Beryl Thomas’s Graduation, 1993.
Authored by Phoebe Son Oh ’21 in “Investing in Radical Black Feminist Counterhistory“
last updated 02.09.2021
This third photo is of Beryl Thomas, who graduated from Davidson in 1993. We can see that this image was taken during Commencement, as Beryl and the other folks surrounding her wear traditional black caps and gowns. This is clearly a candid photo, as Beryl, who is undoubtedly the main focal point of this image, smiles off into the distance. Most likely she was smiling at her loved ones. Even though everyone in this picture is wearing a cap and gown, Beryl stands out even more because of the additional accessories she wears. She wears her hair in a short and natural style, and has red lipstick and braces. She has on diamond earrings, a pearl necklace, a watch, and a Kente cloth stole. These aesthetic choices Beryl made are extremely powerful. I see her pearl necklace, diamond earrings, and red lipstick as a representation of the respectability politics that every Black woman and femme at Davidson has to adhere to in some degree and in certain spaces. What is particularly moving is Beryl’s bright Kente cloth stole. For her to have worn this at her graduation in 1993 is extremely radical and revolutionary. I can feel, from this image, the pride that emanates from Beryl, in both her aesthetic choices and the smile on her face. What did it mean for her to survive and make it out of Davidson? How does this one image capture all the emotions Beryl felt throughout her time at Davidson?