A black graduation is being planned at Harvard University. Some student activists believe a ceremony separate from the official commencement with the entire and diverse graduating class is necessary.
The Harvard black graduation will recognize the achievements of both black students and faculty members. The ceremony will take place several days prior to the university’s official graduation event.
This is the first “Black Commencement” event to be held at Harvard, but similar graduation ceremonies for specific races or ethnic groups have been held at other universities and colleges in the United States for several years. So far, more than 700 black Harvard students and guests have registered to attend the ceremony for students that event organizers claim have been overlooked on the campus, Yahoo reports.
“We really wanted an opportunity to give voice to the voiceless at Harvard,” Michael Huggins, the president of the Harvard Black Graduate Student Alliance campus group, said. “So many students identify with the African diaspora but don’t necessarily feel welcome as part of the larger community, and they don’t feel like their stories are being shared.”
Stanford University, the University of Washington, and Marshall University all host commencement ceremonies for various minority ethnic groups as well, MSN reports. The University of Delaware hosted its first LGBT commencement ceremony this year. Dozens of other colleges have been allowing similar graduation ceremonies for several years.
The Harvard black graduation ceremony has become a highly controversial topic and is being hotly debated on social media.
— Philip Schuyler (@FiveRights) May 9, 2017
The Black Commencement ceremony will be held on May 23 and is slated to include four student speakers. The Harvard graduates are expected to speak about the obstacles they faced during their years at the Ivy League university. Two years ago, Harvard students began hosting a Latino graduation event.
Each student participating in Harvard’s black graduation ceremony will receive an African kente cloth to wear. The traditional stole is meant to symbolize the shared heritage of the black students and is also supposed to adorn their cap and gown ensemble during the official Harvard commencement ceremony.
Harvard students have raised about $35,000 to put on the 2017 Black Commencement event on the campus. Although university officials have not confirmed their attendance, some professors and college deans have reportedly signed on to attend the unofficial graduation ceremony for black students.
“This event is truly open for everyone. We really want this to be an open affair where people can learn about some experiences that often go unnoticed,” the Harvard Black Graduate Student Alliance leader also said.
Black Harvard students holding own graduation… https://t.co/7jkaUWqTJQ
— HungryNewsNetwork???? (@HungryGents) May 17, 2017
American Association of Blacks in Higher Education President, M. Evelyn Fields, said cultural graduations are often organized by students who feel marginalized on campus and are the first members of their family to graduate from college. Fields is also an early childhood educator at South Carolina State University.
“When you’re a little speck of pepper in a sea of salt, you can get lost,” Fields said. “They don’t want to just be lost in the sea. They want the recognition that they believe they deserve, for the work that they’ve done.”
Black students represent about five percent of the student body at Harvard University. White students comprise approximately 43 percent of the campus population. Two years ago, Harvard University Law School removed its long-standing official coat of arms after student protesters had claimed the symbol was tied to a slave owner.
What do you think about the Harvard black graduation ceremony and similar commencement events at other American colleges?
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