Ava DuVernay reflected on recent global events while sharing some powerful words of wisdom with the 2021 graduates of Compton College.

The award-winning filmmaker, who is a self-described “proud Compton native”, addressed the L.A. County students virtually. 

“What a time that you, the graduating class of 2021, are all experiencing. When you look back at your college experience. What will you remember?”, DuVernay began by asking. 

Discussing the Black Lives Matter Movement and the global pandemic, she continued, “Will it be…spending your final year of college in a virtual classroom? Will it be…isolation and economic insecurity in a global pandemic? Will it be…the trauma of witnessing torture and murder of Black and Brown people in the streets of America transmitted on TV screens and social media platforms? Will you remember the pain, the fear? Probably. It shouldn’t be forgotten.”

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But will you also remember: The spending more time with the people that you love. Doing something you never used to make time for? Discovering what you really want out of this life? In a year that brought so much pain… I hope that for you – as you embark on the next chapter of your life – that it also brought… Clarity. Perspective. And hope.”

The “When They See Us” director went on, “Some good things have happened that are worthy of our hope. The most voter participation in 120 years… Historic election wins for women and people of colour… Protection for LGBTQ employees’ rights… Health care and essential workers finally being hailed as the heroes they have always been. a society that is safely reopening post-pandemic … a social justice awakening for many and a social justice movement for many others.”

Speaking about life’s unpredictability and the power of sincerity, she said, “If this time has taught us anything, it’s that life is unpredictable. I hope that what you’ve learned in an unpredictable year, is that with unpredictability comes opportunity. The opportunity to evaluate what is right in front of you. To focus on the most important things in each of our lives. To recalibrate your perspective. Your energy. Your intention. Your motive. Your purpose. To embrace the opportunity to be — sincere.”

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“Very few people realize what power sincerity carries. To be genuine in your actions. However physically strong a person may be, they can be kept down by their falsehood; it never allows you to rise. Those who have done great things in life, in whatever walk of life it be, have done them by the power of truth, the power of sincerity. They believe in something. Truly. Sincerely. When that is lacking, power is lacking.”

Concluding her passionate address with words from Native American writer Louise Erdrich, DuVernay added, “You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up.”

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“And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.”