WATCH: Ava DuVernay, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo and More Celebrate Indigenous Youth Graduation

WATCH: Ava DuVernay, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo and More Celebrate Indigenous Youth Graduation

July 7, 2020

Celebrities and activists united together to celebrate the 2020 graduating class of Indigenous students.

Ava DuVernay, Mark Ruffalo and Chris Evans, Native American singers, dancers, elders and leaders helped celebrate the recent grads through an event organized by Protect the Sacred, the grassroots initiative created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on the Navajo Nation.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Congresswoman Deb Haaland joined the broadcast on July 1 that also welcomed other celebrities such as Tessa Thompson, Sean Penn, Wilmer Valderrama, Paul Rudd, Taika Waititi, Piper Perabo and Jewel.

Per a press release, the event "aims to empower Indigenous youth as they enter the next chapter of their life" and "will encourage Indigenous young adults to shape their futures and invest in their communities by filling out the 2020 United States Census and registering to vote."

DuVernay motivated the graduates to create change through governmental action through her speech during the broadcast.

"I want to encourage you to stay connected to your classmates and your community, even as you embark on this new era in your life," she said.

"I want to invite you to participate in the census. I want to urge you to protect your right to vote, and I want to know that you know that there is beauty in your specificity. What is your voice? What do you want to say? What do you want to be? What do you want to do? Now, more than ever, this is the moment to do your best to step over the rubble of what's been destroyed and to walk into the life that you can create. I'm cheering you on, and I'm sending you love."

Ruffalo echoed DuVernay's sentiments about participating in the census during his speech, sharing, "It's time for you to take your place in this country where you have always belonged and speak your voice and feel your power, and how you do that is to fill out the census, folks."

He added, "We gotta fill out the census so that you're counted, so that money comes to you, and so that representation comes from your community. It is so important. It will lay the groundwork for the next decade. It will dictate who is leading us and how much money you're given from the federal government and how much power and say you have in how this country is run and how our leadership is shaped."

He ended his speech with an uplifting anecdote, saying, "Just like you protected the sacred, it is now important to project the sacred."

The Navajo Nation is America’s largest, self-governing indigenous reservation with a population of over 250,000 and Evans had a short but sweet message to share with their Class of 2020.

"Class of 2020, what an accomplishment," he began. "I wanted to send my personal congratulations. Your efforts, your achievements, they deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated. I know this year has been challenging to say the least, but you can all continue to be the leaders you are registering to vote, taking the census. Be counted, be heard, protect the sacred with your vote and continue on the great path that you've all begun."

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