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'Call me doctor.' Jersey girl Queen Latifah gets degree at Rutgers graduation

'Call me doctor.' Jersey girl Queen Latifah gets degree at Rutgers graduation

You can call her doctor, now. 


"I'm always asked by people what should I call you? Queen? Latifah? Dana? After today, you can just call me doctor," Newark native Queen Latifah told graduates of Rutgers-Newark Monday morning, after receiving an honorary doctorate degree in fine arts. 


Born in Newark and raised in East Orange, Latifah impressed upon the black-robed graduates, who gathered for their commencement at the Prudential Center, the importance of home.


"I'm a Jersey girl, born and bred ... I couldn't be more proud to be one of Newark's own today, this is home," she said of her homecoming. "Today's Newark is stirring again, stirring because our greatest export was never a product, it's always been the people. People like each of you -- unique, strong, creative individuals."


Rutgers Newark commencement speaker Queen Latifah reat the Prudential center in Newark, NJ. Monday,05/14/2018 

A hip-hop icon, Grammy-award winner and Golden-Globe winner, Latifah is also a philanthropist who founded a scholarship for low-income youth. She said the lessons she learned in New Jersey make her who she is. 


In school, Latifah said she was taller, bigger and different than the other girls. "By the time I was 13, I had body, all of it, it was all there," she said. "It still is, and I'm damn proud of it," she added, placing her hand on her left hip.


Latifah said she grew confident when she took the stage as one of the Dorothy's in her school's production of "The Wiz." 


"Graduates, home shapes you, make sure you shape it back," Latifah said. "Take a chance on that next kid who comes along the way, the way someone took a chance on you, the way someone took a chance on me."


Rutgers Newark commencement at the Prudential center in Newark, NJ. Monday,05/14/2018 

Safika Frazier, 39, was graduating on Monday with a masters degree in public administration. Her graduation cap was glittered red, with photos of her two daughters (ages 13 and 15) and her late mother. 


"My children are my inspiration," Frazier, of Newark, said. She said having Latifah as the commencement speaker was an honor. 


"She makes me proud, definitely proud of my city," she said. "It's good to have someone here representing the city in a positive light."


Rutgers officials said the class of 2018 was the largest and most accomplished class in the university's history. At Rutgers-Newark, 97 received phD degrees, 77 received masters degrees and 15 maters in fine arts. 


"In a world of bullets and divisions and distractions, we need more citizens pulling us together instead of trying to pull us apart," Latifah said. "Give back to your home."



Mayor @rasjbaraka urges diverse group of graduates to be ambitious but inclusive. "Take your degree, make it mean something ... and make this world as beautiful as it is today." @Rutgers_Newark pic.twitter.com/9fk8w04PNX


-- Karen Yi (@karen_yi)

Karen Yi may be reached at kyi@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook