Black Excellence ceremony celebrates being young, gifted, and Black
Young, gifted, and Black, with their futures ahead, Jada Daniel’23 urged her fellow classmates to rise unapologetically with heads and eyes pointed up to the stars and the sky because there is nothing that they can not achieve.
“Keep rising, unapologetically,” senior Jada Daniel’23 urged her classmates at the Beloit College Celebration of Black Excellence on May 10. Thirteen soon-to-be graduates streamed into an Eaton Chapel decorated with star-shaped gold and black balloons.
Hosted by the Office for Student Success, Equity, and Community, the 2023 Black Excellence ceremony celebrated the Black graduates’ tremendous accomplishments and invaluable contributions to the Beloit community. Commencement is Sunday, May 14.
Young, gifted, and Black, with their futures ahead, Daniel reminded seniors of what they overcame: exclusion, national Black violence in the summer of 2020 and 2021, and the COVID-19 pandemic. They hoped for the best and prepared for the worst, together.
Jada Daniel honored “a village of Black communities at Beloit, who planted seeds of support, radical Black love, and encouragement that carried Black students through moments so dark we couldn’t see the light of the future.” Black students faced challenges being at a predominantly white college, but it was a community that brought them through, she reminded her classmates.
Daniel, a triple major who achieved many honors as an undergraduate, said the college’s Black students “chased dreams and grasped accomplishment after accomplishment that we couldn’t even fathom because there was no seat at the table, but we took a chair and demanded our seats because our gifts and talents made room for us.”
“Being Black at Beloit is a lot of things, but we’ve come across a gold mine filled with an abundance of Black joy and radical Black love that could not be shaken or taken away from us no matter how hard they tried,” she said.
She urged seniors to rise unapologetically from the ground, that their ancestors worked to build, with heads and eyes pointed up to the stars and the sky because there is nothing that can not achieve.
“Graduating and entering the next chapter of our lives means unlearning all the experiences that taught us to hate ourselves and question our gifts and talents,” Jada Daniel said. “While closing this chapter and leaving and as we look ahead to the future, we can’t help but express gratitude for all of the lessons learned and the people that entered our lives to build community and offer spaces in their hearts and lives to support us through the shared experiences.
Amir Camper’23 applauded his classmates for doing the hard work necessary to get a college degree. Senior
“I congratulate your bravery for taking a risk, the effort you put in to obtain your degree, and your unending spirit to never give up, and because of that unending spirit you are here today,” Camper said. “Treasure the experiences you have here and learn from them as you push forward to the uncertainty that lies ahead.”
The Black candidates for graduation had invited Erica Daniels, the college’s chief of staff and secretary of the college, the first Black woman to hold that position, to deliver the keynote speech. Daniels encouraged the soon-to-be graduates with the lyrics of Nina Simone’s To Be Young, Gifted and Black: “There’s a world waiting for you, Yours is the quest that’s just begun.”
She told seniors that, as they go through the stages of discovering their Blackness, to strive to make an impact in the struggle for equity and justice, acknowledge their rare and precious gifts, and protect their intellectual property. Erica Daniels advised them that they should never compromise who they are for the sake of professionalism, in a world dominated by people who are white, male, patriarchal, cis-gendered, and able-bodied.
A final point Erica Daniels made was to encourage the students to embrace all forms of Blackness, even if it is unlike theirs. “If the unapologetic expression of your Blackness causes others to feel apologetic about their form of Blackness, then we are engaging in the same kind of oppression projected upon us.”
“When you are unapologetically Black, you understand your connection to the creator; you understand the magic you possess; and you understand your knowledge of self and how all its brilliance walks before you and leads you every day,” Erica Daniels said.