For the first time in the institution’s history, there will be a separate graduation ceremony for black students at Harvard University.
More than 125 graduate students worked for more than a year and raised more than $27,000 to pay for the event and a reception, the Root reported.
Students attending the ceremony, scheduled for later this month, will still participate in the main graduation ceremony as well.
“The students are excited and have put a lot of work into this,” Michael Huggins, who is set to graduate this year with a master’s degree in public policy, told The Root. “Too often at Harvard, there is not cross-discipline contact between black students. So it can feel like you are the only person of color.”
“At this graduation, we can show each other and the administration that we are here, we are strong and we are not going away,” Huggins said.
Courtney Woods, who will graduate from Harvard University this year with a master’s degree in education policy and management, told The Root that “it speaks volumes” that there has never been a graduation ceremony of this type before. Woods, citing the past struggles of black students and their ability to overcome those obstacles, also stated:
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.
“As a first-generation [college student], I know I am here to change the trajectory for all of us,” she said.
Huggins also described the blacks-only graduation ceremony as an opportunity to celebrate Harvard’s “black excellence” and “black brilliance” but insisted that the event is not is segregation from Harvard University graduates who are not black.
“This is not about segregation. 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,” Huggins said.
Organizers of the blacks-only graduation ceremony plan to hold a similar event for black undergraduate students next year. Harvard University is at least the fourth institution to hold a separate ceremony for black students. Stanford University, Temple University and Columbia University host additional graduation events for black students, the Root reported.