160 students of color and international students graduating this semester gathered with their friends and family in Pease Auditorium on Friday, Dec. 13 for the Multicultural Graduation Celebration.
The celebration commenced and the Fall 2019 Graduates participating in the celebration flooded into the room as DJ Lixxer blasted music with friends and family cheering. Some attendees held cut-outs of a particular graduate’s face. Some chanted encouragingly in unison with their friends.
Josh Landon welcomed the graduates and audience members, then Brianna Young joined the stage to acknowledge the undergraduate students.
“As minority students, we are often hit with multiple strengths. From the day we are born, from the color of our skin to the lack of support, we face more difficulties than anyone else when trying to achieve our dreams,” said Young throughout her speech.
“It is crucial that once we reach the top, we must not forget about the generation who may struggle behind us,” Young added.
EMU President James Smith then gave his address, “Be proud today as you select your stole, be proud to wear it on Sunday, be excited about what the next step in life brings for you,” said President Smith in his address. “Be excited about the accomplishments you have today and what accomplishments you have next.”
Following President Smith’s address, Dr. Eric Reed, an educator and entrepreneur who recently received his Ph.D. from EMU in Educational Leadership, stepped onto the podium to give his keynote address. The theme of the celebration was “The marathon continues...” This was a strong theme throughout Reed’s address.
“I have news to share with you. This celebration, it doesn’t last forever. That might seem odd but you just can’t celebrate far too long,” said Reed.
Reed went on, “Most importantly [the true champions] don’t celebrate too long because they know the marathon has to continue.”
Thereafter, Damon Colston Jr., EMU student and member of EMU’s poetry society, performed a passionate poem about inequity, privilege, social justice and many current injustices including, what he called a “Muslim holocaust in China.”
The annual Cornerstone Award was then presented to Dr. Lydia McBurrows, Associate Professor in the EMU School of Nursing. The Cornerstone Award allows graduates to nominate EMU staff or faculty who have contributed to the success of graduates through supporting students of color and encouraging equity and inclusion.
Roopkatha Paliye, an EMU student earning her Ph.D. in Engineering Technology, then spoke on behalf of international students.
“When you’re an international student, there is a constant pressure to be better than average. The consequences of not being good enough pushes you to bring out the best of yourself,” she said throughout the acknowledgment.
Finally, students were presented stoles of their choice to represent their culture, heritage and academic success. One student, Chelsea Dixon, wore her selected stole embroidered with the phrase “Black Grads Matter” taking pictures outside the auditorium after the celebration. She is graduating with her Bachelor’s in Health Administration and minor in Health Education.
“[I participated in the celebration because] I am a black woman and I just wanted the extra recognition towards black women getting degrees because it’s not really a lot of us who get degrees within our race.”
She shared her message for other black women and minorities continuing their college education.
“It’s a marathon, keep going. Don’t stop even when it get hard, just keep going and it’s all gonna pay off in the end,” Dixon expressed.
EMU’s Center for Race and Ethnicity has been holding the Multicultural Graduation Celebration since 2014. The Multicultural Graduation Celebration for students graduating in Winter 2020 occurs on Friday, April 24, 2020 at 5 p.m., the location is not yet determined.