ESPN’s The Undefeated Presents ‘HBCU Day’ on Saturday to Celebrate 2020 Graduates at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

ESPN DigitalThe Undefeated

ESPN’s The Undefeated Presents ‘HBCU Day’ on Saturday to Celebrate 2020 Graduates at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

  • Virtual Graduation Messages for the Class of 2020 from Former President Barack Obama, Toni Braxton, Jerry Rice and Other Prominent Black Americans
  • Inspirational and Encouraging Messages from More Than 20 HBCU Valedictorians and Ambassadors

The Undefeated, ESPN’s content platform exploring the intersections of sports, race and culture, will present ‘HBCU Day’ this Saturday, May 23, to celebrate the Class of 2020 graduates at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Utilizing the hashtag #UndefeatedHBCUDay, the virtual celebration will feature a collection of videos and written content shared all day across The Undefeated’s social accounts (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) and curated on

Former President Barack Obama headlines a list of prominent African Americans who will deliver congratulatory and inspirational messages to this year’s HBCU graduates. Others include Grammy Award-winning artist Toni Braxton, actor Omar Epps, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, The Heritage Foundation President Kay C. James, Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith, and more.

HBCU Day marks the second time that The Undefeated has worked with Obama on a project. In October 2016, the 44th President headlined a first-of-its-kind conversation hosted by The Undefeated at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, N.C. Obama’s #UndefeatedHBCU Day message will post at 1 p.m. ET.

“We are proud to present ‘HBCU Day,’ a celebration of the next generation of leaders who have been educated by our Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” said Kevin Merida, ESPN Senior Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of The Undefeated. “The day is a reminder of the brilliance and potential of the 2020 graduating class, and of the role HBCUs continue to play in the development of this country.”

As part of The Undefeated’s HBCU Day, more than 20 valedictorians and ambassadors – nominated by their respective schools – will share inspirational and encouraging messages to their fellow graduates. Their messages will be shared across The Undefeated platforms on Saturday.

Additional HBCU Day content:

  • Digital Show – Senior writers Lonnae O’Neal and Jerry Bembry will host HBCU Day: Together We Go Further. Panelists will include Tuskegee President Lily McNair, Morgan State University President David Wilson, Bennett College President Suzanne Walsh, CIAA Commissioner Jacqui Williams and SWAC Commissioner Charles McClelland
  • William C. Rhoden video essay – Columnist and Morgan State University graduate William H. Rhoden will voice an essay about the impact of HBCUs on black life in the current environment.
  • Rhoden Fellows Essays – Three members of the Rhoden Fellowship Class of 2020 – Whitney Bronson and Randall Williams (Hampton University), and Howard University’s Nathaniel Easington – will pen graduation-themed essays.

The Undefeated and HBCUs

The Undefeated is one of the leading media platforms providing insightful reporting and storytelling focused on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Stories about HBCUs are one of the featured content verticals on The Undefeated website. In addition, the ESPN sports, race and culture platform offers a Rhoden Fellowship, a one-year journalism internship program that identifies and trains aspiring African American journalists from HBCUs. During the academic year, the Fellows serve as correspondents covering sports and news at their respective campuses for The Undefeated’s HBCU vertical.

The Undefeated’s HBCU Day will feature messages from these prominent African Americans:

  • Actor Zuri Adele – Spelman College alum who stars in the popular Freeform show Good Trouble
  • Actor Anthony Anderson – Howard University graduate is the lead character and executive producer of ABC’s popular primetime series Black-ish
  • NFL safety Antoine Bethea – Howard University graduate and Super Bowl XLI champion
  • Singer/songwriter Toni Braxton – Bowie State University graduate and a multi-Grammy Award-winning artist
  • NFL player Tarik Cohen – North Carolina A&T alum and Chicago Bears running back
  • Actor Omar Epps – Best known for his lead role in Love & Basketball, the popular romantic drama film
  • Senator Kamala Harris – Howard University graduate and a former Democratic candidate for the 2020 Presidential Election
  • Educator Leonard Haynes – former Grambling State University president and Southern University alum, and a longtime government and private sector adviser on HBCU initiatives
  • Actor and rapper Trevor Jackson – features in a starring role on the Freeform sitcom Grown-ish
  • Government and public policy leader Kay C. James – Hampton University graduate and president of The Heritage Foundation
  • NFL player Darius Leonard – South Carolina State alum and Indianapolis Colts linebacker
  • Actor Demetria McKinney – multitalented actor, singer and songwriter, she stars on the Freeform drama series Motherland: Fort Salem
  • Comedian Loni Love – Prairie View A&M University graduate, talk show host, and comedic actor with numerous appearances in film and television
  • Actor Yvonne Orji – comedian and actor best known for her role in the HBO series Insecure
  • Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice – Mississippi Valley State University graduate and three-time Super Bowl champion who is considered the greatest wide receiver in NFL history
  • Actor Diggy Simmons – one of the stars on the Freeform sitcom Grown-ish
  • ESPN First Take commentator Stephen A. Smith – Winston Salem University graduate and one of the nation’s leading sports voices
  • ESPN SportsCenters Stan Verrett – Howard University graduate and anchor on the ESPN signature news and information program.

The Undefeated HBCU Day Class of 2020 Valedictorians and Ambassadors:

School Graduate Hometown
Bowie State University Diamond Lyles Waldorf, Md.
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania Arynn Pratt McKeesport, Pa.
Claflin University Angel Hague Lansing, Mich.
Clark Atlanta University Markayla Brooks Columbus, Ohio
Coppin State University Veronica McCoy Baltimore, Md.
Delaware State University Usman Tijani Willingboro, N.J.
Florida A&M University Rochard Moricette Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Hampton University Jonathan Mack Virginia Beach, Va.
Howard University Tia Humphries Orlando, Fla.
Lincoln University Jordyn Adams Pittsburgh, Pa.
Mississippi Valley State University John William McCall III Sidon, Miss.
Morehouse College Micah Holmes Cleveland, Ohio
Morgan State  University Jeffon Stubbs Nassau, Bahamas
Norfolk State University Jessica Radford Detroit, Mich.
North Carolina A&T State University Darian Thompson Winston Salem, N.C.
Saint Augustine’s University Christian Smith Grayson, Ga.
Shaw University Andre Matzuda Lima, Peru
Southern University and A&M College Irene L. Lewis Baton Rouge, La.
Spelman College Kendra Grissom Baltimore, Md.
Tuskegee University Micah Grey Birmingham, Ala.
Winston Salem State University William Gibson Charlotte, N.C.
Xavier University of Louisiana Myles Bartholom Missouri City, Texas

The Undefeated is ESPN’s multiplatform content initiative exploring the intersections of sports, race and culture. The digital hub,, which launched in May 2016, combines innovative long-form and short-form storytelling, investigation, original reporting and provocative commentary to enlighten and entertain African Americans, as well as sports fans seeking a deeper understanding of black athletes, culture and related issues.

In addition to its cutting-edge content, The Undefeated seeks to be a thought-leader on race, sports and culture in the country – convening insightful forums to discuss and debate topical issues affecting sports and race in America.

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Mac Nwulu

I joined ESPN in 1998 and since then, it's been a great experience managing PR and communications for a range of ESPN initiatives and properties over the years. I am currently focused on soccer and The Undefeated, ESPN’s site focusing on sports, race and urban culture and how they intersect.
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