Umoja, BU’s black student union, will have a separate graduation this May, Umoja’s vice president Donovan Young confirmed.
“A lot of similar schools, that BU would compare itself to, have them,” Young said. “Having a black graduation is a way for all of the black seniors to meet each other and have one last celebration.”
Although Young referred to it as a “black graduation,” he said that it will be called “Umoja’s rite of passage” and it will be more of a cultural rite of passage.
Umoja follows in the footsteps of Harvard, who held a black graduation last year.
This year, Umoja’s commencement speaker will be Richard L. Taylor (COM’71), the first BU student to receive a Rhodes scholarship and a former BU trustee who has degrees from Harvard and BU.
“The Umoja graduation reinforces a long-standing relationship that Boston University has had with the African American community,” Taylor said. “BU is one of the only few large national universities that has a generational history with the African American community. That’s what this is about to me.”
Taylor said that BU has been graduating black students from many of its schools for generations, and he plans to speak about how those graduates and alumni like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. relate to the class of 2018.
Young said that Umoja spearheaded the graduation by itself.
“I don’t know about Umoja’s commencement,” said BU spokesman Colin Riley.
Riley said if BU was involved, it would be on the commencement website. It is not on the website.
Carlos Salazar from the Dean of Student’s office said that all the commencement events they know about are on the website and that they do not know what student groups are having their own commencements.
The Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground declined to comment because they said it was Umoja’s event.
However, Harvard’s event last year faced some backlash for amplifying racial differences.
“For people who don’t know our history, they may have some questions,” Taylor said.
Despite that, Taylor said that those who know BU’s history won’t be concerned.
“This is a wonderful opportunity,” he said. “This is a connector.”
Young said that Umoja’s graduation will take place in Questrom, but that they are still planning the logistics.