Lacrosse team bus incident on minds of Delaware State University graduates

By Joseph Edelen
Posted 5/14/22

DOVER — Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms extended her support for the Delaware State women’s lacrosse team during her commencement address at the university’s graduation …

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Lacrosse team bus incident on minds of Delaware State University graduates

Posted

DOVER — Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms extended her support for the Delaware State women’s lacrosse team during her commencement address at the university’s graduation ceremony on Saturday.

The commencement ceremony was attended by various lawmakers including Gov. John Carney and Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who also praised the bravery of the team.

While traveling home from road games in Florida and Georgia last month, the DSU women’s lacrosse team was subject to a traffic stop in which their charter bus was stopped and searched by officers from the Liberty County (Georgia) Sheriff’s Office. The bus was stopped for a traffic violation, though passengers had their belongings searched as officers warned the team of Georgia’s marijuana laws.

The incident has since gained national media attention after DSU sophomore and member of the lacrosse team Sydney Anderson published her and her teammate’s interpretation of the incident in The Hornet Newspaper on May 4.

Ms. Lance Bottoms began her remarks by applauding DSU’s class of 2022 for their commencement, stating that the class had overcome the odds of “biblical proportions” to have the opportunity to graduate.

She then recalled her time as a stat keeper for Florida A&M University’s men’s basketball team and their matchups with DSU. Ms. Lance Bottoms said the commitment from DSU to send their basketball team down the eastern seaboard always resonated with her and it was clear that same commitment still exists today after the university’s overwhelming support of their women’s lacrosse team.

“The Delaware State University women’s lacrosse team truly embodies what it means to rise above racial disparity and keep composure in any given situation. Those are the words of a sophomore at Delaware State University,” Ms. Bottoms Lance said.

“When I heard Sydney’s account, I immediately though of another group, or a team if you will, of young people who boarded buses in the south, not certain about their journey might hold, but like Delaware State University, they remained committed to rising above racial disparity and keeping composure under any given situation.”

“This team was focused, well trained, and more than ready to face the competition. They did not have a mascot, but they did have a name. They call themselves the Freedom Riders.”

Ms. Lance Bottoms compared the bravery of the DSU women’s lacrosse team to the Freedom Riders, which were groups of civil rights activists that protested against racial segregation and public transportation in the early 1960s. The efforts made by the Freedom Riders led to the removal of Jim Crow signs from bus stations, waiting rooms, water fountains, restaurants, and bus terminals.

“When you are misunderstood, misrepresented, racially profiled, disrespected simply because of who you are, make sure you remember the words of Aubrey Lorde who said, ‘When I dare to use my power in the service of others, it becomes less and less important whether or not I am afraid.’” Ms. Lance Bottoms said.

Ms. Lance Bottoms acknowledged that May 15 marks the 129-year anniversary of the Delaware College for Colored Students, the school which later became DSU. She said the original class of students enrolled in the college left an extraordinary legacy and that the class of 2022 would have the same opportunity. Ms. Lance Bottoms concluded her address by invoking the words of late-Congressman John Lewis, D-Ga., advising DSU’s graduating class to “give them some good and necessary trouble.”

Gov. Carney stated that he, alongside the state’s many lawmakers, supported the DSU women’s lacrosse team after last month’s bus incident. He echoed the words of the commemorative pin worn by graduates and attendees which acknowledged the incident.

“I want members of the lacrosse teams and all DSU students to know that as our pins say, we stand with you. We stand behind you. We stand alongside you,” Gov. Carney said.

“In order to walk across the stage today, you had to display a level of hard work, determination, and grit. That makes me optimistic about your future. As the governor of this state, it’s a point of great pride to have a jewel like Delaware State University in our capital city of Dover.”

Sen. Carper applauded DSU President Dr. Tony Allen and the university’s effort to continuously better DSU as a whole. He condemned the actions by the officers from the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office and said he is grateful for publications like the Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, and New York Times’ coverage of the incident as it illuminates the fearlessness of the women’s lacrosse team.

“Across the country people are reading about Delaware State University and thinking, ‘God, those women must be strong’ and ‘God, those women must be brave,’ and they are. I just want you to know that your governor, your legislature, your congressional delegations, we have your back,” Sen. Carper said.

“I care a lot about Delaware State University … I’m enormously proud of the school it has become. It is one of the finest HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), one of the top three HBCUs in the country. Continue to be strong, and we’re not going to be moving from seeking justice.”

Notable attendees of the commencement ceremony included Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, Sen. Dave Sokola, D-Newark, Sen. Nicole-Poore, D-New Castle, Sen. Marie Pinkney, D-Bear, Rep. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, Rep. Stephanie T. Bolden, D-Wilmington, Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, D-New Castle, and Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark.

The event was originally scheduled to be held at Alumni Stadium, though forecasted thunderstorms resulted in a venue change on Thursday. The location of the ceremony was changed to Memorial Hall, though the 1,800-seat venue provided limited capacity.

Attendees who had purchased tickets were admitted into Memorial Hall by a first come, first serve basis. Two alternative viewing areas were provided by the university in the Education and Humanities Theatre and in the Martin Luther King Student Center. The forecasted thunderstorms held off for the first two hours of the ceremony, resulting in the opening of a viewing area at Alumni Stadium.

DSU’s 2022 graduating class included students from the College of Agriculture, Science and Technology, the College of Business, the College of Humanities, Education and Social Services, and the Wesley College of Health and Behavioral Sciences.