Black Graduation Committee hosts annual graduation ceremony

Daily Sundial

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African American graduating seniors and graduate students were honored at the 33rd annual Black Graduation Recognition Ceremony May 29 on the University Club Lawn.

The event was a collaborative effort between approximately 20 faculty, staff and student members of the Black Graduation Committee, who decided on “The Movement Continues” for the ceremony’s theme. The ceremony was scheduled to recognize approximately 150 graduates, and was held on the University Club Lawn.

“The ceremony was, and is, designed to provide a (culturally-specific) celebration for African American graduating students at both the undergraduate and graduate level,” said Leroy Geter, CSUN associate director of transfer services and staff chair of the ceremony, in an e-mail interview.

Geter said he participated as a graduating senior in the fourth ceremony held at CSUN in 1975.

“It is a celebration of achievement and accomplishment for the participating students,” he said. “(It’s) a time for them to share in a culturally sensitive setting with their parents, friends, peers, and the African American faculty and staff.”

Event organizers said they do not view the Black Graduation Recognition Ceremony as an attempt to separate themselves from students of other ethnicities participating in the main commencement ceremonies, but rather, as an opportunity to enrich the commencement experience for African Americans by giving them the opportunity to participate in a more intimate ceremony featuring a strong cultural emphasis.

“I think a lot of people wonder, ‘why is there a black graduation?'” said Desiree Allen, a graduating journalism major and student chair of the Black Graduation Committee. “What people don’t understand is it’s not ‘instead of.’ It’s an enhancement to the regular commencement. It’s smaller, it’s more intimate. It’s a good way to celebrate with the small population of blacks and have people see us graduate.”

Because of the smaller amount of students in the ceremony as compared to the main commencements, each student was given the opportunity to make a speech to the audience, giving thanks or words of encouragement. Every student received a certificate of recognition, and special awards were also given to students who achieved outstanding academic success over the course of their college careers.

In addition to the formalities of the graduation recognition, the ceremony hosted music and artistic presentations.

Each student’s photograph, as well as a short personal statement, goes into a yearbook that is kept from year to year.

“I’m really excited about this event,” said Tonee Sherrill, a graduating deaf studies major and ceremony speech and entertainment chair, before the ceremony. “I’m actually more excited about the organization than the actual ceremony.”

Sherrill said the time he spent with the other members of the committee has been the most enjoyable aspect of being an event organizer, and members of the committee have kept each other thinking positively about graduating.

“It’s motivation for (the participants) to graduate,” Sherrill said. “It shows them if somebody else can do it, they can do it as well.”