The annual ceremony recognizes the achievements of Elon's graduating students who recognize their African roots.
An event infused with emotion and significance, the Donning of the Kente ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 8 honored Black Elon Law and School of Health Sciences students as they prepare to graduate.
Each student honored during the ceremony stood to receive their Kente cloth stoles, each one handwoven in Ghana, an homage to a tradition whose origins date back to the 12th century when the cloth was worn by royalty during special occasions.
Wendy Scott, associate dean for academic success and professor of law, delivered the keynote address. She spoke about the rich historical significance of the Kente cloth, as well as the traditions of western academic graduation and the Shamanic tradition of spiritual leadership. That tradition, Scott said, will “solidify” the connection between the law and health science programs.
“Today, you are standing at the crossroads of the traditions of the motherland, the west and the shaman of indigenous peoples, ready to take your rightful place in the profession you have chosen to practice,” Scott said. “Each tradition requires you to do justly, to love mercy, to serve those in need and to lead with integrity.”
During the ceremony, faculty read aloud for each graduate an encouraging note from a loved one. Each student honored during the ceremony, which was organized by Director of Inclusive Excellence for Graduate and Professional Education Laké Laosebikan-Buggs and Associate Professor of Law Tiffany Atkins L’11, will wear their stole as they receive their diplomas on Friday.
Scott told each honoree that there was a bright future ahead of them, a future forged by their academic perseverance, thirst for knowledge and commitment to service, but anchored by the support of their families and communities.
“You have earned our respect and admiration for the completion of your degree programs,” Scott said.
She ended her remarks by reciting “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson, a poem that has come to be known as the Negro National Anthem. “Facing the rising sun / of our new day Begun / Let us march on till victory is Won,” the poem reads.
“The words of this anthem still serve as a call to action to each of you today that you who are young, gifted and Black will use your gifts and talents to serve the underserved, build generational wealth … and free America from the bonds of inequality, inequity, systemic race-based health disparities and injustice in the legal system,” Scott said.
“‘March on,'” she urged the students, “until victory is won.”