Dear Friends,

I have been thinking about the Class of 2021. No other graduating class has experienced a global pandemic, racial reckonings and uprisings for Black lives, climate catastrophes, assaults on our democracy, and an insurrection. And that’s just in the last twelve months. Still they made it to their graduation day.

My cousin Serena is among the graduates. She will become a first grade teacher this fall. I’m so proud of her. I wanted to find words to capture all that she has witnessed in college — and invite her to make love her compass through her whole life. I put these words together in a Baccalaureate address I delivered at Elon University.

Watch my address to the Class of 2021 above.

If you have a college graduate in your life who needs nourishment, please share with them this address. And if you need a gift for your graduate, you can gift my book See No Stranger, plus the album Revolutionary Love by Ani DiFranco. You can purchase the book and album as a bundle. (Elon University gifted the book to their whole graduating class!)

My cousin Serena had a drive-by graduation. No party. No hugs. But through calls and texts and mail, we still found a way to love her and celebrate her — and let joy in. May joy be our lifeblood.

In Chardi Kala — even in darkness, ever-rising joy,

Purchase your copy of SEE NO STRANGER alongside Ani DiFranco’s Revolutionary Love album. The song that headlines the album was inspired by Valarie’s book and written for our movement. The bundle makes a beautiful graduation gift. May Revolutionary Love be our soundtrack.