Stars and Activists Encourage Indigenous Students to "Feel Your Power" in Graduation Ceremony

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Celebrities and activists united on Tuesday to celebrate the 2020 graduating class of Indigenous students. The ceremony featured inspiring speeches and performances from luminaries such as Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and recording artist Talibah Begay, as well as powerful calls to action from stars, including Tessa Thompson, Ava DuVernay, and Mark Ruffalo.

"You are the future, and that gives me great hope."

Tessa cheered on the graduates, sharing her excitement for their destined accomplishments. "I want to tell you, you are the future, and that gives me great hope. I continue to learn so much from your generation about how to be better, about how to think better, about how to see better, about how to show up better on this Earth," she said. "So I really, really feel inspired to know that our future is in your hands. And I know, yes, that feels scary, but I think you should feel heartened by the fact that you were able, during these really uncertain times, to graduate and to begin the rest of your adult life. It's exciting. I know it couldn't have been easy, but you did it, and that should be an indication that you can do anything."

Ava motivated the students to cultivate positive change through creativity and governmental action. "I want to encourage you to stay connected to your classmates and your community, even as you embark on this new era in your life," she said. "I want to invite you to participate in the census. I want to urge you to protect your right to vote, and I want to know that you know that there is beauty in your specificity. What is your voice? What do you want to say? What do you want to be? What do you want to do? Now, more than ever, this is the moment to do your best to step over the rubble of what's been destroyed and to walk into the life that you can create. I'm cheering you on, and I'm sending you love."

Mark also highlighted the importance of voting and filling out the census. "It's time for you to take your place in this country where you have always belonged and speak your voice and feel your power, and how you do that is to fill out the census, folks," he said. "We gotta fill out the census so that you're counted, so that money comes to you, and so that representation comes from your community. It is so important. It will lay the groundwork for the next decade. It will dictate who is leading us and how much money you're given from the federal government and how much power and say you have in how this country is run and how our leadership is shaped." He ended on an uplifting note, adding, "Just like you protected the sacred, it is now important to project the sacred."

During the event, there were also appearances from Zahn McClarnon, Paul Rudd, Tatanka Means, Chris Evans, and Taika Waititi — who, in February, became the first person of Māori Indigenous descent to win an Academy Award with his 2019 film, Jojo Rabbit. Watch the full ceremony above!