Toronto University will be having its first-ever all-black graduation ceremony for grad students from all programs from all three of its campuses.

The Graduation Ceremony

The University of Toronto will be having its first-ever all-black graduation ceremony on Thursday for grad students of all programs on all three of its campuses. This will make it the only one held in Canada. This follows the initiatives from Harvard and other schools in the United States. Harvard held its first all-black grad ceremony this May.

The graduation was organized by the students: Jessica Kirk and Nasma Ahmed.

“We’re hoping this event will inspire other Black students,” she said. She and the rest of the ceremonies’ organizers want to let all black students at the universities know: “we’re here and there is a community here, and you can be supported throughout your years at U of T.”

How The Idea Came Up

During her internship a couple of years ago in California, she was invited to an all-black graduation ceremony at UC Davis, which she said she had never seen anything like before.

“I remember walking into the space and thinking, ‘what in the world is this?’ ” she says. “I didn’t even know this was a thing.”

Last October, Nasma thought that in her last year at the university of Toronto, she should try and make this “a thing” at this university. She and her colleague Jessica Kirk, decided to work on it.

“Black students, alongside Indigenous students and other marginalized communities are often pushed out of the educational system at a very young age,” adds Ahmed.

“I think it was important for us to recognize, ‘You survived it. You made it through a system that is often not meant for students like us. You made it to the finish line.”

Kirk said she is happy this will increase visibility of Black students in the university’s community.

She said that at university, “it’s very difficult to find people who not only look like you but are going through the same type of experience.”

“The higher up you climb, the harder it is to find yourself reflected in those academic spheres.”

Comments From the University

The University emphasized that this event was entirely student driven. The university’s vice-president of HR and equity, Kelly Moffat, said: “I think the initiative being shown by these students is commendable.”

She said she thinks the ceremony will show that “University of Toronto is a place for Black students to come and study at the undergraduate level and the graduate level and potentially as post-docs, (which) creates a pipeline for faculty and staff.”

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