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By Meghan Wysocki, DAAS Editorial Assistant

The singing voices of third through eighth graders from the Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences Choir resonated through the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s (UMMA) auditorium on Friday, May 3 as faculty, staff and students gathered to celebrate the 2024 graduates of various programs of Afroamerican and African studies.

The ceremony began with an introduction by Department Chair Bénédicte Boisseron, followed by libations from Program Associate Elizabeth James. In the tradition practiced by people across the African Diaspora, James offered a prayer to the ancestors for guidance, comfort, strength and empowerment, followed by the audience response, "Ashé," a Yoruba word meaning "energy of the universe." James’ remarks concluded with a call to "go forth and set the world on fire," a phrase attributed to Spanish priest and educator St. Ignatius of Loyola.

The children's choir captivated the audience with 15 minutes of gospel, Motown and popular music, opening with the Black National Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," and concluding with a Detroit-inspired take on Jay-Z’s "Empire State of Mind." Conducted by Angela Kee, the group went viral after their 2015 performance of Pharrell’s "Happy" garnered over 1.5 million views on YouTube, leading to appearances on "America’s Got Talent," "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and in Detroit's Thanksgiving Day parade. Their performance at DAAS' graduation included choreographed dances and several student solos.

DAAS alum, playwright and television writer Dr. Jonathan Kidd (1997) delivered a keynote address via video, then student prizes were awarded by Director of Undergraduate Studies Paul Johnson. Following this portion of the ceremony, graduates walked across the UMMA stage to receive their diplomas and choose a handmade stole from Oje Market, a large cloth market in Ibadan, Nigeria.

The department awarded diplomas to three majors, nine minors and six graduate certificate recipients in the Afroamerican and African studies programs. The event concluded with a catered lunch in Tappan Courtyard, where recent graduates and their families conversed and shared a meal with faculty and staff.

Photos from our 2024 graduation ceremony are now available to view and download; please see the link below.