What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

Don’t hate on black graduation ceremony at Harvard University

Undergrads participated this year, but other schools have been doing it for years

2:04 PMA year-old article about Harvard University’s first black graduation ceremony resurfaced this week and caused a ruckus on social media.

The Ivy League university actually hosted its second black grad ceremony Tuesday at Radcliffe Yard. Similar to what took place in 2017, the event was sponsored by the Harvard Black Students Association and was designed to honor the achievements of black graduating students. No degrees were conferred during this ceremony; that practice is reserved for the school’s general commencement activities Thursday.

Jillian Simons, co-president of the Harvard Black Graduate Student Alliance, helped plan the event. Last year, only grad students participated in the ceremony, but all students were allowed to attend. Simi Falako, president of the Harvard Black Students Association and a human developmental and regenerative biology major, confirmed that senior undergraduates were included this year. In an email, she also acknowledged that the planning committee used the criticism from last year’s event to improve this year’s. Some tweeted support or defended the event.

It’s hard to tell if this is just an issue of not reading beyond a year-old provocative headline like “Harvard will host first-ever black only graduation” or an issue of understanding the difference between honoring the experiences and accomplishments of a group that shares something such as race, religion or sexual orientation, and racism. The former usually takes the form of an optional, one-day event designed to uplift and unify a particular group, culture or orientation, like Greek Jewish Festivals, Pride parades or girls’ night out. The latter uses economic, social and legislative restrictions to enforce the supremacy of one group over another.

The need and desire for culture-specific graduation ceremonies are not new or even unique to Harvard University. Syracuse University hosted its first black graduation ceremony in 2004, the University of Southern California initiated its in 1999 and Stanford established its black graduation ceremony more than 40 years ago. Columbia University, UC Berkeley and the University of Washington also host ceremonies. At each university, the ceremony is designed to honor the accomplishment of black students, but any student who registers may participate.

Fanta Cherif, graduating senior and head of the 2018 Black Graduation Committee, said Syracuse’s black graduation event has not encountered the same backlash as Harvard’s. She was surprised it took so long for the prestigious Ivy League school to establish the ceremony.

“Every PWI [predominantly white institution] should have one,” she remarked. The only issues she encountered were that the school did not provide any funding for the event, nor did any high-ranking school officials attend.

So black graduations are not anti-anyone. They just celebrate black students, their accomplishments, experiences and supporters at schools where the main or department ceremony might not give them a more intimate opportunity to do so.

Shooting Rockets at the throne: on the eve of Houston’s most important game of the season

Does Houston want to have a problem — or do they want to be the problem?

10:54 AMThere’s a Jay-Z lyric for any and every situation in life. For the Houston Rockets, their current 2-1 Western Conference finals plight is no different. More on that shortly. After elimination by the Golden State Warriors in 2015 and 2016, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey all but confirmed the Bay Area fetish. “It’s the only thing we think about,” he told ESPN last December. “I think I’m not supposed to say that, but we’re obsessed with ‘How do we beat the Warriors?’ ”

He went on to say, “It’s like 90 percent … if we’re gonna win a title, we’ve obviously gotta beat the Warriors at some point. So we’re extremely focused on that. A lot of our signings and what we do during the year is based on that.”

This year’s Houston Rockets are an all-time great offensive juggernaut. The franchise broke its own record for 3-pointers made in a season this year. But here’s the thing — beating the defending champions in regular-season matchups, as they did two out of three times, is a completely different animal from trying to beat them four times in less than two weeks.

Chris Paul waited his entire career to advance to the NBA’s final four, and it’ll likely end in five if the Rockets put on a repeat performance of their Game 3 curb-stomping.

As currently constructed, the Warriors represent the love child of the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams and 2001 Miami Hurricanes — only the child decided CTE, the lack of guaranteed contracts and football’s stance on social issues were too much to ignore. Golden State is the most overwhelmingly dominant team ever assembled, with four presumptive future Hall of Fame candidates all still very much at their physical apexes. And Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant could very well end up as top-10 players of all time.

Now Houston has to beat that same team at home. That same team that hasn’t lost in Oakland since LeBron James’ block and Kyrie Irving’s shot punctuated the greatest Finals comeback in NBA history nearly two years ago. A loss that, by the Warriors’ own admission, delivered them Durant. Oracle Arena hasn’t felt the agony of playoff defeat in 703 days and counting. That’s 16 games in a row — the longest such streak in league history. This is the task sitting on Houston’s shoulders ahead of tonight’s game.

Do not bark up that tree, Jay-Z warned his foes on the seminal 2001 diss record “Takeover.” That tree will fall on you / I don’t know why your advisers ain’t forewarn you. The best record in the league, with a team specifically designed for this exact moment, only to sit on the edge of self-destruction. That lyric will haunt the Rockets if they lose tonight.

If Harden wants to continue to live under the label of “superstar” without reproach, this is the type of game that notarizes the stamp.

Head coach Mike D’Antoni called his team soft after Sunday’s baptism. D’Antoni understands the magnitude, even if he is saying Golden State has “all the pressure” of tonight’s game. D’Antoni is the forefather of the space-and-pace offense: His mid-2000s Phoenix Suns were the kings of it. Now he’s a mad scientist watching his creation turn against him, as the Warriors are a faster, defensively superior and just more crippling version of those Suns. Chris Paul waited his entire career to advance to the NBA’s final four, and it’ll likely end in five if the Rockets put on a repeat performance of their Game 3 curb-stomping.

James Harden, the leading MVP candidate (although another James continues to make a case), has had his great season come down to one game. These moments define careers. Big-time players, as Santana Moss once poetically put it, make big-time plays in big-time games. And if Harden wants to continue to live under the label of “superstar” without reproach, this is the type of game that notarizes the stamp. Game 4 on the road? In an all-time hostile environment? With a chance to completely rewrite the narrative of both the series and your postseason career? These are dreams that money, not even Harden’s mammoth contract, can’t buy.

Houston called out Golden State like Martin called out Tommy Hearns in the classic 1994 Martin episode “Guard Your Grill.” And, as it stands right now, the Rockets are a two piece and another Steph Curry biscuit away from looking like Martin after the fight. It’s the “s— or get off the pot” moment for these Houston Rockets. Go back to Houston tied 2-2 and it’s a best-of-three series with potentially two games at home — and the reality that they don’t have to win in Golden State again. Go back to Houston down 3-1 and not even the courtside five of Beyoncé, Bun B, Scarface, Travis Scott and Deshaun Watson would prevent the inevitable. Does Houston want to have a problem or does Houston want to be the problem? Do not bark up that tree. It won’t take long to find out either way.