Annual Christmas Kente serves as rite of passage for African American students

Consistent with 17th-Century West African traditions, Marshall University will have a Christmas Kente Ceremony Friday, Dec. 15. Traditionally presented for students of African African American ancestry, this is an inclusive ceremony open to all students graduating in December.

The Kente cloth, which resembles a stole and is worn with the academic regalia, is a symbol of accomplishment that has its roots in a long tradition of weaving in West African countries. Marshall instituted this African ceremony with a tradition of presenting hand-woven Kente cloths to graduating students over 15 years ago, according to Maurice Cooley, associate vice president of intercultural affairs.

“This annual event serves as a traditional rite of passage when each graduate receives his or her own hand-woven Kente cloth based on his or her degree,” Cooley said.. “The Christmas Kente is always a smaller ceremony than our spring ceremony, which allows family and close friends to present the cloth to their graduate. This truly defines and captures one of the most significant moments of their lives, when our advancing students are recognized for their extraordinary achievements.”

Cooley said he expects 34 students to participate in the 2017 Christmas Kente. The celebration begins at 2 p.m. in the Don Morris Room, located in the university’s Memorial Student Center in Huntington.

The university will have its annual winter commencement at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in downtown Huntington.

Graduates for this year’s Kente ceremony include:

• Rodney Allen of Huntington
• Donavia Beltran of St. Albans, West Virginia
• Lakiesha Bowman of Huntington
• Shakira Bowman of Huntington
• Julmacia Clinto of Columbia, Maryland
• Patricia Coleman of Huntington
• Chani Felder of Huntington
• Gabriel Gray of Huntington
• Mahalie Hargis of Huntington
• Philip Michael Harris II of Huntington
• Arsenio James of Huntington
• Megan Jarrett of Huntington
• Delvin Johnson of Huntington
• Paris Natasha Johnson of Huntington
• Brittany Mbao of Huntington
• Chrystalina Ocasio of Huntington
• Kayla Prince of Huntington
• Derek Robinson of Huntington
• Rose Russell of Wheeling, West Virginia
• Yana Ruteledge of Huntington
• Adejoke Sotome of Huntington
• Mikyla Stewart of Huntington
• Melvin Stubbs of Huntington
• Khalil Sturdavent of Hurricane, West Virginia
• Pimchanok Subngarmsang of Huntington
• Breon Taylor of Huntington
• Darrell Thompson of Hurricane, West Virginia
• Malika Thorne of Huntington
• Debra Walker-Hart of Cross Lanes, West Virginia
• Briana Washington of South Charleston, West Virginia
• Cara Westmoreland of Huntington
• Jori Williams of Huntington
• Monica Wilmer of Huntington
• Briana Zeigler of Dunbar, West Virginia
• Isvera Zondo of Martinsburg, West Virginia

Community members are welcome and encouraged to attend. To learn more about the 2017 Christmas Kente ceremony, contact Cooley at or by calling 304-696-5430.

Marshall also conducts a Donning of the Kente ceremony in the spring before graduation. For more information about activities sponsored by the Center for African American Students and the Office of Intercultural Affairs, visit


Photo: Maurice Cooley (right), associate vice president of intercultural affairs, places the Kente cloth on 2016 May graduate.