Miami President Gregory Crawford, Oxford Mayor Kate Rousmaniere and guest speaker, Wil Haygood welcomed the class of 2022 at the August 24 Convocation ceremony. Over 4,000 people crowded on the lawn around the Freedom ‘64 Summer Memorial on Western.
After a special performance from Miami’s Glee Club, Rousmaniere addressed the newest members of the Oxford community.
“This past Tuesday in a formal proclamation, the city of Oxford declared August 24 as Wil Haygood Day in the city of Oxford,” Rousmaniere said. “We urge all citizens to use the day to reflect on our mutual commitment to confront inequality, promote efforts for justice, inclusion, civil rights and wide-awake activism. We did this because we hold Wil Haygood as a model of citizenship in our community.”
For his contributions to Miami, Crawford presented Haygood with the Miami University President’s Medal and renamed the lane by the memorial Wil Haygood Lane and handed Haygood his new street sign.
“We are sitting in a very special place,” Crawford said. “Right on this space, hundreds of students trained 54 years ago today to travel on to segregated southern states and register black voters. They were announcing to the world that they would not standby or submit to racism, intolerance or injustices.”
Haygood, class of ‘76, has devoted his writing talents to telling stories that uplift others.
“We are so fortunate today to debut Wil’s new book, ‘Tigerland,’ right here at Miami University,” Crawford said. “As this book wins bestselling national acclaim, and maybe a movie, we will be able to say we were the first to read it, right here at Miami University.”
“Tigerland” tells the story of students at the all-black East High School in Columbus, Ohio in 1968. In the book, Haygood features students who had to overcome barriers from racism to poverty and still won two state championships in one year.
“We are delighted for our students to read ‘Tigerland’ because it gives us a living real-world example of how students can rise above struggle, disappointment and even loss to elevate themselves, each other and their school,” Crawford said.
Haygood stepped up to the podium and pantomimed shooting free throws while the sea of first-years cheered him on.
“This, right now, is a time in our nation where we desperately need leadership around the issue of equality and race,” Haygood said. “It is a tribute to you, President Crawford, that as its leader and on behalf of Miami University, you have raised your voice in a mighty and eloquent way in the name of diversity and inclusion.”
Haygood directly addressed the first-year students and put the onus on them to vote for a government that believes in diversity and civil rights.
“When you vote, please vote for someone who doesn’t denigrate people because of their religious background or the color of their skin,” Haygood said. “Vote for someone who treats women with respect and someone who believes in the sacredness of the U.S. Constitution. Diversity makes us all stronger. And please please please, no more reality TV stars in high office!”
Haygood acknowledged how honored he feels to have his alma mater care about and have faith in ‘Tigerland.’
“I want you to think about the Tigers,” Haygood said. “Pay attention to how they dreamed, how they achieved, how they stuck together, how they brought a community and a state together and made national history.”