The Rites of Passage Ceremony is a pre-commencement celebration to honor Black and Latinx-identified students who through resolute persistence have successfully completed an Undergraduate or Graduate degree at Rutgers University – New Brunswick. The event recognizes their accomplishments, hard work and dedication, while simultaneously acknowledging the accomplishments of their families and networks of support. Distinguished speakers, student awards, live performances and the incorporation of African culture and traditions – specifically the culminating Kente Stole presentation – all add to the vibrancy of this celebratory day. A reception with food and beverages will follow. All guests are welcome.

The Kente Stole Presentation

During the ceremony, each graduate will be presented with a Kente cloth, native to Ghana. Often reserved for royalty by the Ashanti people, the Kente Stole Presentation acknowledges that achievement is made possible by the support of family, friends and loved ones. This “passing of the torch” recognizes the contributions and sacrifices of our ancestors on whose shoulders we continue to stand in pursuit of our goals.


Participation in the Rites of Passage Ceremony is open to all Black and Latinx Rutgers University – New Brunswick Undergraduate and Graduate students who have earned their degree between January 2016 and October 2016. In order to participate, students must register by April 30th, 2016. Only students who have registered by this date are guaranteed to receive a kente stole. All participating graduates must also wear academic regalia, which can be purchased from Barnes & Noble Rutgers BookstoreREGISTRATION FOR THE RITES OF PASSAGE CEREMONY IS NOW CLOSED.


There are several ways that the Rutgers University community (students, staff, faculty and alumni) can participate in the 24th Annual Rites of Passage Ceremony. Community members can vote for the Rites of Passage 2016 theme, audition to be a speaker/performer or volunteer to staff the event to ensure a successful and spirited experience for our 2016 graduates. Please see below for available participation opportunities.

One of the most exciting components of the Rites of Passage Ceremony are the student speeches that are addressed to the graduating class, families and other ceremony guests! Each year two graduating students are selected to deliver riveting speeches that inspire our graduates, reflect on the student experience (including challenges and accomplishments), and connect the ceremony theme to our graduates’ post-grad transition. The Rites of Passage 2016 Student Speaker process is now closed and speakers have been selected. Thank you for your interest!

One of the most exciting components of the Rites of Passage Ceremony are the student performances and entertainment, enjoyed by our hundreds of guests! We’re looking for performing artists (singers, dancers and spoken word poets) who are interested in sharing their craft with the 2016 graduating class.

The Rites of Passage 2016 Performer process is now closed and performers have been selected. Thank you for your interest!

The Rites of Passage Ceremony is a signature program in the Black and Latino community at Rutgers and has existed for 24 years because our community participates, lends support and is invested in the planning/execution process. Thank you to all who have expressed a desire to volunteer on event day! Thanks to you, the sign-up process is now closed and we’ve identified our event staff!


Rosa Clemente, a native of the South Bronx, is one of the most raw, honest, political, social, and cultural voices in the country. From Harvard to prisons, Rosa has spent her life dedicated to scholar activism. She is currently a doctoral student in the W.E.B. Dubois department of UMASS-Amherst. Throughout her scholarly career, Rosa has been a constant on the ground presence through the many political struggles facing Black and Latinx people in the 21st century.

Rosa is a leading scholar on the issues of Afro-Latinx identity. Her groundbreaking article, Who is Black?, published in 2001, was the catalyst for many discussions regarding Blackness in the Latinx culture. She continues to discuss cultural identity, political identity and racial identity in and out of the academy. Rosa has received numerous awards, grants and fellowships. She has written forEbony, Clamor Magazine, The Black World Today, The Final Call, The Ave. Magazine, and numerous websites.

Rosa ran for Green Party Vice President in the 2008 U.S. election. Along with Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, the pair became the first women of color ticket in American History. See here for Clemente’s full bio.


Who can attend the 2016 Rites of Passage Ceremony?

The ceremony is open to all black and latinx-identified Rutgers University – New Brunswick Undergraduate and Graduate students who have earned their degree between January 2016 and October 2016. All Rutgers University community members are invited to join us in celebration on a first come, first served basis.

When and where will the Rites of Passage 2016 Ceremony be held?

The Rites of Passage Ceremony 2016 will be held on Thursday May 12th, 2016 from 6pm – 8pm on Henry’s Lawn (across from Henry’s Diner and behind the Student Center on the Livingston Campus). The address is 55 Rockafeller Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854. Please see here for the map GPS location.

The Rites of Passage Ceremony Reception will be held immediately after in the same location from 8pm – 9:30pm. Refreshments will be served and all guests are invited.

Where do graduates line up for the ceremony?

Students will need to check-in at the Livingston Student Center MPR at 5pm the day of the ceremony. If students aren’t checked in with Event Staff by 5:00pm, they will not be part of the procession into the ceremony.

What is the dress code for graduates?

Graduates are required to wear their academic regalia to the Rites of Passage Ceremony. All regalia can be purchased from the Rutgers University Barnes & Nobles Bookstore beginning April 1st, 2016. Please see below for contact information.

Barnes & Noble at Rutgers, Gateway Transit Building
100 Somerset Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

What can/can’t I bring to the Rites of Passage 2016 ceremony?

Guests are welcome to bring personal photographic and video recording devices, as photo/video will be allowed. However, guests will be asked to use those devices from their seats. Food will not be allowed in the ceremony tent, nor will balloons.

Where can I park for the Rites of Passage Ceremony?

Guests may park in Lots 105, 112, Green & Yellow on the Livingston Campus without permits. Special event parking and special event permits are only for visitors to the University, which does not include free metered parking. Faculty, Staff, and Students must park only in lots they are authorized to park in. Parking info can be found here.

How do I coordinate accommodations for a physical disability?

To request disability accommodations for a guest or graduate, please contact the Paul Robeson Cultural Center by May 1st, 2016 via email at rop2016@echo.rutgers.edu. You will receive a confirmation of your accommodations within two business days.

How can I contact the Rites of Passage organizers with miscellaneous questions or concerns?

If you have any questions or concerns related to the Rites of Passage 2016 Ceremony, please email rop2016@echo.rutgers.edu. You will receive a response to your inquiry within two business days.