CSUMB’s Affinity Ceremonies were an emotional affirmation of students’ success

Black/African Heritage Affinity Ceremony 2024 - BDA

A graduate receives her stole and certificate at the Black/African Heritage Affinity Ceremony | Photo by Brent Dundore-Arias

May 21, 2024

Cal State Monterey Bay’s nine Affinity Ceremonies, independently organized celebrations of graduates from various affinity groups, began May 3 and concluded before the May 18 Commencement. 

They were appointed with variations of food and drink, decoration, music, entertainment, remarks and speeches, and affection. A key part of each was when graduating students were given their affinity stoles to wear at commencement. 

The Latiné Affinity ceremony, which draw the most attendance, was scheduled at the outdoor venue of Rabobank Stadium in Salinas. Unfortunately it was cancelled due to rain. All others took place over the course of two weeks at the Otter Student Union on campus.

At the Black/African Heritage Affinity Ceremony, President Vanya Quiñones addressed the audience of graduates and their family members, faculty, staff and community members. 

“When you sit at the table, your voice matters,” she said. “Know your value. Don’t take so many years to know your value.”

Brian Corpening, associate vice president for Inclusive Excellence and chief diversity officer, gave a farewell speech in which he referenced the “Four Agreements,” quoted Margaret Mead, and told graduates to “Make sure your story is told.”

Then the graduates were called to the stage to receive their stoles and say a few words. Many were taken with emotion over the affirmation in the room and the culmination of their accomplishments. 

One graduate gave praise to his grandparents, who had passed away: “They would have loved to see me now as a master’s student.”

Another grad, a woman who was accompanied onstage by a child, had to pause while saying, with emotion and tears, that she hadn’t been to such a supportive Black community event in almost 20 years. 

There were more tears, hugs and words of gratitude among the graduates, all accompanied by applause and cheers.

There were special moments at the other ceremonies too: 

  • The Native American Affinity Ceremony began with a smudge stick cleansing and blessing by Louise J. Miranda Ramirez, tribal chairwoman of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation
  • At the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American ceremony, dancers performed a traditional Filipino tinikling dance, stepping into and out of a set of clacking bamboo poles that represent rice farmer traps
  • At the Family Friendly ceremony for graduates who are parents, which took place on Mother’s Day, many of those being honored and bestowed with a stole crossed the stage with their children 

The Affinitiy Ceremonies offered a more intimate celebration as a precursor to the big Commencement that followed on May 18.

See the Instagram reel of the Affinity Ceremonies

Go to the Otter Cross Cultural web page for more about the Affinity Ceremonies.

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APIA Affinity Ceremony 2024 - BDA
Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Affinity Ceremony | By Brent Dundore Arias
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Native American Affinity Ceremony - BDA
Native American Affinity Ceremony | By Brent Dundore Arias
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Rainbow Affinity Ceremony - BDA
Rainbow Affinity Ceremony | By Brent Dundore Arias