For the first time in recent history, black students of Harvard University will be holding an individual ceremony.
The event has taken almost a year to plan and is meant to acknowledge both the struggles and the resiliency of black students in an environment where minorities are underrepresented.
“This is an opportunity to celebrate Harvard’s Black excellence and Black brilliance,” Michael Huggins, who is graduating with a master’s in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, stated. “It’s an event where we can see each other and our parents and family can see us as a collective, whole group. A community.
“This is not about segregation,” Huggins went on. “It’s about fellowship and building a community. 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.”
This all comes at a time when black students have been dealing with overt racism, microaggressions, passive racism as well as the marginalization of their minority experiences.
According to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, in 2011 the college graduation rate for black students in the United States was 44%. That same report showed that at Harvard, 96% of black students graduate within six years. This is a higher rate than at other colleges or universities.
Even still, many students say they feel isolated and sometimes even alienated on campus.
According to Courtney Woods, who is getting her master’s degree in education policy and management, “Harvard’s institutional foundation is in direct conflict with the needs of Black students.”
“There is a legacy of slavery, epistemic racism and colonization at Harvard, which was an institution founded to train rising imperialist leaders. This is a history that we are reclaiming.”
She says that the graduation ceremony puts the focus on blacks who have established themselves as leaders in the fraught environment of an Ivy League school.
“It speaks volumes that there has never been a Black graduation ceremony until now,” she said. “We created this from scratch, because for me, for many of us, we are not here alone. I carry with me the dreams and desires of my family. And as a first generation, I know I am here to change the trajectory for all of us.”
Source:: The Grio