Bestowing of the Kente Turns 25

In December 1994, Caryl Davis ’94 ’97 ’00 became a mother twice over.

She gave birth to her son, Kyle, as well as to an enduring rite of passage for Alverno’s African American students.

“Aside from claiming motherhood to the first Bestowing of the Kente baby, I am one of the mothers of the Bestowing of the Kente ceremony,” says Davis, who, with fellowalumna Sherlyn Brown ’94 ’98, cofounded the ceremony.

A quarter of a century later, Alverno students, their families and the college community continue to celebrate the BOK ceremony twice a year, in conjunction with each commencement. Graduating students wear a special stole called a kente, the bright colors of which honor West African heritage. During the BOK ceremony, the students honor and thank the loved ones who have supported them on their educational journeys.

The BOK ceremony is a vibrant celebration of culture and community, as well as a calling forth.

“I would describe the power of the BOK as an endowment from my ancestors to go forth and make the world great,” says BOK alumna Desiree Perry ’13. “Additionally, I often refer to that very moment when times get hard or I want to give up. In hard times I remember the true reasons for the need of educated Black women.”

Perry and Davis are part of a group of Alverno alums and staff who keep the ceremony alive.

“As a long-time committee member, it has been a joy to build relationships with BOK members as friends and confidants,” Davis says.

The 25 graduates who participated in the May 2019 ceremony join a sisterhood of 734 BOK alumnae.

“The sisterhood becomes a place where a community of healers, educators, preachers, leaders and activists is constructed,” Davis says. “Being a member of the BOK sisterhood means that we pass our gifts along to those who come after us. Sisterhood is being able to reach back even after we are gone. That is the power of the BOK.”

This article appears in the spring/summer 2019 issue of Alverno Magazine.

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