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MSU AAC hosts Fall Black Grad, celebrating culture and excellence

December 9, 2023
A family member and an MSU Fall 2023 graduate share a laugh before the start of the Fall 2023 Black Grad event at the Union Ballroom on Dec. 8, 2023.
A family member and an MSU Fall 2023 graduate share a laugh before the start of the Fall 2023 Black Grad event at the Union Ballroom on Dec. 8, 2023.

Michigan State University's African American Celebratory, or AAC, hosted its annual Fall Black Grad event, which took place in the MSU Union Ballroom yesterday at 4 p.m. This is the 22nd Black Grad ceremony, and around 73 graduates were present with friends and family. 

In addition to the graduates and their loved ones, Interim President Teresa Woodruff, Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Rema Vassar, Trustee Dennis Denno and Trustee Brianna Scott were in attendance.

AAC President Ariel Foster believes the Black Grad ceremony is extremely important in celebrating the underrepresented communities at a predominantly white institution, or PWI, as well as showcasing their academic journey. 

“The purpose of having this event is celebrating Black excellence at a PWI,” Foster said. “We are underrepresented here at a [PWI], and it’s just bringing Black culture and Black heritages together.”

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President Woodruff was one of the many people who gave a speech, where she spoke about the importance of the Black Grad ceremony, the ever-changing campus policies to combat issues that marginalized communities face on campus and the success graduates will have in their future. 

“We realize our commitment and facing changes means we have to continue to lead on our mission by listening, being responsive and making productive decisions,” Woodruff said. “Together, we’re on our way to imagining our future and the shadows that each of our graduate institutions will build that foundation of success for the next students that arise at this institution.”

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AAC Program Coordinator Omar Cooper is not graduating this year, but said he is excited to be a part of AAC and celebrate with those who are. To him, graduating – whether you’re an undergraduate or graduate student – is a milestone. 

“To be a part of this board, I’m honored to be able to plan and celebrate Black students because this is a milestone for a lot of us,” Cooper said. “A lot of us don’t make it to see 18, a lot of us don’t make it even to graduate high school, so to be able to graduate college and be able to celebrate it and a space where we are all loved is something that I’m proud to be a part of.”

Dr. Vassar also spoke to the graduates, where she also discussed issues that Black students have faced at MSU and how those students have faced adversity in their careers. With that comes more greatness to them as a person, she said.

“MSU has had more than its fair share of issues this year alone,” Vassar said. “You may be the strongest class to come out of MSU from all the things you’ve experienced. Each of you is a testament to greatness and ancestral excellence is on full display with your accomplishments. When you think of a Spartan, you need to think of a Black Spartan because that’s y’all.”

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The ceremony concluded with a Kente-Stole accolade being dedicated to the current class of graduates, a tradition that carries history and acts as a testament to the excellence each student brings. 

“At one point here in America, we didn’t have the privilege of being educated, let alone become college students for undergrad and doctoral degrees, so it’s a big accomplishment within our culture, and that’s why we celebrate with the dedication of the Kente Stoles,” Foster said. “They come straight from Kenya and they’re African history that just represents excellence.”

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