Farmer Encourages Graduates Not to Dim Their Light

Student sing along to music performance at 2024 Baccalaureate

Charlotte, N.C./May 17, 2024 – Graduates filed into Jane M. Smith Memorial Church on Friday, May 17, 2024, to hear an inspiring sermon from their soon-to-be fellow alumna Dr. Michaela O’Neal Farmer ’96.

Farmer, who answered the call to ministry during her first few years at Johnson C. Smith University, delivered a message that further illuminated the University’s Latin motto, Sit Lux – “Let There Be Light.”

Dr. Michaela Farmer speaks during 2024 Baccalaureate Ceremony
Dr. Michaela Farmer speaks during the 2024 Baccalaureate Ceremony. Photo by Joshua Nypaver.

“One of my favorite Bible verses is Matthew 5:14-16 where Jesus says ‘You are the light of the world, a City set on a hill cannot be hidden,’” she said. “I’d simply like to encourage you to never underestimate the light you carry. Even the smallest flame has the power to dispel darkness and bring the heat!” 

Farmer said she asked herself what she needed to hear when she was sitting where the graduates were sitting more than 20 years ago.

She took it upon herself to talk to some of her fellow alumni, who offered nuggets of wisdom they wish they had learned sooner in their journey through life.

Some said to save and invest, while others said to never be afraid to fail. Others said to give oneself grace, don’t spend too much time in a comfort zone and to be careful of sharing your vision too soon and with the wrong people.”

“A great light draws all types of bugs,” she added. “As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, evil has a way of disguising itself as good.”

But Farmer’s favorite piece of advice was this: “If we knew then what we know now, we would have never dimmed our light for anyone.”

Farmer’s message centralized on two sources of light each JCSU graduate would carry with them: the light of their ancestors and the light of Johnson C. Smith University.

But she said these two sources of light couldn’t shine without the power source: God. 

“Class of 2024, you must have an awareness of the great light within you,” she said. “Never allow anyone to cause you to dim your light. As you go your separate ways, stay close to your power source. The original tie that binds all of our hearts together is the Gold and Blue!”

As a parting gift, Farmer offered each member of the graduating Class of 2024 six months of free career readiness coaching through her LLC, Pinpoint Consulting. 

Dr. Kinloch comments on Class of 2024 during Baccalaureate Ceremony
Dr. Valerie Kinloch addresses the Class of 2024 during the Baccalaureate Ceremony. Photo by Joshua Nypaver.

Dr. Valerie Kinloch ’96, formed a friendship with Farmer when they were both students at JCSU. She relayed that, just as she was cultivated by the many faculty and staff at JCSU, the graduates of the Class of 2024 were, too.

“It’s believed that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us,” said Kinloch. “But for any of us to realize our dreams and reach our goals, I believe it takes a village.”

A village certainly came out in support of the Class of 2024, with families, friends, faculty, staff, and alumni crowding the pews of the church where Farmer says she was called to ministry. 

The ceremony featured scripture readings by Kofi Asafu-Adjaye and Aliyah Thompson, the 2023-24 Mister and Miss JCSU, and featured several performances by the JCSU Concert Choir, under the direction of Dr. Shawn-Allyce White, associate professor of music, director of Choral Activities, and University soloist. 

A prayer was offered by Sydlie Fleurimond, SGA president, and Farmer was introduced by the Class of 2024 Salutatorian John Josiah. 

As the students filed out of the Jane M. Smith Memorial Church, one prevailing lesson lingered.  Farmer, moments earlier, said this: “Even the smallest flame has the power to light the darkness.”  JCSU students, adorned in their robes – some boisterous and bold, others quiet and reserved - walked out of the church and into the world as college-educated citizens. 

The full baccalaureate service can be viewed on the JCSU YouTube Channel

Watch the Baccalaureate Service