The annual ceremony recognizes the achievements of Elon's graduating students who recognize their African roots.
An event rooted in African tradition, the seventh annual Donning of the Kente ceremony on Thursday, May 18, celebrated the achievements of graduating Elon students who recognize their African roots.
“As we engage in a celebratory time and as you go out to lend your skills and efforts toward building a beloved community, know that you are your ancestors wildest dreams and greatest hope,” said Kirstin Boswell, university chaplain and dean of Multifaith Engagement.
Each graduate received a handwoven kente cloth stole imported from West Africa. The graduating students wore their stoles at the 133rd Commencement ceremony for inspiration and to honor, celebrate, connect and reflect on the collective heritage and communal struggles and successes.
The kente cloth symbolizes and celebrates prestige in many African societies dating to the 12th century Africa in Ghana. Worn during ceremonial events by royalty and important figures of state in Ghanaian society, the kente cloth is a visual representation of African history, philosophy ethics, oral literature moral values, social code of conduct, religious beliefs, political thought and aesthetic principles.
“The kente fabric represents our ancestor’s culture, spirituality, sophistication and immaculate tradition. We know well that it takes a village to support, inspire and nurture our graduates and that the Elon community is but a small part of that village,” said Randy Williams, vice president and associate provost for inclusive excellence.
President of the Elon Black Alumni Network (EBAN) Akilah Weaver ’00 officially welcomed the Class of 2023 graduate to the network. Working to unite and represent the interest of Black alumni, EBAN actively promotes and sustains alumni contributions to the university and connects Black students with each other.
The Donning of the Kente is one of EBAN’s most important initiatives, Weaver said. She also explained the Adinkra “eban” symbol which originated in Ghana. “Eban” translates to “fence” and is a symbol of safety, love and security.
“As you begin the next step in your journey as alumni 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. On behalf of our over 2,000 Black alumni, we welcome you to the Elon Black Alumni Network and look forward to being a home base for each of you for years to come.”
As the ceremony got underway, the graduates stood on stage in Alumni Gym as faculty members read aloud special words of love, encouragement, support and pride from someone who has helped them along their journey.
“Graduates, you are here today because of your hard work, determination, resilience and perseverance. I would not dare take your sense of personal accomplishments away from you, but you are also here today because at least someone has carried you,” said Buffie Longmire-Avital, professor of psychology and director of the Black Lumen Project.
While some can recall exactly who has helped them along the way and how, Longmire-Avital said, most are like her — unaware of all the ways they have been supported on their respective journeys.
“It is OK not to have a catalogue of names and times documenting the support. What is important is that you know that you have been carried and cared for,” she said.
Longmire-Avital ended her remarks by offering gratitude to all those who have carried their loved ones and gave the Class of 2023 one final task — “Go forth and boldly carry on.”