David E. Talbert, who graduated from Morgan State University in 1989, will serve as the keynote speaker for the institution’s commencement ceremony on May 21. (Courtesy Photo)

By Special to the AFRO

David E. Talbert, celebrated auteur and 1989 Morgan State University graduate, will be the keynote speaker at Morgan’s 145th Spring Commencement Exercises held on May 21, beginning at 9:30 a.m. 

An accomplished and award-winning filmmaker, Talbert is set to deliver an inspiring message reflecting his profound capacity for storytelling and capturing the transformative spirit of the African-American narrative before hundreds of graduates and their guests assembled at Morgan’s Hughes Memorial Stadium.

“Leadership and Morgan are synonymous. And over the years, we have produced a number of accomplished leaders spanning diverse professions and disciplines the world over, but none have been more of a joy to watch progress than David E. Talbert,” said President David K. Wilson. “We welcome David back home to his beloved alma mater and look forward to him delivering the inspiration for the Class of 2022, in an authentic and meaningful way that will certainly resonate with our graduates.”

Heralded as one of the most prolific theater-makers in America, Talbert has written and produced 14 national tours, surpassed box office records and captured the hearts of audiences around the world. 

Talbert has garnered 24 NAACP nominations and won Best Playwright of the Year for The Fabric of a Man. He has won the NAACP Trailblazer Award for his contributions and accomplishments in theatre. He has also received the New York Literary Award for Best Playwright of the Year for his musical, Love in the Nick of Tyme. Buoyed by his diverse production credits, Talbert has cemented his rank among the highest echelon of today’s entertainment visionaries.

“I’m honored to share my journey with my alma mater’s next generation of innovators and influencers as the commencement speaker for Morgan State University’s 2022 graduation,” said Talbert, in a statement released by the university. “Who knew all the good things that would happen once I finally paid off my student loans!” 

Talbert made his feature film directorial debut in 2008 with the Sony Pictures comedy “First Sunday,” starring Ice Cube, Katt Williams, and Tracy Morgan. This successful venture was followed by the very popular romantic comedy, Baggage Claim, a Fox Searchlight production adapted and directed by Talbert’s best-selling novel of the same name. 

In 2016, Talbert wrote and directed the holiday film, Almost Christmas for Universal Pictures with an all-star cast including Danny Glover, Gabrielle Union and Academy Award winner Mo’Nique. The film became the highest-grossing and most critically acclaimed theatrical release of Talbert’s career up to that point. All three of these feature films debuted as the top comedy in America at the time of release. 

Most recently, Talbert celebrated the pinnacle success of an already fruitful cinematic career with Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, Netflix’s first original live-action musical of which Talbert wrote, directed and produced. This 20-year passion project and brainchild of Talbert bore a completely original and inclusive cinematic holiday experience for every family that was a significant hit among critics and audiences alike. Debuting in over 190 countries and translated in 32 languages, the groundbreaking film was nominated for 10 NAACP Image Awards and shortlisted by the Academy for Oscar contention.

Coming off the heels of Jingle Jangle and his growing global audience, Talbert inked a multi-year first-look deal with Netflix, launching Golden Alchemy Entertainment, a partnership with his wife and producing partner Lyn Sisson-Talbert. Through the deal, the Talbert’s will write, direct, and produce event films, as well as launch the careers of underrepresented filmmakers through their producing projects. Talbert is currently writing to direct two features for Netflix, as well as the musical series Madelyn Square Garden for Disney+.

Grateful to be doing the work that he loves and understanding the challenges many faces in the entertainment industry, Talbert recently launched Lights Camera Access (LCA), a mentorship program designed to give students who are underrepresented in the entertainment industry access, insight, and employment opportunities. He is also an active participant in the Motion Picture Academy’s Gold Mentorship Program.

David Wilson, David Talbert and Congressman Kweisi Mfume all earned their bachelor’s degrees in marketing from Morgan State University and later attended New York University’s accelerated film program. A visible alumnus, Talbert remains connected to the Morgan Community having served as Homecoming Parade grand marshal during Morgan’s Sesquicentennial and guest lecturer with Morgan’s Screenwriting and Animation program (SWAN) engaging aspiring auteurs and filmmakers.

Morgan will host its Graduate School Spring Commencement on May 19, and its undergraduate Spring Commencement on May 21. Both will be held outdoors at Hughes Memorial Stadium. For more information about Morgan’s Spring Commencement Exercises visit the official commencement site online. 

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