Dr. B. DaNine J. Fleming ’96 told Claflin University fall graduates that they have beaten the odds during a turbulent period in the nation’s history and that their future is bright in her keynote message at Claflin University’s 2019 Fall Commencement December 13 in the Jonas. T. Kennedy Health and Wellness Complex.
“Your struggles of today are not the same as what your parents, grandparents, guardians or I endured. For most of your lives you have known violence and tragedy: terrorists attacks, earthquakes, school shootings, and the shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. However, somehow you have managed to overcome the odds and persevered,” said Fleming to a capacity audience that included 105 graduates who received bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Fleming is an associate professor in academic affairs, director of training and intercultural education in the Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Medical University of South Carolina.
“Today, you are showing the world that even a diamond in the rough is a diamond sure enough,” she said. “On this day, Friday, Dec. 13, you are changing the narrative because this is your day of triumph. For every tear that was shed, for the doors that were closed and those that opened; you needed every one of those experiences. Today, you can thank God; you did not give in, give up or give out.”
Fleming is also the inaugural Unconscious Bias Faculty Scholar at MUSC and a founding member of the advisory council for “Taking Back OUR Village,” a youth anti-violence community program. Fleming started the Little Book Lending Library Program at Flowertown Elementary School in memory of her mother, the late Doretha W. Jenkins, and she launched the inaugural Little Book Lending Library at the Charles Ross Municipal Complex in historic Lincolnville, S.C. To honor the legacy of her grandparents, Lawrence and Oletha Jones Jenkins, Fleming’s family established an endowment at Claflin University. Fleming’s grandmother graduated from Claflin in 1942.
“Hush, someone is calling your name,” Fleming said. “Every single opportunity prepared you for this day as you reap the harvest that you have sown. Remember also that among you are your best natural resources – each other. Never forget the people you meet here at Claflin. Among you are tomorrow’s leaders.You stand shoulder to shoulder and walk with giants.”
A native of Givhans, S.C., Fleming graduated magna cum laude from Claflin with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She earned a master’s in early childhood education from the College of Charleston and an educational specialist degree in educational leadership and administration from South Carolina State University. Fleming received a doctorate in educational leadership from Youngstown State University, Youngstown, Ohio. She also earned a certificate of theology from the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta, Ga.
Fleming is a life member and a past chapter president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated. She is married to Travis N. Fleming, the mother of Sydnei L. Fleming and a bonus nephew, Donte’ D. Reid.
“It matters not if it is a whisper or if it’s being shouted from the mountain tops,” Fleming said. “Your destiny is calling your name. You are prepared and you have completed the race. Now, it is time to stand tall with your ‘Claflin Confidence’ and ‘Claflin Magic’ — it is time to answer the call.”
The 2019 Fall Commencement was the first for Claflin President Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack, who began his tenure as the University’s ninth president on Aug. 1, 2019.
“We are truly proud of your success,” said Warmack to Claflin’s inaugural graduating class under his leadership. “If not for your hard work, dedication and commitment, the degree would be just a piece of paper. Your diploma was well earned and it can be the key to a very rewarding future.
This key can open many doors and lead to highly profitable professional careers, a higher standard of living, and greater recognition in your respective communities. However, what happens after you walk through those doors is up to you. Earning your degree is not the end of anything — it’s just the beginning. I am charging the 2019 Fall Class to remember your days at Claflin with fondness and gratitude. Try your very best to give something back to this institution so that others who come after you can have the same transformational opportunities you received.”
Warmack praised two 2019 Fall graduates — Diamond Boyd and Briyanna Lechea Sinkford — for overcoming personal challenges to achieve their goals of earning a Claflin degree. Boyd is a first-generation college graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree within 3 1/2 years in accounting with a 3.6 grade point average. She has accepted a full-scholarship at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., where she will pursue a master’s in business administration (MBA) with a concentration in finance.
Sinkford is a single mother who worked full-time while attending Claflin as a full-time student. She has been offered a position with an accounting firm in Minnesota. She earned a 3.0 gpa and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Both students are from Columbia, S.C.
To Warmack, their success stories are examples of the “Claflin Magic” – a term he used to describe the university’s phenomenal accomplishments through the collective contributions, effort, and support of the entire campus community.
PennShelia Latashawain Griffin, a member of the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College, was the recipient of the Presidential Academic Excellence Award. Griffin, a native of Yemassee, S.C., earned a bachelor’s degree in human performance and recreation. She graduated magna cum laude with a 3.88 gpa — highest among all Fall 2019 graduates.
Warmack also acknowledged and expressed his gratitude for a special gift from Fleming, the first keynote commencement speaker since Warmack’s arrival to Claflin. She donated $18.69 for each member of the graduating class.
“I challenged a group of alumni leaders in the Images of Success program during Homecoming in November,” Warmack said. “I asked if every young alumnus donated $18.69 in recognition of the year Claflin was founded, what impact would it have on our institution? When I had to consider who would be my first commencement speaker, I wanted someone who had walked these hallowed grounds and was unwavering in giving back to Claflin. Dr. Fleming later gave me an envelope with a donation that guaranteed that the 2019 Fall Class would be the first that 100 percent — each member of its class — has given back to Claflin. She also sent her daughter to Claflin so she really believes in this University.
These are just a few examples of how the ‘Claflin Magic’ continues to resonate throughout this University. This place is special and it takes a village to make all of these great things happen,” Warmack said.