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

It is certainly within the rights of philanthropic and political institutions to 'not do religion,' but such an approach undermines any meaningful, holistic commitment to community or place-based humanitarian efforts in much of this country.
Last month, Kevin Singer, co-director of Neighborly Faith, brought two interfaith leaders together to discuss their respective publications and the consequences of the Equality Act on religious organizations, institutions, and places of worship.
It is in this spirit respeaking memory and finding time to etch it into the future that I offer the following exercise. It is designed to do with your friends or folks – preferably three or more. Take some time with it. Use it as a catalyst to...
Imagine my surprise upon coming to USA and celebrating my first Easter, but didn’t people realize it was Easter? Why are all the egg die and chocolates already sold out and none left for us celebrating a few weeks later?
They will, in other words, be learning the skills of mindfulness meditation — the secular version of the Buddhist practice that has skyrocketed in popularity to become America's go-to antidote for stress.
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.
Chaplain Fuller’s leadership and guidance has left a lasting, rippling effect on and off campus which will guide communities and individuals into multifaith work and engagement long after her tenure at Elon.
In the grip of a deadly second wave of COVID-19, religious charities and faith-based organizations are among the many civil society groups that have stepped up to mobilize relief efforts.
Una nueva encuesta conducida por el Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) e Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) encontró que los enfoques basados en la fe pueden mover a más comunidades indecisas sobre la vacuna hacia la aceptación.
Highlighting the role of faith and community in providing relief to communities during the pandemic, the project documents how diverse religious communities in the Charlotte area are responding to the pandemic.
Rabbi Sandra Lawson offers religious literacy education in this piece focused on Lag BaOmer, the day of celebration during the otherwise solemn period of the 49 days between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot.
While vaccination rates and warmer weather are currently lending us ample opportunity for optimism and joy, we are not nearly out of the woods regarding the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our nation’s mental health.
Cargle is not alone in her spiritual discovery. Generation Z has been the driving force behind the renewed popularity and mainstreaming of the age-old esoteric system.
Clergy from 20 New York congregations, including Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and Christians, met as the Interfaith Security Council held its first meeting to talk about how to share expertise and improve relations with law enforcement.
The past four years have devastated communities across the United States with issues including police violence, climate change and environmental degradation, racism, anti-Semitism  anti-Muslim bigotry, and political upheaval.
"No matter the memory, the ability to grow older and look back on life is a privilege. And it’s heartbreaking and disturbing that as a nation we’ve witnessed so many children robbed of that privilege because they were killed by the state."
Musa explores and analyzes data related to the growing irreligiosity and declining religious affiliation in America.
The report, co-sponsored by IFYC and the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), revealed higher rates of vaccin hesitancy among certain religious groups, including Hispanic Protestants, white evangelicals, and Black Protestants.
I noticed this year the Christian holiday Easter or Resurrection Sunday fell on the same day Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4th. What people outside of the black community don’t realize is when an innocent life is lost it connects us...
Collaboration between religious officials and health care professionals — from both nonprofit and for-profit companies — has aided efforts to increase access to vaccinations.
As various communities consider the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and navigate the physiological and psychological toll of the virus, town halls can be a space wherein community members can be presented with resources and accurate information.

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.