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WCASD Holds First Annual BSUnited Graduation Ceremony

Group of students and staff members attend the BSUnited Graduation Ceremony

 

Seniors from Henderson and Rustin High Schools' Black Student Union participated in the first-ever BSUnited Graduation Ceremony, modeled after the Kente Graduation Celebration. The event was held at Henderson High School on Thursday, March 27. Such celebrations are held in the United States before high school or college graduation ceremonies. Students received their own Kente stole and a pin to place on their graduation gowns from their school's respective BSU.

Students and their family members attended the ceremony, along with BSU advisors, Dr. Koreem Bell, Shanelle Dorsey, and Shirley Wilson (Henderson,) and Marya Graham and Paul Chambers (Rustin,) and district administrators. WCASD school board member Joyce Chester delivered the keynote address. School board member Daryl Durnell was also in attendance.

"This Kente presentation is a ritual marking that weaves together the wisdom of Africa before the Middle Passage with our persistent struggle to attain, retain, and pass on the knowledge that defines our black experience," said Joyce Chester.

"Kente is more than just a cloth," continued Chester. "It is an iconic representation of the history, philosophy, ethics, oral literature, religious belief, social values, and political thought of West Africa. By accepting this sash, you acknowledge the responsibilities that come with it. You are affirming that you are prepared to continue the great legacies of your ancestors. You are celebrating triumph over adversity, and we know this year has been an interesting one! And, last year as well. You are recognizing the essence of our shared humanity.

The pins the students received contain three iconic black history symbols - the afro, the raised fist, and the colors of the Pan-African Flag.

"We wanted to get t-shirts or hoodies made so that when we went on our trips,  we would all be uniform, and everyone would know that we were a united group. Members of the BSU submitted different parts that we made into a logo that evolved into the pin we have today," said Shirley Wilson, Henderson's BSU advisor.

West Chester University is credited with holding the first Kente Commencement Ceremony in 1993. Four staff members developed the ceremony to acknowledge, emphasize, and celebrate the educational achievements of multicultural graduates. Since then, the ceremony has been embraced by high schools and colleges across the United States.

While the Kente Graduation Celebration is mostly considered an African-American celebration, students from many ethnic backgrounds wear Kente stoles and participate in the ceremonies every year.