Harvard University is holding its first ever all-black commencement ceremony, creating a new tradition to celebrate black graduates in one of the nation’s most hallowed universities.
More than 170 students, a majority of whom are graduate students, alongside their friends and family will attend “Black Commencement 2017” on May 23, two days before the wider university commencement ceremony.
All-black commencement ceremonies are common in many predominantly white institutions around the nation. Their goal is to celebrate the accomplishments of black students who have overcome unique experiences to cross the finish line.
“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,” Student organizer Courtney Woods told the Boston Globe. “I know this is exactly what students like me need to be inspired as we leave this place as emerging global leaders.”
The student organizers were able to raise over $27,000 to pay for the ceremony and reception. They are hoping the success of the inaugural ceremony will allow them to expand it to include undergraduate students next year.
Praise for the ceremony was accompanied , unsurprisingly, by criticism that the event was a form of segregation.
“This is an opportunity to celebrate Harvard’s black excellence and black brilliance,” Michael Huggins, president of the Harvard Black Graduate Student Alliance, told The Root. “This is a chance to reaffirm for each other that we enter the work world with a network of supporters standing with us. We are all partners.”
Congratulations to the new graduates!