By Ryan Rosenberger
On Wednesday, April 25, Roosevelt’s Black Student Union hosted their annual Melanin Graduation commemorating graduating students of color.
The event started off with a welcome speech by BSU President Brittney Austin, giving way to a vocal performance by jazz vocal major Jayla Lawrence, who sang the James Weldon Johnson song, “Lift Every Voice And Sing.” Lawrence’s performance was followed up by a spoken word performance by Erik Griffin, who performed two originals.
After the student performances, it was back to Brittney Austin who introduced Wuraola Sosina as the Student Speaker. Sosina’s speech reflected on her experiences with racism at school growing up and how over time she has come to love herself more and more.
After additional speeches by Director of Multicultural Student Support Services Pamela Thompson-Hill, along with journalism professor Billy Montgomery, the graduates were then honored one by one and were presented with certificates along with a cord to wear at graduation.
Closing remarks were then given by Pamela Thompson-Hill, followed by the introduction of the BSU Executive Board for the 2018-19 school year.
Reaction among students was in unity, echoing a proud sense of accomplishment towards their peers of color.
Junior sociology major Chanel Easter brought up the notion that events such as this one have become more and more popular at universities across the country within the last few years.
“These events have been popping up across the country recently in the last 5-10 years,” Easter said. “We find events like these to be very important because they highlight the significance of students of color in each university.” Easter said that these events are also significant because a lot of students of color in college are first generation students and they face many obstacles to get through college.
Vice President of BSU Ta’Tee-Etta McBride brought up a similar notion, saying that students of color face many challenges on the way to graduating college, and that it needs to be more celebrated in their communities.
“Graduating is definitely a big deal to everybody, but in communities such as impoverished neighborhoods and people of color communities, it’s something we see but not always celebrated,” McBride said.
Students said they also found it very inspiring. Sophomore biology major Areej Askar pointed out that as a student of color, it is very uplifting to see other students of color graduating themselves.
“It’s really inspirational to see people of color graduating from a social justice university, in a climate where there’s mostly white people,” Askar said. “It’s nice to see people of color graduate and create higher standards.”
Sophomore chemistry major Kendall Triche said the graduation was encouraging. “It’s encouraging because I get to see the older class people who’ve been here the entire time I’ve been here graduate,” Triche said. “It’s very heartwarming to see them move on to bigger and better things.”