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Graduating with the Centers for Belonging and Cultural Engagement

The word graduate written on the African Diaspora stole. La palabra “graduar” escrita en la estola de diáspora africana.

When it comes to graduation at Weber State University, the Centers for Belonging and Cultural Engagement have different traditions for each graduate who graduates under their cultural centers. One of those traditions is to give their students a stole representing their specific culture when they experience that moment of walking across the stage during graduation.

Students are given the opportunity to receive their stoles during the graduation celebrations held by each cultural center.

In the Native American Cultural Center, the graduation celebration is held to recognize each student’s educational milestones and achievements, according to Native American interim program manager Amanda Jones.

“The ceremony really serves as a unique space for students to pay homage to their family, to their friends, faculty, staff, administrators and pretty much anybody that really supported their journey through their college education,” Jones said. “Really it is a time to honor, to bless, and to acknowledge our students.”

During the Native American Cultural Center’s graduation celebration, the room is usually filled with traditional songs sung and played on drums, as well as people performing traditional dances.

The stoles given to the Native American students are made with their own hands. The tradition of making the stoles themselves started when Jones spoke with Tashina Barber, the former advisor for what was then known as the Center for Multicultural Excellence.

Jones and Barber then went to the trading post in Salt Lake City to find fabric to make the stoles. From there, Jones, and her mom sewed the stoles for the first graduating class of the Native American Cultural Center.

Last year, Jones and the Native American Student Association students were able to help sew some of the graduation stoles that will be used in this year’s graduation.

The fabric used to create the stoles is meant to connect different tribes and indigenous individuals. There are also hints of purple in the stole to reflect WSU and an embroidered presidential seal was sewed onto the stole with permission from Weber State University’s President Brad Mortensen to represent his support when it comes to the students graduating.

The Black Cultural Center holds an annual graduation celebration called the African Diaspora Cultural Celebration.

The graduation celebration held by the Black Cultural Center is meant to represent the African diaspora, which is a worldwide collection of communities descended from native Africans predominantly in the Americas, according to former Interim Black Cultural Center Program Manager Kenneth Johnson.

When it comes to the look of the African Diaspora Cultural Celebration stoles, all of the colors represent something different. Red signifies the blood that unites all African people, the black stripe is a nod to African diaspora people’s skin and serves to indicate the strength of the community and the green represents the fertility of the African continent.

“The symbolism of green in the pan-African flag relates to the desire to belong to a physical land that is budding with promise and development. It signifies African diaspora people’s belonging with the history of the African continent,” Johnson said. “What we’re representing with that red, black, and green stripe is the pan-African flag. That’s what we’re representing in our stole.”

When it comes to the Pasifika Cultural Center, a local tattoo artist helped them create a tribal design to incorporate Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia all into their graduation stole.

But, last year, the cultural center had a student comment that there wasn’t as much of the Melanesian culture represented in the tribal art. The cultural center worked with the student and they now have a stole full of tribal designs that incorporate all three regions of the Pasifika in their graduation stole.

The Pan-Asian stole was created with very simple motifs that have the five regions of Asia incorporated into the design. The colors were chosen by students, according to Lulu Faumui-Latu-Peters, program manager for the Pasifika Cultural Center and interim manager for the Pan-Asian Cultural Center.

“The colors came about by just a student selection of colors that they thought would pop with our Asia logo, but also the significance of the red, the gold in the Asian culture,” Faumui-Latu-Peters said. “There’s huge significance in the Asian culture when it comes to those specific colors and why we incorporate it in the graduation stole.”

According to WSU’s Executive Director for Belonging Brandon Flores, The Hispanic and Latino Cultural Center has a stole celebration called the Celebracion de Mariposas. The Hispanic and Latino Cultural Center was unavailable to provide a comment.

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Kennedy Camarena, Editor-in-chief

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