The kente cloth symbolizes prestige in many African societies, and it is a visual representation of African history, philosophy, ethics, moral values, political thought and more.
During Elon University’s seventh annual Donning of the Kente ceremony, graduating students selected someone — be it family, a mentor or friend — to present their kente to them on stage in acknowledgement of their hard work and to encourage them to move forward.
As the Celebremos ceremony allowed Elon’s Hispanic community to reflect on their bonds and heritage, the Donning of the Kente celebrates the achievements of graduating students who recognize their African roots.
Students honored at the ceremony are then encouraged to wear their clothes at commencement tomorrow to honor, connect and reflect on their collective heritage, as well as their shared struggles and successes.
Vice President and Associate Provost for Inclusive Excellence Randy Williams kicked off the ceremony as the event’s welcomer.
“The kente fabric represents our ancestors’ culture, spirituality, sophistication and immaculate tradition,” Williams said during the event. “We know well that it takes a village to support, inspire and nurture our graduates — and that the Elon community has been a small part of that village.”
Williams was followed up by a traditional dance of celebration.
“We want a lot of exuberance this evening, celebration, acknowledgement of the love that you have for your students — the graduates — and we want to see that reflected in the many forms in which it can manifest this evening, so feel free to act as the spirit moves you,” Williams said.
Following the dance, the Rev. Kirstin Boswell, university chaplain and dean of multifaith engagement, led the ceremony in invocation and began with a communal prayer.
“We gather today in celebration knowing that it is only through collaboration, hard work and mutuality, that we can ensure that every hope that our ancestors held for us is met, every promise that may have resided within them is given room to take way through us,” Boswell said. “Every dream that they may have never thought would come true and every prayer that they offered on our behalf is fulfilled.”
President of the Elon Black Alumni Network Akilah Weaver ’00 also welcomed graduates into EBAN and announced that the network had awarded graduating senior Ethan Lane-Blake with this year’s Black Alumni Scholarship in the amount of $31,900.
“The Elon Black Alumni Network works to unite and represent the interests of Black Alumni, and strives to empower, connect and celebrate Elon’s Black community,” Weaver said.
Weaver once again presented the audience with a West African Adinkra symbol called eban, which translates to fence and represents love, safety and security.
“As you begin the next step in your journey as alumnus, know that you are now another link in the fence that surrounds Elon’s Black students with advocacy, nurturance and safety,” Weaver said. “You are Black excellence.”
Closing remarks were delivered by Buffie Longmire-Avital, professor of psychology, director of the Black Lumen Project and faculty administrative fellow.
The ceremony represents the culmination of the Office of Alumni Engagement, African and African American studies, the Black Lumen Project, the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education, EBAN and more organizations, committees and offices within the Elon community.
“As you embark on this journey, remember that it is through great perseverance tempered with great love, that our common humanity is affirmed,” Boswell said. “As we engage in a celebratory time and as you go out to lend your skills and efforts toward building love and community, know that you are your ancestors wildest dream and greatest hope.”