More than 30,000 undergraduate students attend Michigan State University on campus, but just about 2,000 of them are African Americans, making Michigan State a primarily white institution (PWI).
Graduation season is quickly approaching, so you can be sure that there will be a wide variety of ceremonies catered to the many ethnic and social backgrounds of MSU students. One of those, the “Black Celebratory,” organized by the African American Celebratory also known as the AAC, took place on April 16 at the Wharton Center.
Black Celebratory, as stated on their website, is a ceremony focused around Michigan State University’s Black students accomplishment of successfully completing an undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral degree from Michigan State University. Some of the events they put on are Soul Food Friday, Support Black Business Wear, Jersey Day, and a “Young, Gifted, and Black” Bar Crawl.
Their board consists of 10 members: President Kayla Lewis, Vice President Ashlee Seay, Historian Daiah Williams, Black Student Representative Christine Richards, Graphic Design Chair Breanna Peterson, Logistics Chair Tracey Cone, Treasurer Fatoumata Saka, Program Coordinator Ariel Zander, Community Collaborations Chair Davon Ford, Marketing/ Publicity Chair Tyyler Greene, and Co Advisor Jacquez Gray. The organization is overseen by Senior Advisor Dr. Genyne L. Royal.
Davon Ford, an animal science major, and the chair of the AAC Community Collaborations, spoke extensively when questioned about his involvement with the Black Grad Celebratory.
“For me I’ll describe my experience with Black Grad as gratifying. From seeing all the Black graduates, it was nice to be able to create this space to celebrate their accomplishments and promote Black excellence for young Black women and more specifically Black men because we live in a world that looks to bring us down by putting us in not so great circumstances, so it’s nice to be able to just show that no it isn’t easy but the sky is the limit on what we can achieve,” said Ford.
An overview of the Black Celebratory and the AAC was provided by Lewis, an animal science seni0r.
AAC was founded in 2001 by Michael Oden along with other Black students on campus who felt it was time for the Black community to be recognized for their hard work when dealing with the hardships that come with being a minority at a predominantly white institution, she said.
“A lot of people don’t know that the AAC Black Grad Ceremony is not just for undergraduate students. We hope to celebrate everybody whether that be undergrad, grad, or doctoral degree students,” Lewis said.
In 2015 AAC was reinstated under the supervision of Dr. Royal, the current senior advisor. For the Black Grad Ceremony event, we have a Fall and December graduation. Our December graduation have historically been smaller, approximately 40 to 50 students, whereas the Spring is 200 or more students. That’s why we choose the Wharton Center for our Spring graduates.
“I was originally the Member at Large for the Black Student Alliance (BSA) where my job was to oversee and engage the general members of that organization which is actually the sister organization to the AAC. The former president of AAC was the president of BSA for two years I believe and personally appointed me to become president of the AAC following her reign” Lewis said.
“We usually have people register for which semester they will be graduating and each graduation we present the students with a Kente stole which is the ‘Black Grads Matter’ stole and those are handwoven from Ghana.
This is an organization that was founded over 20 years ago but for the past 8 to 10 years AAC has been active on campus and it is a tradition that a lot of students look forward to but COVID messed a lot of our scheduling up and our recognition on campus, she added.
“My goal along with my board members is to have a bit more awareness around the organization. We planned to do more this semester which was not executed the way I had hoped with the events of February 13 and logistics but this semester we were able to do a Spirit Week which I hope becomes a continued tradition with the new board which is just a fun week with seniors leading up to the Black Grad ceremony,” said Lewis.
Participating in the black grad ceremony is something that many students appreciate doing. Senior Imani Rose, who studied education, is one of them.
“I thought the ceremony was really nice. I felt it was very emotional and reflected a lot on these last four years and I loved how we as the Black community were able to come together and celebrate our accomplishments and achievements,” said Rose.
For more information on the AAC and their upcoming events visit their website https://msuaac.weebly.com/