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BIPOC & LGBTQIA+ Students Celebrate Culture with Poetry, Song and Ceremony

Two people dance across the stage
Celebrate! (Photo by Samantha Autumn ’26)

Emerson College celebrated the academic achievements of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ graduates with a ceremony held in the Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre on May 9.

During the event, hosted by Intercultural Student Affairs, students walked across the stage to “Pomp and Circumstance” and were presented with unique stoles, cords, and tassels to be worn during the Commencement Ceremony this weekend.

Pop Fiction Writing major Camia Rhodes ’23 was glad for the ceremony, since she will not be attending Commencement on May 14 due to a scheduling conflict. Although she didn’t have a cap and gown, Rhodes still got to hear her name called and walk across the stage. 

“It’s exciting and fulfilling. It’s been a long journey,” said Rhodes.

All photos by Samantha Autumn ’26

  • Two people embrace
  • Two people pose for a photo
  • A woman smiles while holding a microphone
  • Julie Avis Rogers speaks at the podium
  • A woman is excited while a stole is put on her shoulders
  • A woman strikes a pose on stage
  • A person waves while crossing the stage
  • A person gives two peace signs while on stage
  • A man smiles while receiving a stole
  • A woman smiles while a man points at the camera for her to smile
  • A person walks across the stage while flipping the peace sign
  • A man laughs on stage after receiving his stole
  • A person talks at the podium
  • Brent Smith talks on the stage

tamia jordan, Director of Emerson’s Intercultural Student Affairs, began the event with a version of Emerson’s Land Acknowledgement Statement that was written in 2019 in collaboration with students and an elder of the Massachusett Tribe. 

“My personal commitment to actionizing the statement is to learn and share something new about the tribe each time I’m asked to do a Land Acknowledgement,” jordan said.

jordan read the poem, “For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet” by Joy Harjo, and encouraged students to research the lands of wherever they end up next.

“Yes, we are coming together for one shared celebration, but our paths to arrive at this moment, and the places that we find ourselves right now – emotionally, spiritually, culturally – are distinct and unique and are worthy of our celebration and our care,” said Julie Avis Rogers, Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and Campus Chaplain.      

Hawa Kamara ’23 performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson, with Chris Daly, Assistant Dean of Campus Life, on the keys.

“It’s been a long time coming. I feel very relieved. I technically graduated in December, but to be actually walking with my friends and having my family come see me is very rewarding,” said Jo Malicdem ’22.

Dean of Campus Life Jim Hoppe said the graduates will always have Emerson as their home. 

“My wish for you for this day and every day is that you always have the faith and the confidence and the support for yourself, because you really are amazing. This world needs your light, it needs your strength, and it needs your love,” Hoppe said.

Alumni speaker Charles Derupe ’13 told the graduates to “be authentic to your voice,” especially when searching for jobs in a world where there are pressures to conform. He talked about the future of artificial intelligence with ChatGPT and argued that it will never replace the diverse lived human experience, the good and bad. 

“Continue to cultivate and take inventory of those experiences, and find confidence in yourself to bring that with you into the workplace,” Derupe said.

“Emerson isn’t a school about being told what to do and then just spitting something out for lazy consumption. One of the things after your years here is you’ve learned to be ambitious creators, unapologetic disruptors, and low key – and sometimes very high key – loud rebels against the norm,” said Derupe.  

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