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ISU’s Multicultural Center honors graduates with cultural recognition ceremonies

Written by on April 29, 2024

Photo provided by the Multicultural Center

NORMAL, Ill. – The Multicultural Center has been holding cultural graduation ceremonies for communities of color at Illinois State University to honor their academic achievements through the lens of their heritage. Multicultural Center Director Christa Platt explains why these ceremonies are important to the ISU community. 

“These cultural recognition ceremonies are, I would call them, a rite of passage,” Platt said. “What they do is they give the students an opportunity to be a part of a ceremony that is distinct and intentionally centers their identities, their heritages and their traditions. They’re really important and is something that students really enjoy and value, and not only they value it, their families and communities also value it as well.”

Since ISU is a predominantly white institution, these ceremonies spotlight culturally diverse communities. Therefore, terminology is especially important when referencing these graduates and the cultural ceremonies.

“When I talk about them, I don’t normally call them minorities,” said Platt. “I think that there’s something to be said about honoring these students from their cultural positions and that’s a positive thing. I think minorities sometimes have a negative connotation.” 

These ceremonies don’t just highlight your cultural background; they celebrate students for their academic achievements. It is a privilege to walk across the stage with peers who share similar experiences, which is something these ceremonies aim to highlight.

“It’s all about what it means to be excited about being a person of Latin descent or someone of African descent or a person who’s Asian identified or being a part of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Platt. “It is something that students should be readily saying, ‘Hey I’m proud of who I am I’m proud of where I come from, and I’m thankful that the university recognizes the need to honor this huge part of who I am.’”

ISU students, families and community members have shared their outpouring of support, commemorating ISU for sponsoring these events. However, the community was not always as supportive of these ceremonies.

“We’ve gotten a ton of support. I mean, I would say just the most distinct year would have been the first year that Umoja emojis stepped out and said, ‘Hey, we wanted, we want to do this ceremony,”’ said Platt. “I would say that over 10 years ago, the campus wasn’t quite ready, which is why Umoja is so distinct and sponsored by community forums. They had to, on their own, make the event happen with support across different departments. 

The final two ceremonies are coming up this weekend and next week. The Maps ceremony is Saturday, May 4, and the Umoja ceremony is Thursday, May 9.