New Rite of Passage for Graduates Lies in Kente Cloth

Four years ago at Raritan Valley Community College, Richeleen Dashield, Dean of Multicultural Affairs, initiated a Kente Ceremony—the first of its kind among community colleges.

“This is where I think RVCC is unique,” Dean Dashield said.  “Rutgers and Princeton and every college has one. You rarely see them at community colleges.”

This year’s Kente Ceremony will take place Tuesday, May 12, 6-9 pm in the Grand Conference Center. Students who attend will recieve a Kente cloth to wear to graduation.


The Kente cloth used at RVCC's graduation last year.

Just what is a Kente cloth?  Kente is a colorful fabric woven in Ghana, dating back to 12th century Africa when Kings and Queens wore the cloth during ceremonies. For RVCC graduates, it is a symbol to celebrate their culture, inspire other students to complete their associate degree and thank those who supported them along their educational path.

The design of the cloth at RVCC's Kente Ceremony is unique to the college but follows the Ghanaian tradition. The colors are symbolic and fit into the rite of passage of graduation: red represents the struggles of our ancestors; gold, the rich minerals of Africa and wealth; green, growth, fruitfulness and vitality; and black, maturity and intense energy.

The images are also symbolic: the key represents education as the means to success, and the Asante Stool represents leadership.

Although this is an African cultural ceremony, the Kente Ceremony at RVCC is open to students of all races and religions.  “It is a tribute to their family and friends to be able say thank you for supporting them on their journey,” Dean Dashield said.


Students after last year's commencement wearing the Kenete cloth.

RVCC is one of the few community colleges to have a diversity statement in their mission statement. “At Raritan we celebrate diversity and the myriad of cultural traditions,” Dean Dashield said. According to the dean, the college’s past Kente Ceremonies featured a diverse culture of students.

Students can register for the Kente Ceremony at the Office of Multicultural Affairs, located across from the Cafeteria. Registration costs $15. There is no deadline, as long as it is done before the event begins, and there is no limit to guests, but the Office of Multicultural Affairs must be notified of the amount. Food and drinks will follow the ceremony.

Featured image caption: 

Students at the Kente Ceremony last year.

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