OC Register: What is a cultural graduation ceremony? Universities host celebrations for blacks, Latinos, gays, veterans and others

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“Commencement is so big that the accomplishments of some of the students are not recognized, but when you break it down by community, you can recognize their accomplishments,” said Romaine Arterberry, of UCR’s Women’s Resource Center.

UC Irvine will host its own “Raza Graduation,” the 39th edition, next Thursday in the Bren Events Center. There are smaller celebrations for indigenous graduates and Vietnamese-American graduates. Those in the country illegally just held their third annual “Dreamers Graduation” that included a dinner and dance, with parents receiving certificates for supporting their children.

This year, at Cal State Northridge, 60 veterans walked across the stage to receive a Veterans Resource Center Challenge Coin and a long-stemmed red rose. Following campus tradition, the new graduates then placed the roses at the foot of the school’s Matador statue.

Cal State Long Beach’s 28th annual Chicano/Latino graduation was so large it was split into two sessions in the Pyramid, the arena where basketball is played, with live music, Aztlán dancers, and flags from throughout Latin America.

“I get the question a lot: Why separate them?” said Pamela Kreiser, a CSULB professor attending the Latino event, a day after going to the Pan-African Graduation. “It’s not to separate them. These are celebrations in addition to regular commencement.”

The keynote speaker was Sylvia Mendez, daughter of Mexican immigrants whose landmark court case, Mendez v. Westminster, led to desegregation in schools in Orange County and California before the rest of the nation followed years later with Brown v. Board of Education.

“What makes this country the greatest in the world is the knowledge that we are all created equal, and we are allowed to keep our culture, our customs, even our own graduations – how great is that?” Mendez said to cheers.

“This is a lot more special,” said Yazmin Farfan, 24, of San Juan Capistrano, getting her master’s in social work. “The culture is really embraced.” Speeches are in English and in Spanish, “so my parents will be able to understand it.”