Black Graduation

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History of Black Graduation Ceremony

California State University, Northridge

Written by Leroy Geter

"Historically, the first recollection of a Black Graduation Ceremony at California State University, Northridge was held in 1972 as a post commencement activity. The African American community on campus at that time, including faculty in the Afro American Studies Department, staff, and students held the post commencement ceremony in order to create a more intimate and personal graduation experience.

Since the initial ceremony in 1972, the Black Graduation Ceremony, as it is commonly known have been held; in the formative years it was held as a post commencement ceremony, held at various off campus venues and sponsored by corporate benefactors for a number of years. In the latter part of the 1970s the ceremony was officially moved to the campus, and in the early 1980s the ceremony was held at the University Student Union's Northridge Center. The sponsoring groups during that decade were the Pan African Studies Department, the Black Women's Committee, the campus chapter of the California Black Faculty and Staff Association, and African American clubs and organizations affiliated with the Pan African Studies Department.

During the decade of the 1990s the Black Graduation Ceremony was primarily coordinated by the Black Women's Committee, the Department of Pan African Studies, the Black Faculty and Staff Association, the Black Student Union and Pan African Council. A more formalized planning committee was organized by the planners so that the student organization could seek funding support from the Associated Students for the ceremony.We should give pause here and reflect on the tireless efforts and extraordinary commitment and dedication of Ms.Margaret J. Brown, a former Counselor then SSC/EOP Satellite Director with the Educational Opportunity Program, whose efforts led to the total institutionalization of the Black Graduation Celebration (as it is now known) at California State University, Northridge. Her engagement of graduates in the planning process is truly a hallmark of the ceremony's appeal and widespread success.

With the graduating students supporting and coordinating planning efforts the Black Graduation Ceremony has survived and thrived as one of the more prestigious events of its kind in higher education institutions in the State of California, and more specifically in the California State University system. The ceremony is held as a precommencement activity to the University's commencement ceremonies across the campus.

During the first decade of the 2nd century and to this present time and with the support of the students, African American faculty and staff, the Department of Pan African Studies, the Educational Opportunity Program, and Associated Students the Black Graduation Celebration continues to give African American students the intimate opportunity to recognize their achievement and accomplishment and recognize people who helped them reach their goal including faculty, staff, family and friends. Since 1972 to the present, this has been one of the primary reasons why the Black Graduation Celebration came to be.

A reflecting thought:

"The moment of graduation is a special time a time filled with heightened joy, pride, and anticipation of "what comes next?" It becomes a symbol level of extraordinary achievement and accomplishment for the student, parents, family and friends. It is a day to be remembered etched in time. The Black graduation ceremony was specifically designed to help graduates remember their graduation day and commencement activities with a unique African American centered graduation ceremony that they cherish for a lifetime."

-Leroy Geter