With a call to “make the world a masterpiece of our own design,” Emerson College held its first formal celebration of graduating students of color on Thursday, May 10, in the Cabaret.
The Mosaic Graduation Celebration honored the struggles and triumphs of students of color who have followed their passions and made their mark during their time at Emerson.
The mosaic brings together multicolored pieces of glass, stone, or tile to create something beautiful, said Christopher Henderson-West ’20, president of EAGLE (Emerson Alliance of Gays, Lesbians and Everyone) and co-host of the celebration with Intercultural Student Affairs student assistant Anani Ramirez Barcelo ’19.
“You are not just one tile or one stone,” Henderson-West said, “rather, we are all one organism experiencing humanity and life together.
“To make the world a masterpiece of our own design. That is why you are all here today,” he said.
Chelsey R. Cartwright ’13, deputy political director of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s 2018 reelection campaign, gave the keynote address.
Cartwright described the “constant culture shock” of coming to Boston her freshman year from Houston, where she was immersed in the African American community.
“It was safe to say arriving at Emerson put me way out of my comfort zone,” she said.
Cartwright said she was desperate to find a community at the majority white college and considered transferring to another school, until she heard “boisterous, spirited laughter” coming from the basement of Piano Row.
At the Intercultural (then Multicultural) Student Affairs office, Cartwright said she found a mentor in then-director Tikesha Morgan, a strong group of friends, and most importantly, “I found my voice.”
She went on to become vice president of EBONI (Emerson’s Black Organization with Natural Interests) and joined SpeakUp.
“I built my tribe through these organizations. They sustained me, they taught me the feeling of being empowered, and I carry that power today,” she said. “I stand here as proud as I’ve ever been to be a graduate of this institution.”
Cartwright, who was Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s director of constituent services before joining the Warren campaign, advised the graduates to be guided by their passions and to “be intentional and unapologetic with your goals and ambitions.”
“Step into your power and make it a source for good,” she said.
Emerson Assistant Director of Career Services Jessica Chance ’00 told the students that the world “needs your storytelling.
“It needs your voices, it needs your truth. You have so much to offer and you will continue to share your gifts in many different spaces.”
The ceremony also featured an affirmation and recognition from campus chaplain Harrison Blum, an acknowledgment that the ceremony was happening on the ancestral land of the Wampanoag, and music from duo NeoxBriana.
Each student—graduate and undergraduate—received a multicolored stole and a pouch containing a stone.
“Take it out and look at it from time to time…” said Tamia Jordan, director of Intercultural Student Affairs. “Let that be a reminder to lead and live with empathy.”