This year SUNY Cortland has moved a long-standing College tradition, the Kente Celebration, from the evening before undergraduate Commencement to Saturday, April 6.
Graduating seniors wishing to acknowledge their multicultural heritage were encouraged to invite their parents to attend and participate in the formal ceremony, which will be held at 6 p.m. in the Corey Union Function Room. Because of great interest, participation in this year’s ceremony is already closed.
The traditional, woven multicolored kente cloth of Ghana, originally worn by royalty, has become an important symbol for many African-Americans to highlight their connection to the African continent.
The ceremony was introduced at SUNY Cortland many years ago by Seth Asumah, a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Political Science and chair of the Africana Studies Department.
“The ceremony is of African origin and is performed at many, many schools in the world to acknowledge the ancient institutions of higher learning in Timbuktu and Kemet, which have been around since before the universities in of Bologna, Italy, which are associated with commencement,” Asumah said.
“The Kente ceremony offers a little more of the personal touch than graduation,” Asumah noted. “Parents — or faculty and staff who have been important in the student’s life — are invited by the student to come and place the stole on their child, or the student they mentor.”
“The Kente Celebration has deep institutional history and is an important part of our multicultural student experience,” said Noelle Chaddock Paley, the College’s director of multicultural life and diversity.
The new date is intended to foster greater participation in the ceremony by the faculty, staff and senior administrators.
Previously, the event was held the evening before undergraduate Commencement during the graduate Commencement ceremony. As increasing numbers of students with a multicultural interest have earned graduate degrees at Cortland, inevitably, faculty, administrators and graduate students were physically unable to participate in both ceremonies held that Friday evening in different buildings located some distance apart on the campus.
“It is important for our faculty and staff to participate in graduate Commencement and Kente,” Chaddock Paley said.
“We came to a consensus that the Multicultural Life and Diversity Office could better serve our students and campus leaders by moving the date of the Kente celebration. We would like to take this time to thank all of the stakeholders that helped us make this decision and to let the campus community know that we have put great thought into this change.”
The change has met with success.
“We are full for this year,” Chaddock Paley said. “The great news is it looks like all of our senior staff and administrators are able to attend. We did have a couple of students that were inconvenienced by the move and families will need to make the two trips, but the majority of students used up all five of their guest tickets.”
For more information, contact the Multicultural Life and Diversity Office at 607-753-2336 or visit the Kente page at cortland.edu/kente.