The sisters, Alexis, 25, and Amber, 23, both Spelman College graduates, began planning the celebration about a month ago. Morehouse delayed its in-person commencement to December after shutting down the campus in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. The sisters wanted to have a celebration for their brother, whom the family calls “T.J.” T.J., an easygoing guy, wasn’t making a fuss about commencement.
The sisters had T.J. do a chore at a relative’s home Saturday while their father arrived. The sisters and their mother, Frances, began preparing the backyard for a ceremony.
Family members created cutout photos of Terrell Jones Jr.’s closest friends from Morehouse College, who sat in chairs in the family backyard for a commencement celebration they did for him. The celebration included a surprise visit by his father, a U.S. Army chaplain stationed in Maryland.
After the surprise, T.J., dressed in cap and gown, walked to the backyard. The family had programs and a stage and created cutout photos of T.J.’s closest friends from Morehouse and had them seated in chairs in the backyard, socially distanced, of course.
His father gave the commencement speech.
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“You kept going to class in your bedroom and at the kitchen table. You kept going on to your computer with Zoom and group chats. … You kept going!”
Amber, a Howard University law school student, read a poem she wrote about the pride she had in her brother's journey to becoming a college graduate as an African American male and the challenges he'll face. Alexis, a doctoral student at Auburn University, created a YouTube video of it all.
T.J., who graduated with a degree in business administration with a concentration in finance, will start work in July as a financial analyst at Kraft Heinz in Chicago. He called the experience “great.”
“To be able to have a commencement that was pretty similar (to Morehouse’s past ceremonies), it was a really big deal,” he said.