In photos: Student-run Black Grad event celebrates community, culture and excellence

"Your success is not just personal, but a beacon of hope and inspiration for future generations"
A full house at Hart House during the Black Grad ceremony

Graduating students and recent graduates from across the three campuses sit in Hart House’s Great Hall during the student-run Black Grad celebration, organized annually by U of T's Black Student Association (all photos by Polina Teif)

Peals of applause reverberated through Hart House’s Great Hall as dozens of graduates and graduating students at the University of Toronto took to the stage at the Black Student Association’s annual Black Grad celebration, which brings together U of T community members from across the three campuses.

Taking a page from their U.S. peers, students at U of T began organizing Black Grad celebrations in 2017 as a way to honour students’ resilience, diversity and academic accomplishments.

U of T News writer Adina Bresge and interactive digital producer Polina Teif captured the celebration earlier this month:

students are seen waiting anxiously and excitedly during the Black grad ceremony
(photo by Polina Teif)

Rows of graduates and graduating students waited to be called to the stage, where each was congratulated by ambassadors from across U of T’s three campuses.


Doyin Adeyemi speaks at the podium during the ceremony
(photo by Polina Teif)


Doyin Adeyemi, president of U of T's Black Students' Association and head of the 2024 Black Grad Planning Committee, said she was honoured to be in a room filled with such Black excellence, acknowledging the challenges her fellow graduates had faced to reach this milestone.

“Your success is not just personal, but a beacon of hope and inspiration for future generations,” Adeyemi said.


Meshach Homer poses with his mother in the Hart House quad
(photo by Polina Teif)


Meshach Homer said the significance of the occasion hit him as soon as he donned his kente stole.

“When I got here and I saw so many Black people like me, it just feels like we've achieved something so great,” says Homer, who was graduating with an honours bachelor of arts degree from the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology at U of T Mississauga.

He says the milestone was all the more special because he was sharing it with his mother, who flew in from Trinidad to see the son she’d raised as a single parent graduate from one of the world’s top universities.

“It’s a big thing to see me happy for all that I have achieved and all that she has achieved raising me the way I am.”


Graduands embrace in the Hart House quad following the ceremony
(photo by Polina Teif)

After the proceedings, graduates reunited with friends and family at a reception for hugs, photos and food.


Hannah Flores performs during the Black Grad ceremony
(photo by Polina Teif)


Hannah Flores, a spoken word poet, scientist and life sciences student at New College in the Faculty of Arts & Science, performed a piece dedicated to “the only Black student in the room.” 

In keeping with the 2024 theme, “Legacy in Motion: Passing the Baton of Excellence,” the student-run event’s speakers and performers recognized the rich tradition of Black community, culture, and excellence and reminded graduates of their role in carrying forward that mission of empowerment.


A group photo of the class of 2'24
(photo by Polina Teif)

Dozens of graduates gathered in the Hart House courtyard for a Class of 2024 portrait.


Naomi Tekle Kiros poses for a photo in the Hart House quad following the Black Grad ceremony
(photo by Polina Teif)

Naomi Tekle Kiros said attending Black Grad felt like the culmination of a dream she’s been working toward since Grade 8. 

“I felt that I was truly honoured and rewarded for what I've accomplished at this campus,” said Kiros, who is graduating with an honours bachelor of arts degree with a double major in sociology and critical studies in equity and solidarity. 

Wearing the stole provided by the organizers, a traditional Ethiopian kemis and gold headpiece, Kiros said she was overwhelmed by the sense of fellowship and community permeating the hall and wanted her outfit to highlight how her heritage has shaped her vision for the future and plans to go to law school.






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