On Saturday April 29, 2017, the 31st Annual African Heritage Graduation Ceremony (AHG) was held in Wilkins Theatre. Guests were allowed in the theatre at 3:30 p.m. where the auditorium was adorned with African culture from the clothing to the music.
The 2017 AHG included undergraduates, graduates and doctorates from January and candidates who have filed for graduation in May and August. This ceremony is a cultural celebration where family, friends and the Kean community come together to honor students’ personal successes and academic achievements in the spirit and traditions of African culture.
The ceremony started with the libation by Dr. Sharon McKenzie and Michele Smalls. A libation is the act of pouring a liquid as a sacrifice. Dr. James Conyers called out to the children of Africa, which included the drummers, dancers, faculty, Concerned Black Personnel (C.B.P) members, VIP, staff and graduates. The dancers called the audience to join in the dancing and taught them dances. The ceremony was very active with the audience as well.
Dr. Conyers, an assistant professor and coordinator of Africana Studies, had a lot of information in regards to the program and what they seek to achieve through it.
"Africana Studies actually began before I was at Kean University," Dr. Conyers said. "I've been here 25 years and it began as part of the campus-wide black organization concern black personnel as well with the input of a few faculty members, primarily Vice President of Student Affairs Janice Murray-Laury. Many of whom felt the need that it was necessary for people of African descent to have a graduation where we could celebrate ourselves."
"Many black folks come and they will ask questions like: tell me about the African-American graduation? This is not an African-American graduation, this is the African Heritage Graduation," Dr. Conyers said. "It incorporates all people of African descent no matter where they live at. That question often prevents people who are not African-American from coming to sign up, but it is an all-African celebration! All African people are welcome to the ceremony!"
The ceremony serves to recognize all students of African descent.
"When we talk about African people we are talking about ourselves no matter where we came from. Whether we came from Haiti, Jamaica, the continent itself or South Carolina," said Dr. Conyers. "It represented us as a global African people, it brought about unity and the idea and notion that we are one even if we may have differences in terms of language. We are one as a global people."
Latysha Gaines, C.B.P immediate past president and Kean alumna, greeted the audience and welcomed the families and friends.
"I am very proud to stand here to wish you welcome. There are people who strive to get an education and we celebrate you today. We make sure the students have two commencements to celebrate the students. Never let anyone make your sky their ceiling," said Gaines.
Dr. Morgan Laury, the coordinator of the Department of Public Administration, gave the graduates advice for their future.
"The road for success is never traveled alone. You have a responsibility not only for yourself but your community," said Laury.
Dr. Conyers gave his remarks to the audience.
"We sincerely hope today's ceremony will lift you up and motivate you," said Dr. Conyers.
The Black National Anthem was then performed by Lovely Randle, who included the audience in the first verse of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," written by James Weldon Johnson.
Next came student group dedications by Emily Cubilete, OluKemi Alade and Jerome Beazer.
"We look to make sure that everyone has a voice. No matter what, believe in yourself because in life there are many obstacles but you just have to leap over them," said Beazer, board member of Kean University Alumni Association and co-founder of the Alumni Leadership Initiative.
Next the Kean Gospel Choir graced the audience with a performance of "I Shall Wear a Crown."
Dr. Conyers then introduced the Keynote Speaker Sonia Sanchez, who is a professor, author, poet and civil rights activist.
Sanchez has lectured at over 500 universities and colleges in the United States and has traveled extensively, reading her poetry in Africa, Cuba, England, the Caribbean, Australia, Europe, Nicaragua, the People’s Republic of China, Norway and Canada. Currently, Sanchez is one of 20 African American women featured in “Freedom Sisters,” an interactive exhibition created by the Cincinnati Museum Center and Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition.
"I come to you with the voice of the praiser and the poet. You my brothers and sisters must finally break into butterflies. You must then question what does it mean to be human? We sing it is time for new visions, for new dreams. This is the truth of our children's eyes as we wash the feet of our earth. Today is your day my brothers and sisters. It will get better because of you my brothers and sisters," said Sanchez.
The audience welcomed Sanchez and was moved by her speech. The graduates, families and friends went into a round of applause. Dr. Conyers and the office of Africana Studies awarded Sanchez with the Queen of Mothers Award, with which she smiled and held up with pride.
Another musical by Richonda Fegins was performed in which she sang "Believe in Yourself" the Wiz Rendition.
Dr. Sharon Boyd-Jackson, the associate professor of the Psychology Department awarded the undergraduate and graduate valedictorians, Nadine James, College of Business and Public Management student, and Rognial Fleurmont, sociology major.
Now was the time for the graduates to receive their certificates. Awards were also given out for Special members of the community to Reverend Alfred Brown, Maria DeCruz, Melodie Toby and AJah Hunter.
The African Heritage Ceremony ended with a closing libation.
"It is the day when we celebrate the importance of African people. I would like people who participate in the graduation or who witness the graduation to come out with a sense of pride in being an African person, with a sense of accomplishment of being African people," said Dr. Conyers.
Walking out of the ceremony, families greeted the graduates and other guests were talking about how powerful the graduation was.
Below are the names of graduates to have participated in the ceremony.
College of Business and Public Management:
Taneya Adams, Andrew Alexis, Marlon Anthony, Ganiyat Ayakunbi, Natasha Bloomfield, Sierra Bryant, Adjaratou Cisse, Essence Clyburn, Iesha Cox, Michelle Cruz-Ruiz, Shanice Davy, Kwame Eni, Landerman Evra, Kristle Felder, Monique Fletcher, Asia Garner, Ajuba Gaylord, Rafat Ibrahim, Nadine James, Cresha John, Erica King, Sharonda Legrand, Vineatra Lewis, Shevelle Mosley, Edna Paul, Marie Pierre, Jane Roberts, Shatika Robinson, Cornelius Robinson, Faith Shaw, Alysia Solomon, Keana Staton-Woods, Orlando Taylor, Joshua Watkins, Eugune Williams, Keana Woods.
College of Education:
Natayja Alexander, Cadene Delisser, Imani Johnson, Sharell Lowe, Jarrod Young.
College of Liberal Arts:
Linda Afriyie, Nakia Albright-Dudley, Jasmine Alonso, Aaliya Alston, Tiara Anderson, Requel Avena, Gifty Boateng, Anita Bonsu, Nicole Brown, Ashley Charles, Shakkie Clark, Christina Collazo, Alaysha Daniels, Theodorine Datlius, Nicole Dias, Nilandes Dorvil, Olivia Felder, Khalonie Forman, Evelyne Fortune, Juliana Gardiner, Jazmin Goepfert, Nasya Hammond-Watson, Rosalee Howard, Glory Iyke, Valerie Jabouin, Jacqueline Johnson, Asha Jones, Kiswah Khan, Nichelle Lane, Shawn Lawson Jr., Brandi Luck, Amber McEachin, Infin McNeill, Karen Millet, Nija Miranda, Eugene Omondi, Rikkii Orange, Judith Osiughwu, Zaiditu Persaud-Alabi, Vicki Plowden, Kassie Prevost, Dynesha Prince, Dennecia Proctor, Bennett Solomon, Claire Telisma, Katina Thompson, Kayla waters, Ashley Weathers, Mary Williams, Ya'Nick Yamba.
College of Natural, Applied and Health Science:
Jory Bell, Shazneka Blue, Celie Cadeau, Taiye Ekundayo, Marie Fajuyi, Angelica Harmon, Cameron Holmes, Omari Kirkland, Collins Lidede, Khadijia Martin-Gilmore, Rikkiyah muslim, Damaris Ochieng, Jane Okali, Brittany Ridges, Nabeehah Salaam.
College of Visual and Performing Arts:
Peighton Bryant, Sahirah Johnson, Michael Lynch, Chanah McKenzie, Samantha Noelcin, Joseph Wright II.
Nathan Weiss Graduates:
Wonder Amedzo, public administration; Jasmine Cambridge, psychology; Latrice Doctor, special education; Malcolm Evans, communication studies; Rognial Fluermon, sociology; Teshay Gibbons, computer information; Stephanie Hawkins, communication studies; Michael Hutcheson, sociology; Constance Kwarteng, nursing; Deneen Marshall-Mike, communication studies; Danielle Robinson, sociology; Roldy Simeus, computational science; Bryan Spears, public administration; Tarie Taylor, psychology; Herma Thomspon, nursing; Donovan Willis, counseling education; and Tonji Wimberley, communication studies.
If any students are interested in being a part of Africana Studies or attending the African Heritage Graduation Ceremony next year, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org.