Okay, it wasn’t quite a “ceremony” this year. But, next year, we will certainly make it bigger and better! I was just testing out the waters to see who would be into it (and how well it would be received).
In my past few years at the college, I haven’t seen any students of color wearing traditional Kente stoles over their graduation robes. I have seen it at the other 5 colleges/universities where I have worked, but never at Stonehill. So, I figured I would test the waters and see how it would go.
I initially put out the invitation to over 40 students of color – only 6 got back to me and said, “yes”. So, I ordered 12 thinking MAYBE we would hand out a few more.
As it goes, I handed the 6 out at graduation, and then students of color started to come over and ask if they could wear one. I know next year’s class is more “identity active” and will certainly do a more formal ceremony for them.
Why a Kente ceremony? There are a number of reasons for doing a Kente ceremony at a college. Most notable is that students of color, for whatever reasons, have a lower graduation rate than white students – especially at a predominantly white college. The kente ceremony honors their achievement, endurance, and commitment to their futures above the obstacles they have faced in obtaining their degree. Traditionally, the kente is worn a ceremonies and is reserved for such occasions.
The Kente cloth originates from Ghana, West Africa. It is a visual representation of history, values, beliefs and social code of conduct. Each Kente pattern is significant and unique. The stoles that our graduates wore today had red, gold, green and black colors along with a “key” and an “asante stool.” Here is the description of their meaning:
Red: signifies the blood shed by our ancestors in their struggles and sacrifices
Gold: symbolizes wealth; originally representing the gold of Africa
Green: symbolizes growth and life
Black: symbolizes maturity, intensity, and spiritual maturity
Key: represents education as being the key to success
The stoles were offered to all students of color (ALANA) as well as allies. As all civilization began in Africa, and the struggles our students of color face are common between all ALANA populations, it was great to see this symbol of unity in this group.
I am so proud of all the graduates, specifically the students of color!