June 3, 2022
By Justin Burrows, Staff Writer
The RAÍCES graduation, which translates in Spanish to “Roots” graduation, is Peralta Community College District’s annual graduation celebration for Latinx and Chicanx students.
The ceremony was led and centered heavily around the leaders, trailblazers, and families that paved a path for Peralta Community College District (PCCD) graduates. 95 students graduated during the ceremony, with a total of 150 people in attendance. The event, which was entirely virtual, took place on the morning of May 29. Event organizers said that the RAÍCES graduation holds some extra significance as it is only the second of its kind to take place at PCCD.
The event was attended by students, faculty, administrators and community. Merritt College President David Johnson, Laney College President Rudy Besikof, College of Alameda President Nathaniel Jones III, and Berkeley City College (BCC) President Angélica Garcia, were present and briefly addressed the attendees.
According to ACCESO Director Horacio Corona Lira, Interim Chancellor Janett Jackson could not participate due to health issues. Veronica Montoya, Director of the Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) at BCC and Trustee Dyana Delfin Polk also addressed attendees.
The keynote speaker for the ceremony was Cesar Cruz, who is an academic, author, and public speaker. Cruz received his doctorate in educational leadership from Harvard.
Cruz started his speech with a cleansing ritual where he burned sage and asked people to say their ancestors names out loud or in the chat. His speech addressed the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, emphasizing the need for community outreach after these events. Additionally, he highlighted the importance of community and how they can be like a family.
“I want you to feel, what you, what your community, and what your loved ones have sacrificed to make it to this stage of your life and know that you did it. You have to know that your ancestors are rejoicing,” Cruz said.
Before the ceremony, the Citizen reached out to Trustee Delfin Polk and BCC President Garcia.
Garcia was born into a large Mexican family as a third generation immigrant in the Central Valley and raised on the outskirts of Fresno. Garcia explained the significance of her own Latinx graduation. She shared that her grandmother came to see the ceremony and died shortly thereafter, making Garcia the only grandchild that her grandmother saw graduate before she passed.
“The significance [of the RAÍCES graduation] is the perfect representation of the brilliance and excellence of the Latinx community, especially when our government demonized many of these people and cultures,” Garcia said.
Delfin Polk was born on an Air Force base in Sacramento due to her fathers military activity, and raised between Sacramento and Merced. At 16 years old, she began attending community college. Delfin Polk expressed that community college helped her to develop the organizational skills that helped her in the future. She transferred to UC Berkeley where she received degrees in Chicano Studies and History.
Delfin Polk explained that throughout her life, the thing that kept her motivated was always her family and community.
“There are very few events that are like this, graduations that can really celebrate that in a way that’s done meaningfully,” Delfin Polk said.
“Having the next trustees and the next administrators, teachers, staff, come together in this ceremony and celebrate–it just cuts a little bit deeper, because of the rates of education for our community, and how hard our community has worked to achieve what we’ve achieved. And so that’s part of why I think that this is so important. And this is a very significant event for all of us.”
The event continued with a display of spiritual connection, through a video of the four direction ritual that is descended Native American culture.
Peralta District Officials proceeded to address the rising Latinx representation at PCCD and the importance of supporting Latinx students, congratulating all graduates for their accomplishments under the weight of the many issues surrounding their community.
College of Alameda ESOL instructor and alum Johanna Carranza spoke about her incredible journey of being stranded in America after an earthquake hit her hometown of Armenia, Colombia. Carranza spoke about the loss of friends, family, and the only childhood home she had ever known.
“Our plans for me to finish my senior year and then continue into medical or veterinary school were hopelessly obstructed,” Carranza explained.
Johanna Carranza, sharing her experiences at College of Alameda and PCCD
“Fortunately for me, my mother who was always filled with courage and positivity would say ‘No hay mal que por bien no venga’– every cloud has a silver lining,” Carranza shared, adding that “her positivity paid off and a few months later we found some friends who held my hand and took me to College of Alameda to see a counselor.”
Carranza also explained that PCCD and College of Alameda became her new home and helped her to continue her journey.
At the end of the ceremony, graduates were honored by a slideshow, in which students had their names read aloud by the officiating speakers and faculty. The slide also showed the degrees they received as well as their future plans. Parents, family and friends of the graduating students were given the opportunity to express their joy and pride for their graduates.
The graduation showcased the many forms of excellence within the PCCD Latinx community, highlighting the powerful bonds of community and family that made these opportunities available through their support and efforts.
The RAÍCES Graduation Ceremony was recorded and can be watched on the Peralta Community College District YouTube Channel.