Pride and joy on display at Black Grad Gala

Ceremony’s 6th edition celebrates the achievements of the Class of 2024

May 1 was a day of celebration for members of the Black Students’ Network, who honoured approximately 50 of McGill’s newest Black graduates with a ceremony attended by faculty, alumni, and loved ones.

Hosted by Antoine-Samuel Mauffette Alavo, Black Student Affairs Liaison, the event honored Black graduating students from all faculties and levels, each of whom received a Kente stole as they crossed the stage.

Special guests included Christelle Dossa, co-founder of the McGill Black Alumni Association; Kayiri, a violinist who dominated the room with pop beats and soulful strings; and a trio of formidable Black McGillians serving as guest speakers.

Five graduates were recipients of the Audrea Golding Black Student Leadership Award: Rachiel Chirara, Marianna Djigo, Ommu-Kulsoom, Abdul Rahman, and Zachariya Sow.

Getting up close and personal

The keynote address was delivered by Momar Ndao, Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine.

Ndao shared his life story: of growing up in a village in rural Senegal where water is scarce, to studying at the Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp on a full scholarship, and then immigrating to Canada, where he now works in McGill’s Division of Experimental Medicine.

His speech was peppered with humour, but he made it clear that he has high expectations for the class of 2024. “I believe most of you were much more privileged when you were young,” said Ndao, “and I wish you to be better than me. So please, do your best.”

From left: guest speakers Prof. Momar Ndao, Yasmine Elmi, and Dean Yolande E. Chan.

‘We did it’

The valedictorian speech was given by Yasmine Elmi, a McCall MacBain Scholar who is about to complete a master of science in family medicine, and has already been admitted to McGill’s MDCM-PhD program.

“I didn’t know it was possible to feel so much pride and joy and happiness of stories of success and triumph and resilience,” said Elmi.

“Class of 2024, we did it. Let’s acknowledge that incredible positive change we have already created in this world simply by being here, by existing. Because our presence on this stage, in this room, is paving the way for the next generation of Black McGillians and changemakers.”

Words of wisdom

Yolande E. Chan, Dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management and McGill’s first Black dean, cheered on all graduates about to begin a new chapter.

“You represent the pinnacle of Black excellence. Yes, it’s you leading. It’s you making the difference. It’s you at the front of the class,” urged Chan. “I want you use your voices to inspire change and create a more just and inclusive society.”

“It’s a great honour to be here with you to celebrate this moment. I want you to shine.”

Read the Q&A with valedictorian Yasmine Elmi.

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