Umoja Black Graduation 2020 Theme: "Say it loud – We Black and We proud"
Black people around the world have used identity affirmations as acts of resistance. When these affirmations breach the public domain they articulate and structure as racial pride as a point of solidarity, which is indicative of growing Black consciousness. These affirmations become acts of collective resistance. Racial affirmation that breaches public discourse has worked to unify the African Diaspora, connecting our racialized struggle against worldwide anti-Black oppression that sparks transformative action, and galvanized resources. Racial declarations that reach public consumption at their core theorize and utilize Blackness as a necessary counter to anti-Black racism. The 21st century is marked by upheaval and reconfiguration of anti-Black racism that is recalibrating inequity and justifies unequal power relations. Historically, Blackness in American culture is associated with sub-standard, unworthy, lazy, ignorance, not quite human. Anti-Black racism structured into the socio-cultural and political institutions of the United States has deep roots planted and influenced worldwide. In the misidentified post-racial eras, African scholar and anti-racist pedagogue, George J. Sefa Dei (2000, 2017, 2020) call to use of Blackness as a counter anti-Blackness. Ours is a response to Dei's call, Say it loud – We Black and We proud!
The Umoja Black Graduation theme for 2020, Say it loud – We Black and We proud is a declarative racial affirmation given publicly to support students' call-out and push back against anti-Black racism on Historically White Colleges and Universities throughout the nation and the resurgence of anti-Black racism throughout the world. The theme honors the humanizing and unifying call of Black Lives Matter while acknowledging the legacy of self-determination for which Black people have consistently struggled. The theme uses the Godfather of Soul, James Brown's racial pride anthem Say it Loud, I'm Black, and I'm Proud (1968). Community and academic scholars have noted the problematic aspects of Brown's racialized politics; however, the Say it Loud transcended Brown, giving voice and energy to the Black Consciousness movement that was growing and spreading across the world. In that same vein, we use Say it loud – We Black and We proud to align the celebration of ISU Black graduates with the demands for respect, vitality, and vigor of Blackness articulated by the revolutionary acts of students, groups, communities, and individuals. We use the theme to assert that the only thing wrong with Black folk is the common sense assumptions that would have ourselves, and others believe that something is inherently wrong with Black folks.
The theme also seeks to remember and work from the legacy set-forth by David Walker (1829) in his appeal to wake a great and mighty people. We stand on the shoulders of Maria Stewart, considered to be the first Black feminist, speaking publicly about spirit and tenacity of Black women, imploring that knowledge is power. The theme is representative of the power fist raised boldly by Tommie Smith and John Carlos in October at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. In the continuous onslaught of anti-Black racism, we, without hesitation, respond: SAY IT LOUD – WE BLACK AND WE PROUD!