Clarkson University

Opal Tometi, executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree at Clarkson University’s 123rd Commencement on Saturday, May 7.

The degree was awarded for “her devotion to this nation’s shared egalitarian ideals; for encouraging communication as a means to overcome challenges; for building coalitions that value the contributions of workers, immigrants and families; and for her tireless work as an organizer of opportunities for all. ”

“You should revel in your accomplishment, but this is only the beginning,” said Tometi in her speech to the graduates. “You have to keep going. And at this point in your journey, you know what you’ve only begun. When you have privilege — like what you have with your degree — you have a responsibility. And when you have a bit of accomplishment under your belt, it is also your duty to do something with it. To be the solution with your new distinction, with your resources, with your gifts. To leverage your privilege so that all can have access to similar opportunities if they wish — because this is just. In times like these it is important to be all of who you are no matter your race, your religion, your ability, your immigration status, your gender or sexuality because the world actually needs you!”

Tometi is a writer, communications strategist and cultural organizer. She is the executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) and a co-founder of Black Lives Matter online community. Tometi found inspiration at an early age from such figures as bell hooks, Ella Baker, Stuart Hall and black feminist thinkers.

As a tireless human rights advocate, she has received numerous awards and accolades for her work, including the Black Girls Rock! Community Change Agent Award. Fortune magazine named Tometi to its annual list of the World’s Greatest Leaders 2016. She has been called a “New Civil Rights Leader” in 2015 by the Los Angeles Times and POLITICO Magazine.

Tometi is a well-known expert on a wide range of civil, immigrant and human rights issues, and is the author of dozens of articles on public policy. Since taking the helm of BAJI, she has worked diligently to address emerging policy issues of concern to black communities and work towards the goal of a more just society. Before joining BAJI, Tometi was a case manager for survivors of domestic violence and still provides community education on the issue.

A transnational feminist, Tometi supports and helps shape the strategic work of Pan African Network in Defense of Migrant Rights and the Black Immigration Network.

She has presented at the United Nations and participated with the UN’s Global Forum on Migration and Commission on the Status of Women. She is also a member of the Young Women’s Initiative steering committee.

Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, New York, and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

[A photograph for media use is available at]