Every year on the Friday evening prior to Ohio University’s commencement ceremony, seniors who identify as multicultural celebrate Kushinda/Ritos de Pasaje with friends, family, faculty and staff at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium.
Kushinda/Ritos de Pasaje is a celebration African-American and Latinx students, respectively, observe upon graduation from college. Kushinda is a Swahili word for “to win,” and Ritos de Pasaje is Spanish for “rite of passage.”
“We wanted to do that as a way of encouraging men of color to aspire to be in college or graduate,” Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, the director of the OU Multicultural Center, said. “It’s a way of acknowledging that we know that there are challenges that are different from women of color and that we see it and we support it.”
The celebration started at Ohio University in 1997 and was originally celebrated separately. Since the two ceremonies were so small on their own, Kushinda and Ritos de Pasaje were later combined into one ceremony.
Kushinda/Ritos de Pasaje consists of a speaker, an OU alum and who comes from a multicultural background, and a reader, who introduces each individual graduate and shares what that students plans to do after college. Students who attend Kushinda/Ritos de Pasaje do so voluntarily.
“They see it as a last opportunity to celebrate each other and celebrate their culture in a way that is not celebrated in the mainstream society,” said Chunnu-Brayda.
A mixer for Kushinda/Ritos de Pasaje is held in addition to the ceremony, which is planned by the Kushinda Committee. Students who will celebrate Kushinda/Ritos de Pasaje are looking forward to the ceremony.
“Graduation in general is phenomenal, but to be recognized as a culture, as a society, for what we did is pretty great,” Malcolm Brown, a senior studying specialized studies, said. “Especially being African-American or being Latino or being whatever culture that you are, it’s hard enough to even get into college, but to graduate is a feat of its own. So just to be recognized for that all is pretty great.”
Kushinda/Ritos de Pasaje also provides an additional sense of support for graduating multicultural students.
“Having a separate graduation really instills in our hearts and drives it home that we are supported through other avenues on campus,” Niaree Williams, a senior studying social work, said.
Those who do not identify as multicultural often may not understand why a separate ceremony is held for students who identify as multicultural. Students who identify as multicultural believe the ceremony is important because it recognizes accomplishments made by multicultural students that hadn’t been accomplished years ago.
“It’s important to have our own celebration because one, we celebrate culture differently, and two, our achievements are still new,” Imani Smith, a senior studying psychology, said. “This is something that we didn’t do years ago.”
The ceremony is also important to many because it validates accomplishments made by multicultural students.
“It’s to validate the students who are graduating, to let them know that their achievements matter,” Smith said.
Students who are both multicultural and first-generation students, such as Smith, are excited to celebrate an accomplishment her family members previously have not accomplished.
“It’s good to see that I’ve beat the statistics, and I’ve been able to overcome a lot of the things that my family members haven’t,” said Smith. “I’m a first-generation student, first-generation grad, so it’s really important to me because I’m able to carry on a legacy for my family that no one else was able to do, really.”