This week on Back2Reality with Jarrett Hill, we caught up with two of the ladies who made headlines this week after being the first to rise and turn their backs to Secretary Betsy Devos when she spoke at their graduation ceremony.
Twins Taylor and Tyler Durrant, political science majors, said they were shocked to learn of Devos’ participation in Bethune-Cookman University’s commencement exercises after reading an article in Politico.
Stunned by the news, they said they knew this wasn’t something they could stand for.
“Immediately Tyler and I were like ‘are we dreaming?” Taylor recounted.
The sisters were a part of a change.org petition, coordinated with alumni, graduates-to-be, and people across the country totaling thousands of signatures asking their administration to “Stop Betsy DeVos from delivering the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University.”
Tyler says this is what they were trained to do by the very institution they were fighting back against.
“You’ve cultivated us to be young intellectuals,” Durrant said, “so now here we are, I’m analyzing the education system that raised me, and I’m raising questions where they should be.”
Some students speculated that the school made a deal with Devos and the Department of Education for funding to help the school in exchange for presenting Devos before a Black audience at a time where her comments on historically Black colleges and universities have been historically inaccurate and insensitive.
“Initially, the graduating class wasn’t on our side,” Taylor said. According to the twins, they didn’t disrupt the presentation of Devos’ honorary doctorate (which the Durrants point out is for a program not offered by Bethune Cookman University), but when it came time for Devos to speak Taylor said she acted on her only directive from her mother — to make her proud.
“In my head, I just said stand up, we both got up and actually turned the same direction,” Taylor recalls, remembering their very twin-like nature. She says they stood for what felt like a long-minute before other students started to rise and turn with them.
Video from the floor of the graduation shows throngs of students rising and turning their backs to the stage to cheers from the audience.
Both of these brilliant, outspoken, and incredibly smart young women have bright futures ahead. Tyler has been accepted to George Washington University where she says she’ll get the skills and education she needs to go back to be mayor of her home town, and Taylor already has a job offer back where they’re from to be a teacher. The twins are debating what opportunity to pursue.
We’ll be following the ladies and their progress and look forward to great things from them in the future.