Kenya Barris to speak at this year’s Commencement

Kenya Barris, the series creator and executive producer of 'Blackish' is pictured on May 21, 2016. Sarah E. Freeman / Wikimedia Commons

Screenwriter Kenya Barris will address the Class of 2017 at the Commencement ceremony on May 21.

Barris serves as the creator and executive producer of “Black-ish,” (2014-present). The show centers on an affluent African-American family, and it addresses topics such as family dynamics, racial identity and politics. The family documented in “Black-ish” is partially based on the lives of Barris, his wife and his children, according to an interview with The New Yorker.

“Kenya Barris’ witty and wise work entertains and enlightens millions of viewers every week, using humor to open challenging social issues for discussion without sugar-coating them,” University President Anthony Monaco said in a press release. “We are delighted to welcome him to Tufts and excited to hear his address to this year’s graduates, their families and friends and the university community.”

“Black-ish” won a Peabody Award in 2015 and was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2016. In a recent interview with NPR, Barris said that President Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral victory has caused him to refocus the show on addressing difficult-to-discuss issues.

“We have to dig in deeper and stay later and have more real conversations and argue amongst ourselves more,” Barris said in the NPR interview. “We have a responsibility. It’s not just TV for us anymore.”

42-year-old Barris grew up in Los Angeles. He has written for a number of comedy and drama shows, co-created reality television show “America’s Next Top Model” (2003–present) and co-written his first movie, “Barbershop: The Next Cut” (2016).

Barris will be given an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at Tufts’ Commencement ceremony, according to the press release. A number of other people will be awarded honorary degrees as well. Howard Hughes Medical Institute Vice President for Science Education Sean Carroll, former Administrator of the Small Business Administration Maria Contreras-Sweet, Cummings Foundation Co-Founder Joyce Cummings and longtime former Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) Executive Director Jean McGuire will receive honorary Doctorates of Public Service. Juilliard School President Joseph Polisi will be given an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts.

Also, NBC News’ Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Richard Engel will speak at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy for Class Day, and former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will address the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at its Commencement.