Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Eight Videos Of Black Graduation Cultural Ceremonies Throughout The United States

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a two part pancocojams series about the custom of Black graduating students having Black cultural graduation ceremonies. These graduation ceremonies are usually held in addition to and not in place of the school's or university's official graduation ceremonies for the general population.

This post showcases eight videos of Black graduation cultural ceremonies throughout the United States.

Click for Part I of this post. Part I presents two article excerpts about and two videos of the University of Toronto's 2017 Black graduation ceremony. Selected comments from one of these videos' discussion threads are also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for historical and socio-cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are featured in these videos. Thanks also all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

The earliest date that I've found for a separate Black graduation cultural ceremony in the United States is 1987 (from information on the California State University, Long given as Example #5 below.) If you know of any earlier graduation ceremonies for Black university students and/or pre-university level Black students, please share that information in the comment section below. Thanks!

The custom of holding a Black cultural graduation ceremony appears to have become more widespread in the United States since 2012. It's optional for Black graduating students to attend Black cultural graduation ceremonies and these ceremonies are usually held in addition to the school's or university's official graduation ceremony.

I don't believe that the custom of "donning of the kente cloth" (placing a ceremonial kente cloth around the neck of a graduating student during a commencement program) is that widespread. Instead, it's been my experience that graduating students either purchase the kente cloth stole themselves prior to the graduation ceremony and wear the stole to that ceremony or some group or an individual purchases the stole for them and gives it to them to wear prior to the beginning of a graduation program.

Here's an excerpt from a 1991 article entitled 'Everybody Wants a Piece of Africa Now':
"Cal State Northridge students have been wearing the cloth sporadically since the early '70s, says Margaret J. Brown, 53, coordinator of the university's black graduation ceremonies". She says wearing kente stoles at graduation has become a tradition...


"It's part of a larger movement, a new generation that has discovered an appreciation of African culture--its music and art," says Abena Busia, an associate English professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, who was born in Ghana. Much of the cloth is made in red, green and gold, colors that came out of the Pan African movement in the 1950s.

Many high school and college students wear strips of kente around their necks during graduation ceremonies. At prominent black colleges such as Howard University in Washington, D.C., and Morehouse, Hampton and Spellman in Atlanta, kente--in the form of scarves, hats and book bags--has become commonplace."... October 27, 1991|DONNETTE DUNBAR | TIMES STAFF WRITER.
I believe that the custom of Black graduates in the United States wearing a kente cloth stole (or two kente cloth stoles) started to become more common in the mid 1990s and is now worn by almost all university level African Americans graduates.

Kente cloth stoles comes in numerous color combinations with meaningful geometric designs woven in the fabric. However, as mentioned above, for African Americans, by far the most common kente color combinations are the stoles with the colors of the pan-African flag (red, green, and gold) with the addition of the color "black". It's also quite customary for members of historically Greek letter fraternities and sororities to wear kente cloth stoles in the colors of their organization, with the organization's Greek letters woven on that stole. These fraternity or sorority stoles may be worn along with the pan-African colored kente cloth stole or another stole such as one from a university honor society.
Click for a 2014 pancocojams post entitled
"The History & Significance Of The Pan-African Red, Gold, And Green Flags"

Here's an excerpt from an article about Virginia Tech's "Donning Of The Kente Cloth" ceremony:
Annual Donning of the Kente Graduation Ceremony
"The origins of Kente cloth date back to 12th century Africa, in the country of Ghana. The cloth was worn by Kings, Queens, and important figures of state in Ghanaian society, during ceremonial events and special occasions. In a total cultural context, Kente is more important than just a cloth. It is a visual representation of history, philosophy, ethics, oral literature, moral values, social code of conduct, religious beliefs, political thought, and aesthetic principles. Today as African-Americans wear Kente cloth, they do so for inspiration, to honor, to celebrate, to connect, and to reflect on our collective heritage and communal struggles and successes.

The first "Donning of the Kente Ceremony" was held at Virginia Tech on the eve of spring commencement in 1995, as an African-American celebration of achievement sponsored by Virginia Tech's Black Organizations Council. Ronald Giddings was the founder of the "Donning of the Kente Ceremony" at Virginia Tech. It is a unique way to honor and recognize African-American graduates"...

Pancocojams Editor's Note:
The first and second video embedded below are also found in this closely related 2014 pancocojams post: Wearing Kente Cloth Stoles During Graduation

Example #1: Fresno County 2012 African American Graduation

LeachMedia Published on May 23, 2012

2012 Fresno County African American Graduation ceremony held at Fresno Memorial Auditorium. Hosted by San Joaquin Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
Fresno County is in California.

I think that this is a cultural celebration for elementary school students apart from their official graduation ceremony.

Example #2: 2012 UCLA African American Student Graduation Procession

jwnealy3 Published on Jun 17, 2012
The beginning of the African American graduation ceremony, lead by traditional African dancers.
This is probably an optional ceremony that African American graduates might participate in apart from their official graduation ceremony.

Example #3: Marshall University: The 2014 Donning of Kente Celebration

MarshallU, Published on May 2, 2014

We take a look at The 2014 Donning of Kente Celebration.
Marshall University is located in Huntington, West Virginia.

Example #4: Jabulani Black Graduation 2014 SFSU

JaRon McReynolds, Published on Mar 7, 2015
San Francisco State University
Here's information about the word "jabulani" from
"Jabulani is a Zulu word meaning "rejoice". It is often used as a first name, and in that context is often shortened to "Jabu".
Other uses
Adidas Jabulani, the match ball used in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, held in South Africa

Jabulani, a suburb of Soweto, South Africa

"Jabulani", a song by PJ Powers

Jabulani (Hugh Masekela album), a 2012 studio album by Hugh Masekela"

Example #5: COLLEGE VLOG #8 | CSULB Black Graduation

Ms. Kyari, Published on May 23, 2016

29th Annual African American Graduation Celebration at California State University, Long Beach.
Enjoy! And don't forget to like :)
Notice that the blogger indicated that this 2016 video documented the 29th annual African American Graduation Celebration. That means that this celebration began in 1987.

Here are two comments from this video blog's (vlog's) discussion thread:
Myra Corinthian, 2017
"I've never seen this before love it! so do the grads not graduate with other people?"

Ms. Kyari, 2017
"The grads can choose to do regular commencement with others too. You can do one or the other or both. It's cool."

Example #6: Kente Stole Ceremony 2017

Regis College, Published on May 4, 2017

Regis seniors from the Class of 2017 share what the Kente Stole means to them. As a community that welcomes all without distinction, we are proud to celebrate diversity and inclusion, and to recognize students from diverse backgrounds for all their accomplishments over the years.
Regis College is located in Weston, Massachusetts (approximately 12 miles from downtown Boston.)

Example #7: Umoja Black Graduation Ceremony ISU 2017 Highlights

Unlimited Perspectives, Published on May 26, 2017

Illinois State University May 11, 2017

Theme: From a Mighty Stock WE Come

The mission of the Umoja Steering Committee is to provide a graduation celebration that is representative of African American and African tradition, heritage, culture, and legacy. We want to encourage students to set their sights on the completion of their chosen majors, and as a recruitment tool to motivate others to pursue advanced degrees at ISU after seeing the success of their peers.

Over the years, Black graduation recognition ceremonies have become an essential expression of a rite of passage at many colleges and universities throughout the nation and it is our hope that Umoja will serve as a tool to encourage academic excellence and community responsibility.
"Umoja" (pronounced oo-MOH-jah) is a Swahili word meaning "unity".

Example #8: First Ever Black Graduation at Harvard 2017

Zakhele Nkosi, Published on May 24, 2017
Harvard University is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This concludes Part II of this two part pancocojams series.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

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