In a special ceremony on Thursday, May 4, students received their Kente stole cloths to wear during the university’s 87th commencement on Saturday, May 6.
This year, students chose the dwennimmen symbol for their stoles. Meaning a “ram’s horns,” the dwennimmen symbolizes strength and humility: stressing strength in adversity yet modesty in character.
Dr. Michelle Cromwell, Associate Professor of Politics and Social Justice and Director of the Honors Program, describes the meaning of the Kente cloth.
The Kente was developed by the Asante people of Ghana who associated the cloth with a marker of class, royal status, regional origin, or patriotism. Despite the Kente cloth’s transformations it remains a symbol of pride that authenticates the wearers’ experiences. Through its travels, the Kente has absorbed the power and ability to change its meaning while retaining its solemn identity. As a result, its meaning is embedded in its use. Whether it is given as a traditional gift, worn by an Ewe chief, donned at a wedding, church ceremony, or graduation, the Kente communicates identity, community, and pride. It is seen as a symbol of unity as opposed to one of appropriation.
Most academic Kente ceremonies traditionally celebrate the accomplishments of Black students and an expression of African-American pride.
For Regis, the Kente is worn as a symbol of inclusion and a celebration of academic accomplishment in our richly diverse community. Every year, the Kente design represents our ideas about identity and community, as Regis founders and sponsors, the Sisters of St. Joseph recognize “the dear neighbor without distinction” of any personal or cultural difference.
In her remarks at the ceremony Thursday night, President Antoinette Hays, PhD, RN, said:
Hello to the class of 2017. I am honored to be here at this beautiful ceremony where we have come together as a community to honor your diverse journeys as amazing students.
We are special because of our uniqueness. And, truly, it is our community’s diversity that we celebrate tonight.
As you all know, the Kente cloth has roots in Ghana that date back to the 12th century. The class of 2017 chose the dwennimmen symbol. Meaning a “ram’s horns,” it symbolizes strength and humility: stressing strength in adversity yet modesty in character.
Historically, a Kente was worn during ceremonial events and special occasions. Tonight, it is worn as a symbol of pride in who you are and as a celebration of your “strength in adversity” to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
It is worn to honor those who have come before you and their struggles and their successes. And it is worn to connect a deeper part of you to where your journey really began. That beautiful, shining moment when God’s hand shaped your human spirit.
The Kente celebrates various communities that helped shape you. It celebrates your cultural backgrounds.
And most importantly for me, it celebrates two things: First, the valued role each of you played here at Regis; Second, the strength of you collectively as a community of talented, strong, dynamic and brilliant minds ready to lead a better tomorrow.
Wear your Kente with pride.
Wear your Kente as a source of strength, an outward sign of the power and responsibility of achieving a higher education.