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On Thursday, June 1, the University High School Black Affinity student organization honored twelve graduating members at the 5th annual Black Affinity Graduation Celebration.

In many schools, this pre-commencement ceremony is called “Black Graduation,” but at University High School, it is called the “Black Affinity Graduation Ceremony.” Events like these have been embraced at many colleges and universities across the country, and they allow African-American graduating students to come together to be celebrated and supported by their peers, faculty members, family, and friends.

Thursday’s celebration began with the “Black National Anthem” performed by the University choir during the graduates processional, welcome remarks by Black Affinity faculty advisor Lade Akande, a reading of Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb” by Khari Dennis (’24), and remarks by Head of School Alicia LaMagdeleine. 

University and Black Affinity alumna Kharee Hoggs (’21) gave the keynote speech. The graduating seniors were presented with a traditional Kente stole (which they may then wear at the school’s official commencement ceremony) by Black Affinity faculty advisor Justin Blanding, Bryce Gray (’24), and Ms. Akande. 

The seniors each gave short speeches where they had the opportunity to thank their parents, families, mentors, and anyone else who supported them to reach this achievement. There were some tears and many laughs as the graduates said goodbye to their time as students at University. 

The event concluded with an original poem written and read by Black Affinity faculty advisor Franklin Oliver and closing remarks from Ms. Akande. The event was emceed by Kendall Booth (’24). 

This year, there were twelve graduating seniors honored — Kahmi Bracey, Justin Francis, Christian Gray, Ashley Ndebele, Peter Ogon, Sophia Paris, Jordan Patterson, Jeremiah Robinson, Steven Scott, Payton Seay, Isaiah Smith, and Kamryn Washington. 

Congratulations to these Trailblazers!

View photos from the 2023 Black Affinity Graduation below: