Bailey Thompson | News Editor
Before the graduates of 2019 prepare to walk at Commencement on June 15, some of these students will also get the chance to walk on a smaller stage with their more intimate communities. On June 13, the 9th Annual Lavender Graduation will celebrate the journey of LGBTQ+ graduates at Western. Then, on June 14, the 6th Annual Black Graduation will honor Black and African-American graduates who are preparing to leave Western.
Hosted by Student Engagement in the Pacific Room of the Werner University Center, Lavender Graduation is an event that LGBTQ+ student register for in advance, and they can invite their close friends to come and support them.
“Lavender is important to LGBT history,” explains Western’s Lavender Graduation webpage. “It is a combination of the pink triangle that gay men were forced to wear in concentration camps and the black triangle designating lesbians as political prisoners in Nazi Germany. The LGBT civil rights movement took these symbols of hatred and combined them to make symbols and color of pride and community.”
At this event, students will also receive rainbow graduation cords and tassel that they can wear to Commencement.
Then, the following day, Black Student Union and Student Engagement will host Black Graduation in the Willamette Room of the WUC.
According to Western’s website, the event “reinforces the bonds of scholarship and extends the sense of community” among Black and African-American graduates. For their graduation regalia, students will be presented with a Kente cloth stole — a symbol from Ghana, which “is a visual representation of history, philosophy, ethics, oral literature, religious beliefs, social values, and political thoughts,” according to the event webpage.
As someone who has a hand in organizing both events, John Wilkins, Coordinator of Leadership & Inclusion for Student Engagement, shared why he believes these events to be an important part of these students’ graduation experience.
“Honoring and recognizing our students’ accomplishment of completing their degrees is important, and taking time to acknowledge their experience is valuable,” said Wilkins. “Our hope in hosting these events is that students feel they are seen, heard, and appreciated. These intimate ceremonies honor heritage and cultural elements that reinforce bonds of community and scholarship.”
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