Donning of the Kente celebrates African roots

Sixty-seven students were honored during the May 23 cultural ceremony that celebrates the achievements of black students who recognize their African heritage.

More than 400 people attended the Donning of the Kente Ceremony honoring students' African heritage.
They are journalists, performers, teachers, public servants, advocates, future doctors and lawyers. They are young, strong, black and resilient. Above all, they are sons, daughters, curious learners, mentees, change makers. On Friday, they become Elon graduates but on Thursday night, these seniors were celebrated during the Donning of the Kente Ceremony for their achievements thus far, the promise of an even brighter future and their proud African roots. 

As part of the cultural celebration, which is sponsored by the Office of Alumni Engagement, the Elon Black Alumni Network and the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education, each senior received a stole made of kente cloth. The cloth, which symbolizes and celebrates prestige in many African societies, is also a visual representation of African history, moral values and principles.

>> See photos from the ceremony

The ceremony included a performance by students in the Ghana study abroad course led by Assistant Professor of Art Jason Aryeh.
As students walked to the stage to receive their stoles, they were welcomed by a family member or mentor who shared insights into the countless sacrifices and hard work that allowed them to get this far. They also received words of encouragement as they prepare to leave campus and launch new endeavors. Many shed tears and exchanged heartfelt hugs at the realization that they are part of a village that will always be there to support them.

For senior Janay Tyson, the event provided an opportunity to honor the collective accomplishments of black students at Elon in a celebration that is culturally meaningful for them. “We need this to express who we are,” she said, adding that in a predominantly white school there is little space for such celebrations. 

Tiffany Atkins L’11, an advocate for issues related to diversity and inclusion, access to justice and racial equity, gave the keynote address. (Photo by Luguzy Atkins Photography)
During her keynote address, attorney and Wake Forest visiting law professor Tiffany Atkins L’11 shared advice with the soon-to-be graduates using as guide Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s book, “Becoming,” which has been a source of inspiration in her own life. She encouraged them to be true to themselves, to have faith in who they are becoming and to remember that each one of them is their ancestor’s wildest dreamsthe reason why they fought and died for.

“Before me I see nothing but black excellence,” said Atkins, who is an advocate for issues related to diversity and inclusion, access to justice and racial equity and whose work amplifies the experiences of black, Latinx and other minority students in higher education. “Don’t be afraid of what you can become. Remember to lift as you climb and don’t be afraid of who you are becoming.”

It’s a sentiment that was echoed by Buffie Longmire-Avital, an associate professor of psychology and coordinator of the African & African-American Studies program who gave an impassionate closing speech. Drawing from bell hook’s writings, Longmire-Avital talked about the difference between being homeless and being houseless. “You are the descendants of people who were forcibly removed from their homes,” she said. Yet one discovers with time that home is not just one place; it’s multiple locations. It’s a state of being. She said she has felt homeless in the academic world many times, adding that the Class of 2019 was able to provide her with a sense of belonging she had not experienced before at Elon. 

The cultural celebration was sponsored by the Office of Alumni Engagement, the Elon Black Alumni Network and the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education.
“Elon owes you, Class of 2019, so much. I owe you so much,” Longmire-Avital said, fighting back tears. “Wherever life takes you, know that you can always come home. You have a home among these Elon oaks.”

As part of the ceremony, the seniors were also officially welcomed into the Elon alumni family by receiving a special pin from a member of EBAN, which strives to empower, connect and celebrate Elon’s black community. “EBAN is a place where you can feel safe, affirmed, validated and at home,” said Aliana Harrison ’08, the network’s president. “On behalf of our over 2,000 black alumni, we welcome you into the Elon Black Alumni Network and look forward to being home-base to each of you for years to come.”

Recognized were:

  • Adepoju Adeoti
  • Bridgette L. Agbozo
  • Thomas Armooh
  • Gabrielle E. Beamon
  • Sarah N. Bridges
  • Judah I. Brown
  • Kenneth L. Brown
  • Loren G. Brunson
  • Raechel N. Brunson
  • Tyler Campbell
  • Destiny L. Carter
  • Anthony Chatman
  • Abigail R. Clayton
  • Kadrien J. Darity
  • Ashanti R. Desauguste
  • Marta L. Djalleta
  • James E. Donnell
  • David M. Duncan
  • Maya D. Eaglin
  • Brianna F. Elder
  • Kayla M. Ervin
  • Gabrielle N. Ferguson
  • Samira A. Foster
  • Yasmeen N. Grandison
  • Faith E. James
  • Cornell E. Johnson
  • Jasmine M. Jones
  • Sidney N. Hager
  • Kayla N. Haley
  • Aminata A. Harris
  • Meagan D. Henderson
  • Jasmine N. Hodges
  • Dyamond J. Howell
  • Christian L. Ingram
  • Breia J. Kelley
  • Jazmine S. Langley
  • Gregory S. Liggs
  • Twyla R. Little
  • Matthew E. Martin
  • Charleen Martins Lopes
  • Jordyn A. McAtee
  • Tres M. McMichael
  • Miles R. Moore
  • Emmanuel C. Morgan
  • Arielle Morrow
  • Stephanie B. Ntim
  • Mariatu I. Okonofua
  • Kaelon A. Pandy
  • Jourdan Parham
  • Mariah M. Posey
  • Brandon G. Reynolds
  • Alexis Roberts
  • Shannon Imani Robertson
  • Nialani R. Robinson
  • Desiree K. Ross
  • Ryan X. Sanders
  • Joshua A. Simmons
  • Victoria A. Simpkins
  • Eliza L. Singleton
  • Jayla M. Starcher
  • Briana R. Statesman
  • Ryan S. Stratton
  • Erika N. Swinney
  • Naomy P. Thiombiano
  • Courtney J. Thompson
  • Janay D. Tyson
  • Kameron Williams
  • Rayven T. Young