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Black graduating students celebrated at Senior Mwambo

The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs hosted Senior Mwambo, its annual rite of passage ceremony, on Wednesday to commend Black graduates as they prepare for the next phase in their lives.
Senior Mwambo

Graduates participating in Senior Mwambo celebrate the annual event, which is an African rite of passage ceremony. Photo courtesy Melvin L. Butler/University of Miami

In a room filled with families, friends, and faculty and staff members, graduating Black students of the University of Miami class of 2023 joyously were celebrated at the annual Senior Mwambo, an African rite of passage ceremony, held at the Donna E. Shalala Student Center on Wednesday. 

Hosted by the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) alongside a number of other campus partners including the Division of Student Affairs, the Department of Student Life, and the Black Alumni Society, graduates received a stole made of kente cloth, which in many African cultures represents prestige, to don at their undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies on Thursday and Friday. 

Christopher Clarke, MSA director, opened the ceremony with remarks before introducing Devang Desai, president of the University of Miami Alumni Association; Astin Hayes, president of the Black Alumni Society; Jeffrey Duerk, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost; and Renee Dickens-Callan, assistant vice president of student life. Each of them imparted endearing words of encouragement and wisdom. 

“At the University of Miami, we don’t hand out degrees—you earned them,” said Duerk. “It’s that work that you put in that we’re honoring and celebrating today. I know how much you worked these past four years, and we know how important it is to celebrate inclusivity and diversity, which we hold dear at this University.” 

View photos and video from the 2023 Commencement Ceremonies

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Patricia A. Whitely, senior vice president for student affairs, introduced this year’s keynote speaker: MacKenzie Green, a 2010 graduate of the University with a double major in broadcast journalism and sports administration, who currently serves as vice president of social for Who What Wear/Clique Brands. Green also is the co-host of “The Taylor Strecker Show,” covering current events through the lens of pop culture. During her time at the University, she was the first Black person and first woman to hold the position of station manager at UMTV. 

Green spoke to the gradates about embracing their failures and learning from them as they enter their post-graduate phase. 

“As you step into a world ahead of you, your story is still unfolding,” said Green, who resides in Los Angeles, California. “Failures and obstacles are nothing more than plot devices making your story more complex and just adding a little spice.” 

JoAnna Boykin, a graduating senior with a double major in economics and marketing, said the ceremony was amazing. 

“I really appreciate the space we were given today to celebrate our accomplishments,” said Boykin. “You can just feel the community in the room at an event like this one and that’s not always present when you’re just out and about. You can tell that MSA put a lot of thought behind planning this event.” 

Author, healer, and educator Joshua Sa-Ra performed a libation—a ritual pouring of water—as an offering to honor and respect the ancestors who paved the way for the graduates. Ryan Holmes, associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students, presented the graduate procession. 

To conclude the event, Stephanie Nuñez, assistant director of MSA, and Taylor Castro, administrative assistant of MSA, presented graduating student Caleb Taylor with the 2023 Nanga Award for his outstanding contributions to the University.