Published: Fri, May 12, 2017
U.S. | By Eddie Scott

Harvard grads organize separate commencement for black students

Harvard grads organize separate commencement for black students

Although Harvard's undergraduate college has had black commencement events in the past, this one will be the first open to graduate students across the university.

After a long history of connections to racism and slavery, Harvard University has spent the 2016-2017 academic school year rebranding itself.

Though black students have held separate graduations at predominantly white institutions before, Black Commencement 2017 will be Harvard's first university-wide graduation ceremony honoring students of the African diaspora.

Popular Video The average American throws away 82 pounds of clothes every single year. For example, if you're a black person at Harvard, it's OK to call for segregation. "And it's important for us to have a space to educate others who may not have had those experiences", Woods, a student at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, said. "We are all partners", he said.

He referred to the commencement ceremony as "an opportunity to celebrate Harvard's black excellence and black brilliance".

Instead of traditional caps and gowns, participants will don stoles made of African kente cloth while they listen to speeches from black students, alumni, and administrators.

BGSA President Michael Huggins, however, stressed that the ceremony is "not about segregation", explaining that it will be open to students of any race or ethnicity, and that participants still plan to attend the regular commencement proceedings on May 25. A month later, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) joined University President Drew G. Faust to dedicate a plaque of remembrance to four slaves who worked on the campus in the 1700s. Last spring, Harvard Law School agreed to redesign its insignia, which had been modeled on a slaveholder family crest.

The Black graduation event comes at a time of heightened student activism in response to racism on college campuses.

All the while, the Black Lives Matter movement picked up steam after incidents of police brutality received the spotlight of several major news sources.

"There is a very somber tone to it because of the things we've had to overcome", she said.

Student organizers confirmed that the administration has been supportive in their planning and that a number of graduate schools have donated money toward the commencement's costs. Student organizers raised more than $27,000 to pay for the ceremony and reception.

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