Multicultural graduation ceremonies are significant events in the final days for many seniors at SF State. These events recognize the unique academic achievements of students of color, bringing focus to the historically underrepresented communities of color.
SF State’s main graduation, that was announced May 4th, will now be held as a virtual commencement on June 18th, and will allow the 2020 graduates to participate in a later date in-person commencement. Coronavirus not only cancelled SF State’s main commencement ceremony at Oracle Park, but left many students without a proper celebration of their achievements. Graduations such as the Filipino, Jabulani Black and the Latinx graduations, are making their final decisions on what they will be doing for this semester’s graduate season due to Covid-19. Students that planned to attend cultural graduation ceremonies are now unclear about where these ceremonies stand.
FilGrad, known as Filipino Graduation is sponsored and hosted by the Pilipino American Collegiate Endeavor, a program for Filipino students to create awareness of social, cultural and the economic issues of the Filipino community. This celebration is meant for Filipino students to receive their stoles, which consist of the Filipino Flag decorated onto them, and celebrate with family and friends of their community.
Danielle Hichiban, this year’s FilGrad director stated that they have been monitoring for a potential graduation in later 2020. “Right now we are not moving forward with planning an in-person ceremony and refocusing on sending grad packages to FilGrad graduates,” said Hichiban on what the plans are for FilGrad.
The FilGrad team is looking at other options for an in-person ceremony to take place at a later date once shelter-in-place is lifted and larger events are allowed to take place. Hichiban also stated that the board will be sending forms to graduates soon and that graduateswill still recieve their stoles, but they are waiting to submit an inquiry due to embroidery shops closed during this time.
The graduation ceremony for SF State’s Black community usually includes performances from African drummers as graduates walk across to receive their stoles and Divine Nine Fraternities and Sororities, which are historically Black Greek letter organizations, would perform a special stroll for the event. This year’s class won’t be able to have the same experience, but will still be honored for their accomplishments.
An email was sent out by the Jabulani Black Association stating that they will be holding an online ceremony with the theme, “Stay Strong, We’ll make it Through; We are Here for You” for it’s spring, summer and upcoming fall semester graduates of 2020. Registering to participate in the virtual celebration will include having the Class of 2020 Kente stole (sash with African prints embroidered in them) mailed to each student, an online presentation and a pdf program as a keepsake. Students will be able to send in a graduation picture or short video reflection to be placed in a slide show on the Jabulani website.
Marissa Renae, a spring graduate and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, was planning on participating in the Jabulani Graduation before Covid-19 prohibited the event from taking place.
“I’ve been involved heavily with the Black community since I stepped foot on SF State’s campus and being surrounded by the people who directly shaped the course of my college career would be the perfect send off,” said Renae about not being able to attend Jabulani Graduation.
Like Jabulani Graduation and FilGrad, the latinx community is figuring out next steps on what their graduation decision will be. Latinx students are unclear if they will be left without an in-person commencement ceremony.
“We have yet to set a final plan but discussions have been under way,” said Gabriela Segovia-McGahan, the administrative analyst specialist for the Latino/a studies Department.
The Latino/a Studies Department usually hosts an end-of-year celebration for graduating major and minor students on campus in the Mission District’s Brava Theatre. Typically, the department gathers photos and short statements from students describing how they will use their degree to serve the community and present them in a loop during the ceremony.
This year the department will continue to do this, but Mission-based newspaper El Tecolote will also be publishing these photos and statements and copies of the print edition will be mailed to each student.
“El Tecolote’s participation in celebrating our majors and minors is especially fitting since the newspaper was created by Latina/Latino Studies students in 1970 when the department was called Raza Studies,” shares Katynka Z. Martínez, the department chair and graduate coordinator for the Latino/a Studies Department.
Despite none of the SF State population being able to celebrate their accomplishments in-person this year, their departments, communities and SF State faculty are finding ways to honor them in new and creative ways.