Black Harvard grads to hold separate commencement ceremony

A group of graduate students at Harvard University have decided to host a separate graduation ceremony for black students, the first of its kind to be held at the school.

The “Black Commencement 2017” ceremony will take place on May 23, two days before regular commencement exercises, and it is open to those receiving their degrees from Harvard’s many graduate schools, according to The Boston Globe.

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.

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“I can only imagine how special I will feel when I walk across that stage and be able to honor my identity and my struggle at Harvard,” impending graduate Courtney Woods told the Globe. “I know this is exactly what students like me need to be inspired as we leave this place as emerging global leaders.”

While there is no corresponding “White Graduation” planned, there will be a “Latinx Graduation Ceremony” offered the same day as Black Commencement, and Harvard’s Office of BGLTQ Student Life also held a “Lavender Graduation” for BGLTQ individuals on April 18, during which graduates were given rainbow stoles.

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Organizers with the Harvard Black Graduate Student Alliance, which is hosting the event, say they have raised more than $30,000 for “Black Commencement 2017” so far, including donations from a number of Harvard’s graduate schools.

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.

“This is an opportunity to tell everyone that we’re here and we’re an important part of the culture at Harvard,” Huggins said. “And if you want to learn more about that, then come.”

As of Thursday, WGCL reports that more than 300 students and 500 guests had signed up for the ceremony, which organizers hope to reproduce for undergraduate students next year.

“This is something that we plan to build upon and make it bigger. We have a great foundation. We plan to take the torch and run,” declared incoming BGSA President Jillian Simons, who vowed that “You’ll be hearing about this again next year.”

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