SANTA BARBARA, Calif.—The first Santa Barbara Black graduation event took place today at Santa Barbara City College today. This was in partnership with the Santa Barbara Unified School District.
We spoke to students and faculty about what it means to celebrate Black excellence.
The sounds of drumming, cheers, and applause filled Santa Barbara city college today as families and faculty joyfully celebrated the graduation of their loved ones.
The graduates spanned kids like Eli Bryant to high schoolers like Michael Nnoli.
The common thread uniting them is Black excellence.
“Black people have been through a lot in America's history, and some of us don't feel like we've been appreciated enough or recognized for our endeavors…it's good that we highlight Black brilliance,” said soon-to-be high school graduate Michael Nnoli.
Local educators hope that the mix of graduates from all levels creates an opportunity for mentorship and learning.
“The kids that are in TK are looking up to the kids that are graduating from sixth grade. The sixth graders are looking at the kids that are graduating from eighth grade. Eighth graders are looking at the kids are graduating from high school,” said Cofounder of SBCC Black Faculty and Staff Association Akil Hill.
Just as the young grads may look up to older grads, the older grads may learn a thing or two from the little ones.
“It's really important for our young people to see people who have gone through the things that they are going through, are going to go through in their life and being successful and vice versa. It's important for us as adults to see the young people with their joy and they’re, you know, free of inhibitions and willing to go up on stage and dance without without anyone stopping them. Because it reminds us of what possibilities exist as well,” said SBCC Equity, Diversity, and Cultural Competency Coordinator Roxane Byrne.
Event organizers hope that this will give the Black community more visibility in a city where they account for less than one percent of the total population.
“We want our students to feel seen, heard and valued,” said Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Lynne Sheffield
They also hope that by celebrating academic success they are encouraging students to continue to excel academically and to prioritize their education.