With the sesquicentennial of Howard University on the horizon, the annual gathering for the 149th Opening Convocation was filled with tradition and hopes for the future.

 Festivities began with the singing of both the national anthem and what’s known as the Black national anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing. Some members of the audience, chose to sit and/or hold their fists in the air during the national anthem. One student, Sydney Pollock, a sophomore public relations major, said she sat because she believes “standing during the anthem is like standing up for and appreciating what the anthem stands for. I think the symbolism the anthem holds is for privileges that were never meant for people who look like me.”

While highlighting the history of the University leading up to its momentous 150th anniversary, Dr. Frederick spoke about how much of an impact Howard has had on the world since its founding on March 2nd, 1867. He also urged attendees to vote, no matter who they support because “votes, like Black lives, matter.” He continued with a story of a faculty member who informed him of plans to sit during the national anthem. He assured the employee that he supported their right to protest and there would be no disciplinary action.

Continuing with his remarks, Dr. Frederick asked members of the audience who chose to protest the national anthem to stand up. He wanted to recognize them for exercising their rights to protest. “While I intend to stand while the national anthem is played, I also will respect and celebrate your right to protest,” he stated.

In closing, Dr. Frederick shared his experience of accepting a $1 million check from music mogul and Howard alumnus, Sean “Diddy” Combs. The rapper/producer presented the check during his Bad Boy Family Reunion tour in D.C. on Thursday evening. The funds will go towards the School of Business and allow for scholarships and internships for undergraduates.

Dr. Frederick ended his speech with special thanks to Mister and Miss Howard University, Jalen Saunders and Victoria Gray, respectively, the Howard University Royal Court, the students of Howard’s Early Learning Center and Howard University Middle School of Math and Science, University students, alumni, staff, faculty members, and the Board of Trustees. Before exiting he introduced the sesquicentennial committee chairs Danielle Holley, J.D., Dean of Howard University’s School of Law, and Calvin Hadley, Strategic Initiatives Advisor for the Office of the President.

 The chairs shared personal testimonies on their introduction to Howard University and announced some of the upcoming sesquicentennial events. They made the call for students, alumni, and faculty to get involved with the planning of events by offering suggestions of activities. The University’s sesquicentennial logo will not be announced until further input from the University community.

Opening Convocation is a welcoming event for new students and an opportunity to recognize accomplishments of the University. Recent achievements include the only historically black university ranked in U.S. News & World Report's Best Colleges, moving up 11 spots to #124 and a financial rebound of Howard University Hospital.