Seniors told to reclaim their stories at Intercultural Graduation

Photo courtesy of Patricia Sánchez-Connally

FSU hosted its fourth annual Intercultural Graduation Ceremony at the Warren Center on April 26.

According to sociology professor Patricia Sánchez-Connally, the goal of the ceremony is to celebrate graduating seniors who are either members of Framingham State’s affinity groups or who have in some way worked toward improving the University’s inclusion efforts.

During the ceremony, seniors were presented with their multi-colored graduation stoles, which they are strongly encouraged to wear with their caps and gowns during spring commencement later this month.

Meant to be worn over their shoulders, said Sánchez-Connally, the stoles represent community and serve as symbols of seniors’ academic accomplishments.

“Even though students’ journeys may be different, they have all come and worked together to create a more welcoming and accepting campus climate. We are thankful for that and this is a small way to acknowledge and validate their struggles,” she said.

According to Sánchez-Connally, 80 seniors attended this year’s ceremony – a record number of students.

More students were interested in attending, but given the Warren Center’s size, the University had to cap student attendance at 80.

That’s up 20 people from last year’s 60. And up 55 from 2016, according to Sánchez-Connally.

Poet and Framingham State alumnus Enzo Silon Surin was the event’s keynote speaker.

In 2017, Surin was the recipient of the Brother Thomas Fellowship. He is also a PEN New England Celebrated New Voice in Poetry.

Among his most celebrated work is his book-length poem, “A Letter of Resignation: An American Liberetto,” a “meditation” on American history that works to debunk misguided stereotypes about people of color, according to his website.

In his remarks, Surin said during his time at FSU, he began to question how he came to his own conclusions about his identity as a black man.

What he realized, he said, was that his perception of himself was based on someone else’s perspective on history.

When he came to that realization, he said he began the process of finding his “own truth,” citing his work, “A Letter of Resignation,” as a way of “reclaiming his future.”

Surin said, “When we have a history of liberating ourselves, we have a future of being free, of being critical thinkers, innovators, entrepreneurs and nation-builders. … This is in our future.”

He told seniors to go out and reclaim their own stories.

“The future starts today. It starts with you. And it starts with challenging a narrative that has been repurposed for those who try to oppress us and deny us of our rightful place.”

Three students were also given awards for their diversity efforts.

M.I.S.S. eBoard members Amari Veale and Luisanna Castillo were given a joint award for their efforts to expand the reach of the club and for their individual accomplishments in making FSU a more inclusive community.

Monét Johnson was also recognized for her strong advocacy on behalf of underrepresented groups and students of color.

Senior Clarisol DeJesus said she thought the event was a success.

“As minorities, we are not recognized enough. But with ceremonies like those, we feel like we make a difference and that it does not go unseen or unnoticed,” DeJesus added.

Senior Tasia Clemons echoed DeJesus’ sentiment.

Clemons said, “The identities who were celebrated in this ceremony are overshadowed or criticized in our society. So bringing them to the forefront, showing them that they are capable and that they rise above the hate that surrounds them is why this ceremony is so significant.”

She added, “This just shows students who are underclassmen and are a part of any of those identities that since we made it, why can’t they?”