UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Donning of the Kente, held at Penn State Law on April 21, was many things.
It was a chance for members of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) to celebrate the contributions and achievements of their graduating peers. It was a joyous occasion filled with fond remembrances and laughter. It was a bittersweet event of tears and goodbyes. And it was an opportunity for these students of color to celebrate their shared history, community, and accomplishments.
“Traditions like this are meaningful because our community is often underrepresented in law school,” said Preston Holmes, one of the graduating students who was honored at the event. “Here, we highlight the fact that African American students don’t just succeed, but excel, while we stick to our roots.”
The Donning of the Kente is an event common among African American communities at schools and universities around the country, and has been a tradition at Penn State Law for several years. At this year’s donning, each graduating member of BLSA was given a moving tribute by someone important to their law school experience, including peers, classmates, mentors, and professors. After the tribute—some of which were reflective and somber, while others were more lighthearted and humorous—each student was called up to the front of the room where their shoulders were draped in the traditional African Kente cloth.
“The Donning of the Kente pays homage to our ancestors and our future at the same time,” said first-year law student Amber Linton. “The cloth symbolizes what a long way we’ve come, while we recognize the next generation that’s going forward into the world.”
Chardae Davis, a second-year student who helped organize this year’s event, said the Donning of the Kente celebrates the graduating students’ success and contribution to their school and community, and serves as an inspiration for younger students to aspire to their level of accomplishment.
“We know what it’s like to be a Black student in this community, and we know what it takes to accomplish what these students have been able to accomplish, and it deserves recognition,” Davis said. “We’re a tight-knit community, and each individual in this graduating class has made such a huge impact in our community and Penn State Law as a whole.”
For Brianni Frazier, one of the graduating students honored at the event, the Donning of the Kente is about more than just the graduating students. It’s about the entire community of students of color who come together to celebrate and support each other through law school and beyond.
“The Black Law Students Association provided a real community, friends, and support group through my time in law school,” Frazier said. “To me, this is recognition that that support group will be there for you after graduation. No matter what directions we all go in, we’ll still support each other.”