Arts & Entertainment Editor
Cultural Graduations are a unique and essential part of graduation from Whittier College. These graduations are not a replacement for commencement ceremonies, but simply a space for students to celebrate their cultures and communities. Organized, planned, and coordinated by students, and sponsored by the Office of Equity and Inclusion, these celebrations invite entire families to honor APIDA, Black, Latinx, and LGBTQIA+ students on four different dates.
The deadline for cultural graduation is tight, this year; students interested in any of the celebrations must register online by March 18. If you are unsure about attending cultural graduations, read on to find out what they entail, and why these celebrations are worth going to.
Lavender (LGBTQIA+) Graduation, Friday, May 20, 2022 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Lavender Graduation was created by Dr. Ronni Sanlo, a Jewish, lesbian woman who was barred from her own children’s graduation on the basis of her sexuality. This special celebration is a space for queer graduates that can celebrate their identities, no matter where in the vast LGBTQIA+ spectrum it falls.
It is essential to note that this celebration is called ‘Lavender Graduation’ because of dark, queer history — the mix of pink triangles that gay men were forced to wear in Nazi Germany, and the black ones that lesbian women wore in the same space. Reclamation is important in this celebration, alongside symbols of pride and community.
The theme of this year’s Lav Grad is ‘Proud of You.’ This year, third-year Ellis Walker is the chairperson of Lav Grad; he is the first Black and Indigenous to be in this position in Lav Grad history. He recognizes that promoting self-love and collective love is essential to queer comunities, as there are aspects in LGBTQIA+ spaces that differ from cis and/or heteronormative ones. Pride is another must-have that Lav Grad promotes, as too many individuals in the queer community have stories like Walker’s — a mother who hated her lesbian identity because of religious trauma, and who feared for Walker when he came out to her. Generations of queer people were taught to hate themselves because of their identities, and this trauma is passed through families. Lav Grad aims to break that cycle, to reaffirm and be proud of different identities, while also highlighting that not everyone is in a safe space, whether physically or mentally. “You’re not alone! No one here is alone,” Walker said.
Walker encourages students to sign up for and attend Lav Grad, as it will be a chance for a loving, wholesome community to come together and learn how to be even more inclusive. It is a space where no one will be outed, and everyone will be heard and respected, and approach each other with an open, empathetic mindset.
Latinx Graduation, Saturday, May 21, 2022 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Latinx Grad allows a safe space for friends and families to honor Latinx students’ graduation in a culturally appropriate, less formal way than traditional commencement ceremonies. The theme for this year’s Latinx Graduation is ‘paciencia y fe’ (patience and faith). “I thought this theme was relevant because the class of 2022 will have students who should have graduated anywhere between 2020 – ‘22,” said Marianella Perez, the co-chair of Latinx Grad for the third year in a row. “These past two years have been extremely difficult for our students and it took a lot of patience and faith to get them to that finish line and we want to honor that.”
Statistics show that Latinx students are far less likely to graduate from college than their white peers, hence why Latinx Grad is so important. Students should sign up because this celebration is a perfect way to honor their history, family, and culture within the education system, which does not always accept them.
Black Graduation, Sunday, May 22, 2022 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
The theme for this years’ Black Graduation is ‘Black Joy,’ which perfectly aligns with the goals of having Black Grad in the first place. Black students deserve an opportunity to celebrate the outstanding accomplishment of graduation while simultaneously recognizing that, on an individual and even community level, they had to overcome a lot to do so. Despite personal, academic, and society challenges, Black graduates made it; “that, in itself, is something to celebrate,” said fourth-year Nailah Beyene-Martin, the event coordinator for the Black Student Association.
‘Black Joy’ represents resilience despite inequalities and resistance to oppression. This theme “encapsulates anything that inspires, supports, and uplifts Black culture,” and supports happiness from solidarity and self-expression, Beyene-Martin explained. The goal of Black Grad, especially in line with its 2022 theme, is to highlight and uplift Whittier College’s Black graduates, and provide a space for them to experience Black Joy.
“We want to celebrate you!” said Beyene-Martin. Black Graduation allows celebrating with a more intimate community of graduates, as well as an opportunity for friends and family to intermingle with each other and the positive role models of the Whittier College community.
APIDA Graduation, Monday, May 23, 2022 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
APIDA Graduation celebrates students from different backgrounds, especially those from immigrant or low-income backgrounds. Cultural graduations have always been responsive to racism and inequity,
The theme for this year’s APIDA Grad is ‘Embrace Your Voice.’ Fourth-year co-chairs Kuala Picon and Madison Duran thought this to be an appropriate theme because of the way Asian-Americans tend to be viewed. “We’re seen as foreigners, so embracing our voices is a big deal,” said Picon. “Our voices are usually silenced, or [we] feel like [we] grew up in a culture where [we] don’t speak up. We can speak up in our community and embrace our voices.” Duran agrees: “[‘Embrace Your Voice’] is a very empowering theme, and [it is] the message we want to send to graduates as they leave college to embrace themselves and who they are individually.” This is especially in light of the violence and discrimination Asian-Americans underwent in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Picon and Duran believe that signing up for and attending APIDA Graduation means honoring your ancestors and your community. Celebrating your graduation, a huge milestone, alongside your heritage, which is too often ridiculed, is incredibly special and empowering.
Cultural Graduations have been a tradition for years at Whittier College, and, as the chairs of this year stated, they are so important to underserved communities, especially those who are not widely recognized for their achievements in higher education. Take pride in what your unique voice has to offer, and sign up for cultural graduations today!
Featured Photo Courtesy of The Office of Equity and Inclusion