A.J. Akoto is the founder and CEO of Graduation-Stoles.com, one of the top vendors for graduation Kente stoles to colleges and high schools in the US. These vibrant handwoven Kente stoles are imported from Ghana.
Black graduates now have a way to stand out in a sea of black caps and gowns, thanks to Akoto’s business. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education recently published a report stating that 42% of Black students nationwide graduate from college.
This percentage is 20% lower than the white student rate of 62%. Graduation is a time to celebrate accomplishment in a significant way, and every step along the Black graduate’s meaningful journey is a milestone.
The original intention of wearing Kente stoles at graduation ceremonies, according to Akoto, “was for graduates of African descent to express their uniqueness by highlighting their heritage with pride and dignity.
Based on feedback from previous graduates and educators, Akoto thinks the time has come to combine the cultural and historical significance of the Kente stole with a contemporary illustration of how black graduates overcame their challenges and experiences at various academic institutions.
With the addition of “Black Graduates Matter” patches to brand graduation Kente stoles, the business is embracing the present while paying homage to the past’s founding principles. As an additional touch of decoration for this exquisitely crafted fabric, patches can be ironed or stitched onto Kente stoles.
The patch’s design incorporates symbols honoring Black tenacity, such as an African continent map and the Black Power salute with a clenched fist – all pointing to people who take tenacity seriously.
Given that graduating is a family event, the website includes free, exquisitely made “Black Graduates Matter” buttons with Kente stoles ordered from its website.
On the day of graduation, graduates are expected to pin the buttons on their parents or other close relatives. The graduates display their patches on their Kente stoles, giving every family member a chance to express themselves.