South County Black Grad Celebration Honors more than 100 Graduates

Black Grad Ceremony at SBCC (David Kafer for SBCC)

The Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) Umoja Program hosted the second annual Black Grad Celebration in partnership with Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) and Goleta Union School District (GUSD) on Sunday, April 28, at SBCC’s West Cliff Campus Student Services Courtyard.

The event brought together more than 300 community members who honored more than 100 Black identifying graduates from transitional kindergarten (TK) to SBCC graduates from Gaviota to Carpinteria.

“Today, we gather to celebrate not just the completion of an academic journey, but also the persistence, resilience, and unyielding spirit of our Black graduates,” opened SBCC Superintendent/President Erika Endrijonas, Ph.D. “Each of you has not only pursued academic excellence but has also enriched your campus with vibrant cultural contributions and invaluable perspectives.”

Black Grad Ceremony at SBCC (David Kafer for SBCC)

This second annual event included an opening performance by the Daansekou Cultural Arts Collective, an Umoja Ritual & Community welcome by SBCC Umoja Coordinator Lelia Richardson and Umoja student Sabrina Machira, a keynote speaker address from James Joyce III, a letter for future Umoja students by Ambrose Igbechi and Beverlyn Amoh, and a closing by SBCC Senior Admissions and Records Specialist and co-founder of the SBCC Black Faculty and Staff Association, Akil Hill.

Black Grad Ceremony at SBCC (David Kafer for SBCC)

“As part of our Umoja Ritual, we ask the community to invite our Ancestors into the space,” shared SBCC Umoja Coordinator Lelia Richardson. Guests then proceeded to share the names of loved ones, historical figures, and important local leaders that have passed as she and Umoja student Sabrina Machira poured water into the Umoja plant.

What is Umoja? 
Umoja, a Kiswahili word meaning “unity,” is a community and critical resource dedicated to enhancing the cultural and educational experiences of Black, African American and other disproportionately impacted students. Umoja believes students’ education is enhanced by integrating African American culture into academics and support services. The Umoja community at SBCC is committed to the academic success, personal growth and self actualization of our students and aims to support the Black and African American student community. Umoja Scholars at SBCC have access to a dedicated  Umoja Village Space, Academic Counseling, specialized English, Math and other general education courses, leadership development, transfer support  services, and culturally relevant enrichment activities.

Black Grad Ceremony at SBCC (David Kafer for SBCC)

The highlight of the event, of course, was the presentation of students from TK to SBCC, where over 100 students received kente clothes and certificates from SBCC, SBUSD, and GUSD leadership.

“Wow, thank you Santa Barbara for showing out,” said SBCC Senior Admissions and Records Specialist Akil Hill in response to the large crowd. “We are so excited to see so many people here today and can’t wait for years to come as we will only get bigger and better … Thank you.”

The Daansekou Cultural Arts Collective with their drumming beat then led the Black Grad Celebration from SBCC’s Student Services Courtyard to the Umoja Village lawn where they enjoyed food from Shalhoob’s and Momma’s Soul Food Fusion and music from DJ Tim Stone, along with fun, games and community.

“The celebration of our Black/ African American community was truly inspiring last weekend,” said Dr. Hilda Maldonado, SB Unified Superintendent. “It was beautiful to see families beam with pride as their students’ academic success was celebrated. We are so proud of their accomplishments and must continue the work to ensure our Black/ African American students are supported both inside and outside the classroom.”

About SBCC

Established in 1909, Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) is one of the oldest community colleges in California. The district consists of SBCC’s main campus on Santa Barbara’s beachfront coast, two separate campuses for its School of Extended Learning programs, as well as a Cosmetology school. The college offers a range of associate degree, certificate and transfer programs and is recognized by the Department of Education as an official Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI).


Written by SBCC

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