Completing a master's degree, doctoral degree, or professional program is a big deal. When you're all done, a celebration is in order.

This is especially true for black students, who are still underrepresented at the highest academic levels. That's why these recent graduates are shouting each other out in an awesome way.

[rebelmouse-image 19526847 dam="1" original_size="400x222" caption="GIF from "The Daily Show."" expand=1]GIF from "The Daily Show."


Since the commencement regalia for master's, doctoral, and professional students often includes a hood, black graduates are posting selfies and giving each other well-earned props using the hashtag #BlackAndHooded.

It's a celebration of black joy, persistence, and talent.

The new grads behind the hashtag, Anthony Wright and Brian Allen, earned their master's degrees in higher education and student affairs from Indiana University and Columbia University, respectively, this spring.

While talking with one of his undergraduate students, Wright was reminded of the importance of black graduate student representation. He teamed up with Allen, a friend from his undergraduate days at the University of Wisconsin, and came up with #BlackAndHooded. It's intentionally inclusive of all black students across gender expressions, fields, institutions, and geography.

"Black excellence exists in all facets of education and we're pretty much killing the game," Allen says. "I think [the hashtag] really works to combat the negative notions of inadequacy in academia."

Wright and Allen expanded #BlackAndHooded into an online photo series too.

Recent grads can submit their photos via email and share their institution and field of study. The site is pages and pages of black excellence. At the time of this writing, Wright and Allen have more than 200 graduates on the BlackAndHooded site and are even honoring "Grads of the Week."

"The hashtag is cool, but ... they go away after a few weeks," Wright says. "I wanted to have something consistently available — all the images and not just tweets."

The number of black students earning advanced degrees is on the rise, but we're not done yet.

Black enrollment at post-secondary institutions has increased since the 1990s and advanced degree attainment has followed suit. In 1990, 5.6% of master's and 4.7% of doctoral degrees were conferred to black recipients. In 2013, those numbers jumped to 13.6% and 8%, respectively. They're baby steps, but they're headed in the right direction.

A community-conscious, action-oriented EDUCATOR ✊🏾💙 #BLACKANDHOODED #ZΦB #MasterOfEducation #MASTERED

A post shared by Jessica L. Williams (@jleannaw) on

We'll get there. Because behind that data are real living, dreaming black people. Disregard us at your own peril. These students are putting in work and making the impossible possible in a system that was not designed for their success. This celebration is for them, and they've certainly earned it.

Wright and Allen both hope this project inspires black people to pursue their dreams, not just in academia but wherever they may lead.

The road to success doesn't always go through higher education, and that's OK. But seeing their black peers work hard and accomplish their dreams across different fields and disciplines may be just the motivation someone needs to go for it.

"I hope it inspires people to push themselves to achieve their goals, regardless of what those goals are," Wright says.

For every happy, proud smiling face you see in this photos, there's a lot you don't see.

Earning an advanced degree requires years of research; tough projects, teaching, or work assignments; sleepless nights; and enough reading to make your head spin. There are days when you don't know if you'll make it. There are days when you question yourself and your abilities. But you persist, not just for yourself, but your family, your community. And you do it for a moment like this:

An advanced degree is much more than a piece of paper, it's an achievement earned by the best and brightest. And no one can take that away.

Hats off to the class of 2017, and the people who love and support them.

This is your time. Go ahead and show out!

Joy

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