Graduation So Black

Hey Good People! We have been in full-on graduation season since last month.  From kindergarten to graduate school, graduates have been marching across their respective stages to receive what they have worked so hard to earn.  Indeed the milestone of academic achievement is an important one and as black and brown people we take it seriously. This is demonstrated in the various ways we show up and show out for graduation.

When we look back and consider that under the terrorism of American slavery that we could lose life or limb if we were caught educating ourselves; it is no wonder that graduation is such a very special occasion for us.  And when I say us I mean US, as in the whole village, neighborhood, your squad, your tribe, your peoples, your auntie and them; they all gather to come and celebrate you and your accomplishment.

Now you might be thinking that I am overstating this idea that black folks are very extra and “nuff” when it comes to graduations, but I will allow the following evidence to make my point:

Exhibit A:

With this South African family you see that we are not oriented toward individual success or the idea that you make it on your own, but rather that your accomplishment is our accomplishment. When your mom or your dad starts hollering when you cross the stage saying, “THAT’S MY BABY!”, they are letting folks know how proud they are and that they share in your joy. It’s a we thing, because only we know the sacrifice, the blood, sweat and tears that make that moment possible.

Exhibit B:

We all probably expect the family jubilation and carrying on but if you have attended or watched any of the graduation ceremonies in the last few weeks, you will see that the graduates themselves are taking over.  We always knew HBCU grads to do their thing from African drum processions to custom sashes. Now, however, the young, gifted and black graduates at predominately white institutions are holding their own separate ceremonies. Most notable in this is Harvard University. They chose to organize their own ceremony to have an opportunity to remember and celebrate the challenges and the triumphs that were unique to them.

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                     Highlights from Harvard’s Black Commencement Ceremony held last month.                              Photo Credit: Jesse Costa/WBUR

Exhibit C: 

Not to be outdone of course, the HBCUs continue in their long standing tradition of bringing black joy to their ceremonies.  The School of Communication graduates at Howard University decided to swag surf their way out to post-graduate life.

Exhibit D:

Then there is the matter of yearbook quotes.  I  don’t think I got that option in high school; sadly I went to a Catholic school. But I digress. New century high school graduates have some of the best one-liners to let folks know what they really learned in their four years.

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Whether it’s Black Lives Matter or the realities of white supremacy these kids are letting it be known that they know what’s up.
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They have a sense of humor about it, but no doubt the black high school struggle is very real.

Exhibit E:

Oh wait! I almost forgot to mention the epic graduation cap art and messages. They are so impressive that Essence magazine features a list of the most fabulous ones. You can check them out here. But here are just a few favorites of mine.

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Exhibit F:

It doesn’t matter how grown you are, there’s nothing better than a kindergarten graduation. All those little adorable faces with caps and gowns on and they sing cute songs together or they turn up! Yes, the babies are in on the black girl magic and black boy joy of graduation and who can do it better than them? I think I watched this video over a dozen times because baby girl was simply too fabulous with her “Juju On That Beat”.

So if you are attending any graduations this season or whenever, I encourage you to show out and act up.  If it’s your son, daughter, baby cousin, niece, nephew, your neighbor’s cousin’s youngest granddaughter or anybody you are proud to see graduate, go ahead and shout, make an obnoxious sign; do whatever to show your love and support. It is our way, we do it for those who maybe never had the opportunity to finish school and to encourage the ones that are coming up behind them.  In the words of Yaba Blay, “do it for the culture.”

Peace and love good people.

 

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