Black graduate students at Harvard University—from the schools of law, business, education and government, among others—held their inaugural “Black Commencement” ceremony this week, a ritual to mark the end of their sojourn as black students at one of the world’s most prestigious institutions.
Harvard Magazine reports that the ceremony was organized this year “against a backdrop of renewed racial-justice activism at Harvard and in the nation in general: Last year, under pressure from students, the law school abandoned its official seal because it represented the crest of a slave-owning family, and, later, President Drew Faust publicly recognized Harvard’s links to slavery.”
Duwain Pinder, who will graduate with a joint master’s degree in business administration and public policy, was one of four student orators at the ceremony. He asked his fellow Ivy Leaguers, adorned in the bright kente cloth stoles they were given, not to allow this significant feat to separate them from their communities.
“They want our Harvard crest to become a symbol of how we made it and others didn’t. They will want to use us as exceptions to their rule. They will try to craft our stories as examples of the benefits of personal responsibility. As proof that the American dream exists for all rather than just a select few,” he said. “But we know better. … We are only a fraction of the black brilliance that lies under the surface.”