Annual African rite of passage celebrates Black graduates

Tierini Hodges-Murad, a double alumna of the University of Miami, delivered the keynote address during Tuesday's virtual Senior Mwambo ceremony.
By Ashley A. Williams

Tierini Hodges-Murad, a double alumna of the University of Miami, delivered the keynote address during Tuesday's virtual Senior Mwambo ceremony.

Annual African rite of passage celebrates Black graduates

By Ashley A. Williams
Tierini Hodges-Murad, a life coach and double alumna of the University of Miami, offered words of wisdom to graduating students at this year’s Senior Mwambo Ceremony.

In the spirit of celebration, the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) honored Black graduating students at its annual Senior Mwambo Ceremony. The virtual celebration took place on Tuesday, May 11, at noon and honored more than 160 undergraduate and graduate students who will earn their degrees from the University of Miami later this week. 

The Senior Mwambo Ceremony is an African rite of passage that marks the transition of Black graduates from their lives at the University to advanced education and professional careers. From musical performances to inspiring words of encouragement from faculty and staff members, the celebration is a unique experience that combines merriment, African traditions, and the acknowledgment of achievement. 

Tierini Hodges-Murad, a University alumna and life coach, delivered this year’s keynote address. With more than 19 years working in higher education, she is an expert motivational speaker. 

“During this next chapter of your life, allow yourself to be flexible and allow what you think you know now to be shaped by the amazing experiences to come,” said Hodges-Murad. “As a Miami Hurricane, you had access to an amazing network of ’Canes that have gone before you. So, tap into our wisdom and see what we know, we would love to hear from you. And most importantly, never stop learning.” 


Special Report: 2021 Commencement

Hodges-Murad assured students that after years of working toward their degrees, it was understandable to be overwhelmed, confused, or doubtful—but in the end, to follow the advice of Miami rapper Luther Campbell. “Don’t stop, get it, get it,” she said. 

An array of University faculty and staff members including Patricia A. Whitely, senior vice president for student affairs; Donald Spivey, distinguished professor of history; Ryan C. Holmes, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students; and Renee Dickens Callan, executive director of student life, also offered uplifting words to the graduates and their families. There was also a musical tribute performed by the Frost School of Music. Jashua Sa-Ra, the ceremonial elder, offered the libation, or blessing, to honor the spirit of the ancestors.

Each year, MSA gifts graduates with kente cloth stoles that are to be worn at the commencement ceremonies. The stoles represent African culture and pride. Christopher Clarke, MSA director, and Kennedy Robinson, assistant director, were elated to virtually send this year’s group of students off into the next chapter of their lives.

Students Jordan Rhodes and Miles Pendleton both earned Nanga awards for their outstanding ability to consistently speak truth to power, advocate for COVID-19 protocols, and for their exceptional achievements in both academics and service to the University and the community. 

In closing, Clarke and Robinson thanked the more than 350 participants for joining the special online celebration for the graduates.

“On behalf of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, the Department of Student Life, the Division of Student Affairs, and the University of Miami community, congratulations again on your achievements,” said Clarke. “We are proud of all you’ve accomplished thus far and wish you the best on your future endeavors.”