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Queen Latifah of 'Set It off' Gives Powerful Speech as She Receives Harvard Honor

Claudine Varela
Oct 29, 2019
03:20 A.M.
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When Queen Latifah received Harvard's highest honor recently, she encouraged students during her acceptance speech to persevere. "Do not quit. Fight for it!" she advised.

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There’s no stopping Queen Latifah who recently picked up an achievement by way of Harvard’s highest honor.

"...know that if you believe in it, it’s gonna happen. Don’t give up..." - Queen Latifah

Rapper turned film star turned philanthropist Queen Latifah at the 2018 "Black Girls Rock!" red carpet. | Photo: Getty Images

Rapper turned film star turned philanthropist Queen Latifah at the 2018 "Black Girls Rock!" red carpet. | Photo: Getty Images

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"PARAGONS OF BLACK EXCELLENCE"

Latifah was one of seven prominent personalities who were awarded the institution’s W. E. B. Du Bois Medal for her contributions to African and African American history and culture.

According to The Harvard Crimson, Latifah and her co-awardees were deemed the “paragons of black excellence” during the ceremony held at the Sanders Theatre.

It was Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research who praised the honorees with the recognition during his speech at the beginning of the event.

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“Our medalists, stars in the fields of art, literature, music, business, and even a queen are phttps://parade.com/909110/samuelmurrian/best-queen-latifah-movies-ranked/eople who made the most of their opportunities,” he said.

Latifah was joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rita Dove, Black Entertainment Television co-founder, Sheila C. Johnson, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation president Elizabeth Alexander; artist Kerry James Marshall; entrepreneur and philanthropist Robert F. Smith; and Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Lonnie G. Bunch III.

"...there will be times when you will have to stand alone. There will be nobody else that will believe in your dream. They will think you are out of your mind..."

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Queen Latifah on stage at the W. E. B. Du Bois Medal Ceremony at Harvard University on October 22, 2019. | Photo: Getty Images

Queen Latifah on stage at the W. E. B. Du Bois Medal Ceremony at Harvard University on October 22, 2019. | Photo: Getty Images

LATIFAH'S POWERFUL MESSAGE

Each awardee gave an acceptance speech during the ceremonies. Latifah used her time on stage to inspire students to overcome challenges.

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“I get in the backyard sometimes and I scream, ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’ That's me fighting for my life. Fighting against drugs and alcohol, fighting against mental illness, fighting against racism, sexism, all of it. We going to have to fight,” she said.

Queen Latifah accepting her W. E. B. Du Bois Medal at Harvard University on October 22, 2019. | Photo: Getty Images

Queen Latifah accepting her W. E. B. Du Bois Medal at Harvard University on October 22, 2019. | Photo: Getty Images

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Latifah also acknowledged the people who rallied behind her and kept her feet on the ground including her longtime business partner, Shakim Compere.

“I keep my feet on solid ground, and know who I am, because I have real people around me. Who love me, and smack my head when I do bad things, and pat me on the back when I do well, and I appreciate that.”

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Towards the end of her speech, Latifah spoke to the students and reminded them of the endless possibilities of who they can be.

“You can be whatever you want to be if you put your mind to it, and you will have to work hard for it,” she advised.

“Just understand that there will be times when you will have to stand alone. There will be nobody else that will believe in your dream. They will think you are out of your mind.

“You have to be strong, and be courageous, and know that if you believe in it, it’s gonna happen. Don’t give up. Do not give up. Do not quit. Fight for it.”

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BREAKING BORDERS

Latifah, whose real name is Dana Elaine Owens successfully crossed over from rap to film and later to philanthropy.

Shortly after her mother’s death in March 2018, Latifah’s company, BlueSugar Corporation revealed its sizeable donation to help build affordable homes in her hometown in Newark, New Jersey.

The actress reportedly gave $14 million to the cause which plans to erect 20 three-family homes, a mixed-use building, and 16 units of housing for the residents of Brick City. The homes will be rented out for as low as $1,800 starting price.

The first phase of the project is expected to be completed by December 2020.

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