Annual Pan-Afrikan Recognition Ceremony
"THIS IS BLACK EXCELLENCE"
The Adinkra Symbols are believed to be originated from Gyaman, present day Côte D’Ivoire (west Africa). The king of Gyam wore pattered cloth as he was taken away from his kingdom. These myriad of symbols are now used in cloths that is specially made from the region to mark movement in one’s life due to special events, such as funerals and weddings. These patterns are made in wooden blocks stamps made from the bark and roots from the Kuntuni trees, trees native to the region. Even the ink used to mark the cloths are natural and not made to last beyond the event they were intended for. Typical colors of red, yellow, blue and etc.
This particular symbol holds a meaning Authroity and Genuiness. For the Pan-African graduation, we are focusing on the third meaning of Excellence. The phrase associated with this symbol is “nea onnim nsaa oto n'ago” (Pronunciation aid) which loosely translates to “ the One who knows this blanket (fabric) will spot it from the fakes and buy it even when its old” Meaning that true excellence is easily spotted and should be cherished no matter how much time has passed since this moment, celebrate it-celebrate you and all that you have accomplished.
Keynote Speaker: KELSEY BREWER
Kelsey Brewer currently serves as the Communication and Policy Manager for the Jamboree Housing Corporation. With a 1.1-billion-dollar asset portfolio, and over 9,000 affordable housing units, Jamboree is the largest non-profit development corporation in the State of California and is 10th in the nation. Her current portfolio includes strategic communications, government relations and legislative advocacy, regulatory and funding policy, and community mobilization.
Prior to her role at Jamboree, Kelsey served as the Policy and Legislative Affairs Director for the Association of California Cities, Orange County. She was the architect behind the 2700 Permanent Supportive Housing Unit strategic plan, which took a regionalized approach to ending chronic homelessness in Orange County. After the County of Orange formally adopted the plan, Kelsey worked as the lead lobbyist on Assembly Bill 448 to create the Orange County Housing Finance Trust. AB 448 passed all its policy committees and full chamber hearings without receiving a single vote in opposition and was signed into law by Governor Brown shortly after. Her lobbying and policy work on AB 448 and the 2700-unit plan landed her the number 11 spot on the Orange County Register’s 2018 100 Most Influential People in Orange County List.
From 2014-2016, Kelsey served on the California State University Board of Trustees as an appointee of Governor Jerry Brown. During her time on the Board, Kelsey oversaw initiatives to increase graduation rates for marginalized communities, worked on Title 9 compliance standards, and organized efforts to address the increasing number of food and housing insecure students attending CSU campuses. Kelsey was the first student elected to a leadership role on the Board of Trustees, serving as the Vice-Chair for the Governmental Relations Committee in 2016.
Kelsey is a proud Titan and first-generation graduate of Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Political Science, and two minors in Liberal Studies and Women’s Studies. In her free time, Kelsey serves as Co-Chair of the Orange County Young Democrats and is passionate about connecting people to the social justice and policy issues they care about most.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF THE KENTE CLOTH STOLES
Since at least the 1970s, African American graduates -particularly university graduates- wear a kente cloth stole over their graduation robes. The kente cloth stole represents the graduates' pride in their restored Afrikan heritage, and their pride in their accomplishment of graduating. The Kente Cloth is a material produced from the Western African hemisphere, and direct ties to the stolen lineage African American had endured due to the American enslavement trade.
Kente cloth is deeply intertwined with the history of the Ashanti nation. The Ashanti Empire or Confederacy, which was located in what is today Ghana, first emerged in West Africa during the seventeenth century. The Ashanti are members of the Akan people who speak the Akan or Ashanti dialect. The word “Kente” which means basket comes from the Akan or Ashanti dialect. Akans also refer to Kente as nwentoma, which means woven cloth. Kente cloth designs vary, with the different designs, colors, and patterns each having their special meanings and stories. But Kente cloth also reflects the history of the Ashanti people, from the emergence of the various Ashanti Kingdoms to the development of the slave trade up to and including contemporary life in Ghana.
According to Ashanti legend, two farmers, Krugu Amoaya and Watah Kraban, from the village of Bonwire, came across a spider, Ananse, spinning the web. Amazed by the web’s beauty, the farmers returned to their homes eager to try and recreate the web. They wove a cloth first from white, and then black and white, fibers from a raffia tree. They then presented their cloth to the Ashanti Asantehene, or king, Nana Osei Tutu (who reigned from 1701 to 1717).
As descendants of ancestors that come from the West African Ashanti Empire, African American students pay homage to their ancestors by wearing the kente stoles during graduation.