Keena Alwahaidi, CBC, June 16, 2022
When walking through the halls and grounds and classrooms at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ashley Assam says, “just by being on campus, you don’t see a lot of Black people.”
That’s one of the reasons people there organized, on Monday June 13, the school’s first ever Black graduation ceremony.
“What it meant to me was just the fact that I felt like myself and a lot of other Black students who are really small in numbers unfortunately were going to be seen and celebrated,” said Assam, co-president of the Black Student Association and new graduate of the Bachelor of Health Sciences program.
“To me, I felt like Black students were going to be seen, going to be heard,” she said.
Faith Ogunkoya, manager of the university’s Black Student Success Centre, organized the ceremony.
“It was important for me to bring the whole community together and to say, ‘look around, this is your ecosystem of Black student success,'” she said.
The Black graduation ceremony was in addition to the school’s convocation ceremony and included students, faculty and community members to celebrate the excellence of Black McMaster graduates.
Ogunkoya hoped that students felt inspired by the support system that congregated at Monday’s ceremony.
“It was very much about mitigating that social isolation that happens when you feel — in a predominately white institution — you’re outnumbered, it’s good for you to look around and see yourself,” she said.
The ceremony also included Black-owned businesses like Bliss Gelato and Afrolicious.
“The whole day was about celebrating and centering Blackness,” Ogunkoya said.