For Suri Barcenas, senior sociology and critical diversity studies (CDS) double-major, her Mother’s Day gift to her mom is having her present Barcenas the blue and yellow Latinx stole at the end-of-year Latinx Recognition Ceremony. “It’s because of her I found it so fitting to go to college and found it necessary to go to college,” Barcenas said. The Latinx Recognition Ceremony, which recognizes graduating Latinx/Hispanic/Chicanx students, including those who are mixed race, is a part of a collection of ceremonies hosted by the Cultural Centers to honor graduating seniors and the cultural communities they are a part of on campus. “It is a good space to feel brown and proud in our accomplishments,” Barcenas said.
The end-of-year ceremonies are a part of each spring graduation to honor the graduates’ accomplishments in services, academics and leadership, and to affirm individual identities of students and their experiences as a community. There are a total of five end-of-year ceremonies: Interwoven Ceremony for Asian, Asian American, mixed-race Asian, Middle Eastern, and/or South Asian graduates, Lavender Commencement for LGBTQIA+ graduates, Latinx Recognition Ceremony, Vizuri Kabisa (Black Grad) for black graduates and the Indigenous Peoples of Oceania Ceremony. The ceremonies are hosted by the Cultural Centers, cultural organizations on campus and academic programs. The planning of the ceremonies is mainly led by the staff in the Cultural Centers and volunteers who provide service on the day of the ceremonies. At each event, a family member or friend of the graduate bestows them with their stoles, and for Erin Echols, director of the Cultural Centers, that is what makes these ceremonies special. “It makes the graduation process more of a family and community event,” she said.
Kyle Bates, senior CDS major, first heard about the end-of-year ceremonies during his freshman year. A senior who had mentored him throughout the year asked him to attend Black Grad. “I went, and I was like, oh gosh, this thing is amazing,” Bates said. He has gone every year since, and it has been something he has been looking forward to be a part of since he came to USF. “It is more intimate to me,” said Bates. “Your community gets to see your accomplishments and recognize you for what you are doing.” Bates has told his friends and family that, if they are going to attend any graduation event, it should be Black Grad.
Unlike the larger commencement ceremonies for all the graduating students where you only get four tickets per graduate, the end-of-year ceremonies allow for graduates to invite all their friends and family members to attend. “I logged 15 guest to come,” Barcenas said. “It is important because if they didn’t have this opportunity to see me, they would have to watch me from a screen.” Barcenas said the actual commencement ceremony does not feel the same. Your name is called out for a few seconds, and then the moment is over. These ceremonies offer the opportunity for students to celebrate with their communities and thank their peers, staff and faculty for helping them along the way. “Knowing that everyone in the room is proud of each other, that’s special,” Barcenas said.
Senior communications and CDS double-major Alexander Huynh is participating in both the Lavender Commencement and Interwoven ceremonies. For him, these ceremonies are an opportunity for family members and friends to see him, but are also a space where he is able to reaffirm the significance of his achievements. “It shows that I’ve entered a traditionally exclusively white space and that I, too, can be college-educated, as a queer person of color,” Huynh said. “I want to show that the cultural identities I hold are not going to be silent, as well as to show other people that these intersections exist.”
The ceremonies kick off tomorrow, May 11, with Interwoven from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. On Monday, May 14, Lavender Commencement will be in the morning from 11:00 a.m to 1:00 p.m., and Latinx Recognition Ceremony will be in the evening from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Vizuri Kabasia will be the following day on Tuesday, May 15 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and the Indigenous Peoples of Oceania Ceremony will be on Wednesday, May 16 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. All of the ceremonies will take place in the McLaren Conference Center, with the exception of Latinx Recognition, which will will take place in St. Ignatius Church.
Featured Photo: Students from last year’s Cultural Center ceremonies pose with their new stoles. COURTESY OF CULTURAL CENTERS/FLICKR