By Devin Martin and Terrance Smith
Sports Writer and Staff Writer
What is a Kente Cloth? It is a piece of cloth that you can earn when you graduate from Jamesville-DeWitt High School. But there is a more complex meaning to this piece of fabric This red, black and green cloth symbolizes “a lot of hard work and dedication,” said senior Koy Adams.
At the end of the school year, there is a separate graduation ceremony that takes place at J-DHS for the recipients of the Kente Cloth. But before the “main event” as Adams puts it, other events, such the Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration in March and the speaker series that runs through the year, take place behind the scenes that leads up to that day. The events are a way for the members to earn the cloth and so must be done before the graduation ceremony.
It is not hard to be a member of the Kente Cloth club. There are no requirements other than going to the various events that take place and are hosted by the club. Members of the club give presentations about a person or a group that has helped minorities gain more respect and rights. For example, Adams gave a speech about the Tuskegee Airmen on Jan. 19. However, giving speeches to inform other students is not a requirement for recipients of the Kente Cloth. Recipients of the Kente Cloth do these presentations so that they can inform others about the people that fought and struggled for African-Americans to be here. Other members are encouraged to go to the speeches by fellow members. So far, there have been speeches about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Most of the presentations occur every Thursday in the Large Group Room during activity period.
Recipients of the Kente Cloth also do events outside J-DHS. The presentation about Martin Luther King, Jr. was at the Boys & Girls Club on Shonnard Street in Syracuse on Jan. 16, 2012. The Kente Cloth members read excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The members then helped middle school students from the city schools kids that were at the tournament.
The ceremony at the end of the year “shows the work and dedication of the students” Adams said. “Last year, I saw the cloth given out (to the students). It was uplifting,” junior Willie Walker said. “(They) had a table set up for each graduating students. They had their accomplishments throughout their four years of high school on the table. I felt sad and happy for the students. I felt sad because I won’t see them in (the) hallways again but I felt happy because I know they will go on to bigger things in life,” Walker said. “As a senior, it will be my time next year to step up,” Walker said.
Senior Stephen Vallery said that “it feels good to be senior along with the others, (to be) a part of Kente Cloth.” Sequoia Kemp adds, “I’m excited to finally be one of the seniors that will receive the Kente Cloth. It is a beautiful thing; it’s powerful. The meaning behind it is powerful. And many people do not know the truth and meaning behind the cloth. But I do know the meaning of the cloth and it will be an honor to wear the cloth and wear it with pride.” There are about 20 recipients of the Kente Cloth and they each have a important role. Some recipients like Vallery are responsible for the people who come in as guests and speak to the club. Then, there are recipients who are responsible for the food and drinks at the speaking events. Each member is very important.