Published: April 1, 2024 By

This year marks the fourth annual BIPOC Cord Ceremony.  This ceremony serves as an important way for Colorado Law to recognize the achievements of graduating Black, Indigenous, and other students of color.  A relatively new addition to the commencement celebrations at Colorado Law, the event has grown into a cherished tradition. What makes this tradition particularly unique, however, is that it was created by a student, Larrisa Alire ’23, during her time as a 1L. Student at BIPOC Cord Ceremony

“I graduated from my undergrad in the midst of the pandemic in 2020,” Alire explained. “Not being able to have a public celebration to share that moment with my family, friends and mentors that unconditionally supported me crushed me. Especially as a first-generation, low-income Latina student.” 

When Alire arrived at Colorado Law as a 1L and learned that the graduating class was having a virtual ceremony, she sprang into action with the aid of Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusive Excellence Fernando Guzman, Director of Events and Inclusive Programming Yesenia Delgado, and Assistant Director of Facilities & Operations Jamie Henderson to ensure our BIPOC law students would not feel the way she --and many other graduates of color--felt across the country.  

“This was important because for so long people like us were physically excluded and discouraged from attending higher education,” Alire said. “To have that graduation moment was pivotal to celebrating the upcoming generations, and honoring the ones that came before us and weren’t afforded the same opportunities.” 

Even though Alire has since graduated, the ceremony continues to be led by the Council for Racial Justice and Equity (CRJE), a student organization that advocates for and designs policy changes to Colorado Law concerning diversity and racial justice. 

“Students of color at Colorado Law are often lifting each other up and celebrating each other, and so it follows that they would be the ones spearheading efforts to recognize each other's contributions,” said Leonard Nguyen ’24, a CRJE co-facilitator. “The significance of the event being student-led speaks to the value of representation in the legal community: the needs and joys of communities of color often go unnoticed until they gain a seat at the table.” 

Alire also emphasized that the student-led nature of the event allows student leaders to work with other graduates of color to choose how they can best celebrate and honor themselves, their family, and their community. The first year of the ceremony, Alire recalls asking a student what gift she should buy graduates and was then directed to a local Black-owned business that sold handmade skin care products.  

“This student’s comment really changed my outlook on the ceremony... I realized that we could use our power in planning the event to uplift other BIPOC communities,” Alire shared. “From then on, each vendor from food, gifts, performers, stole makers, DJs, etc. have been BIPOC people and BIPOC-founded organizations. Even our keynote speakers that are BIPOC legal community members and alumni have commented that they wish they had something like the BIPOC cord Ceremony when they attended Colorado Law.” 

Additionally, the CRJE works with affinity groups to design their own stoles.  

“The process of designing the stoles as a group and the excitement of knowing that your culture and heritage will be a part of your graduation regalia is honorable,” Alire said. “It is always exciting to see what each student group will decide to create.” students and family members and friends at BIPOC Cord Ceremony

For this year’s ceremony, the CRJE has selected the Honorable Gary M. Jackson ’70, Senior Judge (retired) as the keynote speaker. Judge Jackson has been a prominent member of the Denver legal community for over 50 years and has been the recipient of numerous accolades and awards during his career, including Colorado Law’s William Lee Knous Award, Sonny Flowers Award, and CU Boulder’s George Norlin Award, among others. Nguyen shared that students are looking forward to hearing his perspective of Colorado Law’s evolution and visions for its future. 

"This is truly a special occasion for me to be the keynote speaker at the Cord ceremony,” Judge Jackson shared. “I have had a 60-year friendship with CU-Boulder and the law school. The speaking opportunity ranks with being a member of the original Sam Cary Scholarship Endowment Fund Board in 1986 and giving its first scholarship to a Black CU law student and continuing annually for 38 years to give scholarships. It will be an honor to attend the ceremony." 

When reflecting on how far the ceremony has come since its first year, Alire said she feels overwhelmed with gratitude.  

 “As a 1L [2021], the celebration was very small due to COVID restrictions — the graduates were allowed to bring two family members in the courtroom, everyone was masked and photos were taken of the graduate and Dean Anaya at the time,” Alire shared. 

Last year, however, the celebration erupted into an overflowing Wittemyer courtroom filled with friends, family, mentors, faculty, alumni and practitioners in the Colorado legal community, all excited to celebrate our graduates being corded.  

“The huge reception [last year] took up the entire garden level of the library, and just reminiscing about the laughter and happiness that could be felt from that room makes me smile,” Alire said. “I hope that Colorado Law continues this tradition, and I hope one day I can look back and continue to be amazed at how much it continues to grow.” 

Dean Lolita Buckner Inniss appreciates the impact the ceremony has on our students.  

“For the last four years, the BIPOC Cord Ceremony has played a vital part in honoring the triumphs of our diverse graduates,” Inniss shared. “This ceremony particularly resonates with me as someone from a low-income Black family, and as a first-generation college and law school attendee. The leadership of our students, and their commitment to lifting one another up and celebrating their achievements is admirable and reflects strongly on the values we share here at Colorado Law. Additionally, we are thrilled to have Hon. Gary Jackson bring his expertise, lived experience, and fellowship with our legal community as this year’s keynote speaker.” 

The BIPOC Cord Ceremony is an invitation-only event. For questions, please contact or