Category Archives: Speeches

An Uncertain Sea

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(Note: This speech was the keynote address delivered at the UCLA African-American Studies Department 2016 Commencement. You may listen to the audio recording below.)


Hello, graduating class of 2016! Thank you to Professor Cheryl Harris, the faculty and staff on the Dept of African-American Studies, and Professor Sarah Haley for the invitation to celebrate this day with all of you—the now alumni of this institution.

Congratulations. How do you feel? This is huge. When I thought about what I could say to you that was worth me being up here for a precious thirteen minutes of your day, hoping to impart some pearl of wisdom, I spent a not insubstantial amount of time googling, “What the hell is the point of a commencement address.”

I thought back to my own commencement. I don’t remember it at all. Read More

A Matter of Character

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(Note: The speech was the keynote address delivered at the Southern Methodist University Black Alumni History Makers scholarship reception on 9 February 2013)


Hello! It is truly an honor and a privilege to speak to you this evening. Allow me to introduce myself: I am Jerrika Hinton and you may recognize me from such seminal works as That Girl In That One McDonald’s Commercial About Football. Or: That Girl That Dies In That One Movie That Keeps Playing On TV One. Or, most recently: That Doctor Girl In That One TV Show About Doctors. Yes, it’s true I’ve done a lot.

Tonight we honor history makers—exemplary women and men who exhibit a remarkable commitment to their field and the lives of others. I’ve often wondered, when I sit where you do, What were the series of events that created  that individual? How can I get myself closer to that? How can I approximate that path in my own life? And I’ve found that frequently it’s a matter of character.

I grew up in the heart of Dallas, right across the Trinity River in a diverse neighborhood called Oak Cliff. Oak Cliff is where I first took the stage in a preschool Christmas production at Tom Thumb Nursery. It’s also home to Margaret B. Henderson Elementary, the place where I wrote comedic sketches for my girl scout troop and even, as a young black girl, danced Ballet Folklorico. Oak Cliff’s breadth of culture and possibilities provided a fundamental backdrop for the trajectory my life has taken. Read More