Why We Named Every Name at Howard Graduation

What's in a name? 

In cultures like those in West Africa, babies are not named until the family has had a chance to pray and reflect and determine what the divine is saying about the new life that is before them—for there is an understanding that the name holds meaning. It speaks to the hopes and dreams for that child. In the Bible, there is a roll call of names of those considered faithful in a new testament passage and throughout the Hebrew Bible the lineage of people is provided over and over again to let us know who they are. Indeed, carrying a name often means carrying the legacy of generations who have gone before you and the impression and impact they have made and left on a community.

So I guess we should not have been so surprised when members of our graduating class of 2020 expressed only two overarching priorities for their recognition: One, the online thing must only be a temporary substitute and not a replacement for a physical ceremony in the future; and two, you must still call our names.

They went on to explain that this would be the reason their grandparents, friends and other family would go through the trouble to log in at all. Talent, speeches, songs, university officials - all nice but not necessary. The point is, the students insisted, that my name will be called in the presence of those who love me to celebrate an achievement that only 10 percent of the world can aspire to, an achievement that was impossible –even illegal—for African-Americans just a few short decades or generations ago. 

Our students were no longer satisfied with group context, social anonymity or crowd culture. They recognized in this moment that their graduation –like many of the religious, spiritual and conversion experiences we people of faith hold dear is both communal and individual. They both want to celebrate together, not #alonetogether, as well as be celebrated individually. It is their own unique moment of ecstasy, to know that what they have worked for, prayed for, sacrificed for, has come to pass. It is shared with the family who also worked, prayed and sacrificed to make it so—in many cases as first generation college graduates, some as first-generation high school graduates. 

For this moment to carry the meaning that it ought, it must include the personalized recognition of everyone who has added their name to the group collectively known as the Howard University Class of 2020.  So, we spent around 15-20 minutes on the collective components and around 30-40 on the calling of names, that were certainly sprinkled with shouts of joy, tears of gladness and loud clapping that were heard and felt in our hearts from wherever we were in that moment.

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

This is a sampling of sacred texts and statements, listed in alphabetical order by religion, that religious communities have used to engage in the work of public health amidst this global pandemic.
Ms. Moore discusses what an Office of Equity and Racial Justice does, how she and her team adapted amid the pandemic, and how religious communities are crucial partners for social change, connection, and healing.  
"We know that people of all faiths and philosophical traditions hold shared values that can serve as a foundation for a common life together."
How do we fight the evil and darkness during this time? No matter how small or how far we might be from the situation, we could use our voices to speak up, come to stand together as one human kind.
Musa writes an insightful analysis of data at the intersection of race and religion. He writes: "non-Black Americans seem to be fleeing religion because it’s become too political. Blacks seem to be leaving because it’s not political enough."
And as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins, the currently closed museum is highlighting these artifacts tied to Islam on its website's blog.
In light of the urgent need for care within our families, communities, and movements, where can and should interfaith leaders fit in?
In the United States, our laws assure the separation of Church and State. So Sikh and Muslim kids growing up in public schools will never be taught that Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem.
Vaisakhi, which falls April 13 or 14 depending on which of two dueling calendars one follows, marks the day in 1699 when Sikhism took its current form.
The presentation focused on how chaplains and spiritual life professionals can discover and utilize meaningful data to demonstrate the value of their work in higher education.
Still, there were glimmers that Ramadan 2021 could feel less restricted than last year, when Islam’s holiest period coincided with the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar commemorating Muhammad’s reception of the Qur’an, begins on Monday.
"Ramadan can be an opportunity for Muslims in interfaith relationships to introduce their partners to the core beliefs and teachings of Islam, as well as to the ways different Muslim cultures share what is a deeply communal experience."
This year, Ramadan will begin on Monday or Tuesday (April 12 or 13), depending on when Muslims around the world sight the new moon that signals the beginning of the lunar month.
"In the Qur’an, God – Exalted Be He – proclaims that we should ask the people endowed with knowledge…All the experts are saying the same thing: please get vaccinated and do it now."
"Among the topics educators must address to reduce bullying and to ensure representation in the classroom are religion and religious identity."
Whether I am based in Los Angeles, Washington DC, or Kansas City, I remain committed to building bridges of mutual respect and understanding among people of different backgrounds.
Biden said the partnership between the seminary and a community health center is one of many that are happening between religious and medical organizations across the nation.
"All the more so, we need more translators to help us understand what exists before our eyes, yet remains elusive to our understanding."
'Montero' is the anthem of a Black gay man roaring back from years of self-hate caused by anti-LGBTQ+ theologies. As a queer child of the Black church, it’s an anthem that resonates with me.
The rise of the "nones" — people who say they have no religion — is to some extent the result of a shift in how Americans understand religious identity.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.