Oglethorpe celebrates Black graduates with first Kente Robing Ceremony

More than 30 Black graduates were honored at Oglethorpe University’s first Kente Robing Ceremony on Saturday, May 6. The purpose of the ceremony is to celebrate Black students and their matriculation through college and give them the opportunity to reflect on their experience as they prepare to graduate.

Table set up of the Kente stoles with a bouquet of flowers

Kente stoles

The Kente Robing Ceremony is held at hundreds of universities and high schools across the country each year.

The Kente cloth most people recognize dates back to the 17th century from the Asante people in modern-day Ghana. While initially worn only by Ghanaian royalty and leadership, the Kente cloth was adopted into African-American culture in the late 1950s. Since then, thousands of graduates across the country have celebrated and honored their ancestors with the Kente stole.

The ceremony was made possible through a collaboration of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the African American Studies (AAS) Program. Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Dr. Laura Renée Chandler and Assistant Professor of Communication Studies Dr. Rhana Gittens Wheeler worked together to organize and execute the event.

“We wanted to find a way to engage the students and help them feel belonging at the university” said Dr. Gittens Wheeler about the purpose for the ceremony. “Although these are students that are leaving, we feel like this experience will give students that are in their first, second, or third year something to look forward to in their fourth year.”

Dr. Chandler and Dr. Gittens Wheeler with student speakers Sean Kang and Ashrakat Hassan

Dr. Gittens Wheeler and Dr. Chandler (center) with student speakers Sean Kang and Ashrakat Hassan.

The ceremony opened with Dr. Chandler allowing students to publicly recognize and celebrate the Black student organizations they’re a part of, such as Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and DYNA.STTY.

Attendees also heard remarks from Oglethorpe President Nick Ladany, Associate Provost and Professor of Politics Dr. Kendra King Momon, Dr. Gittens and Dr. Chandler, Oglethorpe Black Alumni Network representative and trustee Chad Smith ’13, student body president Ashrakat Hassan ’23, and Sean Kang ’23.

“This class boasts Black excellence at the very root of the word. We have future lawyers in our midst. Thespians. Accountants. Artists. Musicians. Attorneys. Researchers. Doctors. Visionaries. Innovators. Creatives. Revolutionaries,” said Hassan in her speech. “The future is Black, and it is beautiful.”

Senior Sean Kang brought the idea to host a Kente Robing Ceremony to Dr. Chandler and Dr. Gittens Wheeler back in December.

“It meant a lot [to be a part of the ceremony],” said Kang. “I want Black people on this campus to be seen and feel like they’re appreciated.”

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