates and their guests at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder’s 11th Annual High School Graduation Celebration held May 25 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.
When the originally scheduled speaker, Reverend Run of Run-D.M.C., cancelled his appearance at the last minute, LL Cool J agreed to take his place because “it’s the right thing to do, and it’s a worthy cause.” Judging from the enthusiastic reaction when the substitution was announced, no one was disappointed. Both youths and adults were mesmerized by Cool J’s dynamic talk, which revitalized the verities of traditional graduation speeches in the style and language of a new generation.
Providing entertainment for the evening were the Walker West Music Academy Jazz Band, spoken word artist Libby “Naadirah” Osborne, and steppers from the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Minneapolis Chapter. Rondah Kinchlow of KARE-11 TV and Adam Davis-McGee served as co-emcees. The Reverend Albert Gallmon, Jr. gave the invocation.
In addition to the honored graduates and their families and friends, the audience included corporate guests, community leaders, school administrators and elected officials. One adult participant commented, “Last night’s event was absolutely fabulous! It was well put-together and we really enjoyed all of the entertainment, and the keynote speaker was quite the surprise. The pride and school spirit of all of the seniors resonated throughout the ballroom.”
The gala dinner event, provided free to all graduates and their guests, was made possible by Presenting Sponsor Medtronic, Supporting Sponsor Best Buy, and Contributing Sponsors American Family Insurance, Augsburg College, The Blake School, Breck School, Fairview Health Services, Hennepin County Medical Center, LifeSource & Southside Health Clinic, Metropolitan Health Plan, Minnesota Private College Council, and Target.