Saturday, June 15, 2024

MSU Black Celebratory hosts Spring 2024 Black Graduation, offers space for authenticity

April 22, 2024
Michigan State students stand for the black national anthem during the Black Graduation ceremony at the Wharton Center on April 21, 2024.
Michigan State students stand for the black national anthem during the Black Graduation ceremony at the Wharton Center on April 21, 2024.

Michigan State University's Black Celebratory hosted their Spring 2024 Black Graduation in the Wharton Center yesterday at 3 p.m. The call and response of the phrase, "go green, go Black" came together with cheers and claps that echoed through the auditorium, creating a symphony of sound celebrating the accomplishments of Black graduates.

Speakers at the event included student leaders, distinguished MSU history professor Dr. Pero Dagbovie, MSU President Dr. Kevin M. Guskiewicz and MSU Communication Arts and Sciences alum Lauren Clayborne.

Black Celebratory Secretary and Spring 2024 graduate Kaj McFarland said it was important to have an event showing Black students on campus that they’re supported by their peers.

"We need a space where we can be authentically ourselves," McFarland said. "I feel like it's very important to show them (Black MSU students) that we are here for them and that they do always have a place on MSU’s campus, even if you feel left out."

black-grad042124-ds-07

Black Celebratory President and Spring 2024 graduate Ariel Foster said she believed the ceremony would instill a sense of encouragement in graduates.

"I just hope people take away being liberated and encouraged not to be afraid to celebrate their culture," Foster said. "There’s been many times where I was the only Black student in a classroom and it kind of made me hesitant to say certain things or feel certain ways. I feel like when we're able to come together at this annual ceremony ... people are able to see that you're not alone and that there's people and faculty that are Black that support you."

Black graduation needs to be highlighted and celebrated because of education historically being withheld from Black scholars, Foster said.

"Education was such a strong thing within systematic racism," Foster said. "It was kind of withheld from us, and it's an accomplishment. A lot of people are still first generation students, and accomplishing these things is making their family proud."

black-grad042124-ds-09

Black Celebratory Alumni Chair and 2023 grad Daiah Williams said it’s important for the planning of this celebration to remain in the hands of Black students.

"It's for us, by us," Williams said. "I really hope that the graduates can see themselves in the program and know that all of our work was towards celebrating them."

One way graduates may see themselves in the festivities was by taking part in Kente stole and libation ceremony traditions.

Kente stoles are a tradition that originates from the Ashanti people in Ghana and their Kente cloth. Kente cloth was originally woven from cotton and silk and featured striking patterns and colors representative of different symbolic meanings, usually tied to cultural heritage. In the modern day, Kente stoles are used as symbols recognizing diversity in academic spaces.

The libation ceremony consisted of pouring out water in honor of ancestors and those who came before MSU Black graduates. A name would be said as water was poured, and all in attendance were prompted to say, "ashe" in response. Though interpretations vary from person to person, Ashe is a word thought to be representative of gratitude and the ability to make something happen. Graduates were invited to call out and honor the names of those who helped them get to where they are.

black-grad042124-ds-06

Acknowledgement of Black history was a vital part of the celebration as a whole. Dagbovie noted the celebration was taking place in a building named after Dr. Clifton R. Wharton Jr., the first Black MSU President.

In his remarks, President Guskiewicz said he’d been lucky enough to have a meal with Former President Wharton. He said he still has much to learn, but promises to stay true to MSU’s diversity, equity and inclusion roadmap.

"You can count on me to be bold in the way that we will move forward with regards to diversity, equity and inclusion," Guskiewicz said. "I believe an inclusive culture is foundational to the success of any great research university aiming to be exceptional. We will be exceptional."

black-grad042124-ds-05

Support student media! Please consider donating to The State News and help fund the future of journalism.

Kinesiology senior and Class of 2024 Student Speaker Mychaela Lovelace said it’s important for the class of 2024 to accept rejection as they move forward, but to not let it deter them.

"Repeat after me," Lovelace said. "I was rejected, but not defeated."

But as the class of 2024 moves forward, there’s a gap left in Black Celebratory’s leadership.

Criminal justice junior and Black Celebratory Vice President Omar Cooper said that while funding and further verbal support from MSU officials would be appreciated, they want to continue Black Graduation being put on by Black students. But for that to happen, Black Celebratory is looking for new students to step up and join the board, he said.

"We’re actively looking for board members right now," Cooper said. "Any students on campus who are looking for leadership positions— we have quite a few positions open. The labor can be a lot, but we’re always students first. We’re planning something for the students to celebrate Black students on campus."

More information on Black Celebratory’s positions, fundraising opportunities and upcoming events can be found on their instagram page.

black-grad042124-ds-08

Discussion

Share and discuss “MSU Black Celebratory hosts Spring 2024 Black Graduation, offers space for authenticity” on social media.