What is Donning of the Kente?
The Donning of the Kente is a pre-commencement graduation celebration held yearly at colleges and high schools around the United States where participating graduates, typically of African descent, are adorned with academic stoles made of Kente cloth. Afterwards, the students can wear the Kente stole over their robes during the traditional graduation commencement.
During the ceremony, participating students are sometimes marched to the stage in an African-drum led procession, often followed by a stage performance of traditional Ghanaian dance. A keynote speaker will then address the audience, noting the significance of the occasion and recognizing the hurdles overcome by the graduating students. Finally, each graduate is announced one after another, their academic major and any special achievements highlighted before being donned with a Kente graduation stole by a special guest of their choice. After all graduates have received their Kente stoles, final remarks are delivered by a keynote speaker, and the ceremony closes with students lining out in a procession. Donning of the Kente ceremonies are typically followed by a reception for students, staff, and guests.
The wearing of Kente cloth as a graduation stole goes back to 1993, when faculty at West Chester University wanted to honor the specific challenges overcome by their African-American students. The tradition has since spread to colleges and high schools around the country, with thousands of students donning Kente stoles every year at their graduation ceremonies.
Watch the Marshall University Donning of the Kente Ceremony
Pictures of the first Lakeside High School Black Student Union holding their very first Donning of the Kente Ceremony in 2019.