US Black Student Union and BIPOC Affinity Group BBQ

June 16, 2023

On the Wednesday before Commencement, the US Black Student Union and BIPOC Affinity Group held a joint year-end BBQ. Students, families, faculty, and staff gathered to enjoy food and music in community. The celebration also included a special senior presentation of Kente cloth stoles.

A Kente Graduation Celebration, sometimes known as a Sankofa Ceremony, is a pre-commencement ceremony practiced in the United States, typically by African-American students graduating from high school or college, where participants are presented with a Kente stole to be worn over their gown during the graduation ceremony. While a typical graduate’s stole might represent a field of study or academic achievement, a Kente stole displays the colorful, intricately woven patterns of the traditional West African Kente cloth.

Kente cloth weaving goes back almost 400 years, originating in what is modern-day Ghana. While each design, pattern, and color on a Kente cloth represents its own theme or story, the Kente cloth tradition itself holds broader value to people of African descent living outside of the continent, displayed in honor of their ancestral heritage or as a symbol of overcoming the struggles of displacement.

The Kente cloth was introduced to the African-American community in 1958, when the newly independent Ghana’s first prime minister, Kwame Nkrumah, donned the traditional garb during his stateside visit with President Eisenhower. Kente was integrated by Black rights groups during the civil rights era, and later widely adopted into hip hop fashion.

Special thanks to BIPOC Affinity Group Leaders Cara Shaw, Aniru Thomas, and Amin Linder; master griller and DJ Mike O’Neill; Diversity & Equity Director Tatesha Clark; DEI Integrator Sharina Gordon; and US faculty and staff for their continued support.

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