Nyree Holmes was removed from his high school graduation ceremony by deputies in Sacramento, California, May 24 because he wore an African kente cloth with his grad robe (video below).
"I wasn't acting out of hand at all, I just wanted to be able to show my cultural pride and my religious pride," the teen told KTXL.
Holmes' ancestors are from Ghana, where the kente cloth is used for special events.
"The kente represents my culture that I have no other links to," Holmes told The Associated Press. "I wanted to show I'm proud of who I am and that as the descendant of slaves, I represent Africa and my ancestry."
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School officials only allow grads to wear a cap, gown and their school awards, but Holmes said he tried to appeal that policy to the Cosumnes Oaks High School student activities director, who would not listen.
"I understood the rules," Holmes stated. "But I feel if he would had heard what I was saying, I may have just put it in my pocket and wait until after graduation to wear it. But I felt that he wasn't listening to what I was saying or respecting my opinion."
Holmes said the activities director actually tried to stop him from getting onstage, but the teen was able to walk onstage with his cloth and shake hands with his school principal and other school officials.
"I did walk the stage, but they tried to stop me," Holmes told The Sacramento Bee. "The police did not get there in time for that to happen."
However, when Holmes came off the stage, there were sheriff's deputies waiting to escort the teen out of the arena.
Holmes filmed some of the incident on his cell phone.
The teen was escorted back into the arena by a supportive security guard to get his diploma.
"He told me to continue achieving," Holmes told The Sacramento Bee.
On May 26, Holmes documented his story on Facebook, where it went viral.
Elk Grove Unified spokeswoman Xanthi Pinkerton told the media May 27 that Holmes was allowed on stage to get his diploma and pose with the principal in his cloth.
Pinkerton added, "We would have preferred that the student would have complied. We wouldn’t have even gone here with that. It would have been nice not to have the image of a police escort."
It's not clear why school officials would allow Holmes on stage, as Pinkerton asserted, but then lament that he did not comply and have him escorted out by armed law enforcement.