May 17, 2012 — Graduating African-American students will participate Saturday in the University of Virginia's eighth annual "Donning of the Kente" ceremony at 7 p.m. in Culbreth Theatre. During the ceremony, the students receive long, colorful sashes, called "kente," that they will wear the next day over their black gowns when they walk down the Lawn.
The woven kente cloth, adapted from African tradition in Ghana, was typically worn by royalty, but now it is often added to graduation or wedding attire, or for other special occasions. The colors and shapes have symbolic meanings, with the background color, black, representing maturity and spiritual depth. Blue means peace; yellow or gold stands for wealth and status; green refers to planting, growth and renewal.
Saturday's event, a private ceremony, also will honor the achievements of African-American students with Longevity of Excellence Awards in academics, athletics and leadership, sponsored by U.Va.'s Office of African-American Affairs. The awards include the Luther Porter Jackson Community Service Award and the Office of African-American Affairs' Dean's Awards.
The ceremony features a procession of about 20 faculty and staff, and graduate students serving as marshals to escort the graduating fourth-year students. U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan will attend as a special guest. In addition, graduating fourth-year student Dawn-Sherryl Nwaebube will offer a "Tribute to the Class of 2012."
— by Anne Bromley