Chillin by the Fountain at Lincoln Center
A Joyous Baccalaureate at The Lincoln Center
There were many special things about the graduation ceremony for SUNY’s Empire State College class of 2016, but it was extra special for my son Playthell Samori Benjamin. Like many other students he was completing his degree as an older student who had to work while finishing his studies, and like all of these persistent students he deserves hearty applause for his tenacity. Beyond these things that he has in common with his classmates however, Samori has a special relationship with this part of Manhattan and the Lincoln Center which is unique.
A Native New Yorker and lifetime resident of Manhattan Samori went to elementary school about twenty blocks away; he went to Junior High school – the unique “Museum Science School” – about ten blocks away, where he had a staff pass at the world renowned Museum of Natural History and he graduated from the Beacon High School which was even closer to the Lincoln Center where he was now graduating from college. Furthermore, upon his first graduation from elementary school I took him and his twin sister Makeda to a concert in this very hall.
The great trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra was performing. Since Wynton was a good friend of mine and I was a passionate supporter of the Jazz at Lincoln Center project in my newspaper columns and feature stories as well as my weekly radio show, I had the run of the place and took Samori up into the sound and lighting booth because he was curious about how it all worked. The lighting technician was very gracious to him and allowed Samori to operate the lighting board; he then pressed the wrong button and plunged the entire auditorium into darkness while Wynton was soloing.
It was a hairy moment but quickly corrected by the technician. Afterward we had a big laugh about it hanging out with Wynton. I lost the photographs of Samori and Wynton from that night, which is why I am determined to preserve the images from this special night. Fortunately I dis preserve a photograph we took at home just before departing for the Lincoln Center.
Samori’s First Graduation Night
Just before leaving for the Lincoln Center
Hence the graduation ceremony at Lincoln Center was something like coming home to a very familiar place, the return to scenes in which he had lived out the various stages of his development – the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It was this reality that made this graduation, already a high point in his life, extra special for Samori as he donned his cap and gown and marched down the ailse to receive his sheepskin.
There had been many important stops along the way: Norfolk State University; Sports Editor and broadcaster at WBAI FM; maintaining a website featuring his interviews with top athletes and articles on various aspects of sport; researching and writing a soon to be published book on baseball. And finally back to the Upper West side and Lincoln Center to receive his Bachelor of Science Degree. BRAVO SON! BRAVO!! And big ups to the class of 2016: THE WORLD IS YOURS AS MUCH AS ANYONE’S!
A Contemplative Moment Reflecting on the Gravitas of the Event
As the Students Marched In
We Witnessed a the “Gorgeous human Mosaic” that People New York City
All Races, Ethnicities, and Genders were Representin!
Some Calmly Pondered their Programs
While Others Stood Awaiting the Call
To Proudly March Down the Asile
Of the Grand Auditorium in Geffin Hall
After Much Pomp and Curcumstance
The Newly Degreed Students Marched out Triumphantly
TheDeans and Professors bade them a Fond Farewell
As they Walked into the arms of Friends, Family and Loved Ones
Samori with hsi Mother June and Twin Makeda
Samori and Aunt Adjuwa
She watched him grow up
Samori and Makeda
The Twins and a Good Friend
Chillin with Mom and Dad
Samori and Mom Joyously preserving Memories of Magic Moments
Playthell G Benjamin and Playthell S. Benjamin
The food and drinks were delicious and plentiful
A Token of Appreciation for the Graduates
The Student’s faces reflected Determination
And Joi de Vivre!
Plus Lots of Love, Optimism and Good Wishes !
And the Shutter Bugs were Documenting it all for Posterity!