The sweltering heat. The rumble of 2,000 Rattlers scrambling for a good seat.
The strangely beautiful sound of the brass, woodwind and percussion sections tuning their instruments to perfection. The air, thick with anticipation.
This was convocation.
I remember it like it was yesterday.
I had never heard of Florida A&M University before I filled out the application. Alumni told me I had made a great decision choosing FAMU; they smiled as they reminisced about the “good ole days on the Hill.”
I went through the first few weeks of school enjoying myself but not truly feeling I knew what the hype at FAMU was all about.
I began to feel that FAMU was no longer the FAMU that inhabited the dreams of my church family and friends.
My first convocation eliminated all doubt.
The band set the tone with the most soulful rendition of “Total Praise” I had ever heard in all my days as a “preacher’s kid.” Boredom was hard to find as the anticipation increased with each speaker.
After Coach Billy Joe took the stand and promised another win, I thought the gym would erupt with excitement.
As former FAMU President Fred Gainous took the stage, the gym calmed to a low rumble.
Then, like clockwork, the gym began to fill with hissing.
After that came the culmination of all the excitement and expectation – the moment 2,000 students, alumni, faculty and staff had waited on for months.
I had never heard anything like it before but it seemed so familiar: “When the dark clouds gather on the horizon and thunder and lightning pierce the sky. When fate is but a glint in the eye of a fallen Rattler, and hope a long lost friend!
“When the sinews of the chest grow weary from those hard charging linebackers, and the muscles of the legs grow weary from those hard charging running backs.
Let us all remember that the Rattlers will strike, strike and strike again.”
The gym erupted in elation! On cue, the band closed the afternoon with a most appropriate performance of “I’m So Glad I’m from FAMU.”
I left the gym that day feeling like I knew what FAMU was all about.
I haven’t missed convocation since.
Over time, the spirit surrounding this FAMU tradition has diminished. Monique Gillum and I have made it our mission to bring back the event that once boosted us.
Much has changed since my first convocation in the fall of 2003. Gainous is gone, we have entered the Coach Carter Era in football and Gaither Gymnasium is air-conditioned.
Yet one thing remains the same – the resilient, tenacious spirit of the students of FAMU. Many have said that you will not attend. I beg to differ.
I believe that you will join me there.
Not because of me, but because you truly love this university. I cannot wait to hear the waving of 2,000 fans and the rumble of 2,000 people scrambling for a good seat. And the strangely beautiful sound of the brass, woodwind and percussion sections tuning their instruments to perfection.
The air will be thick with anticipation this convocation. I look forward to seeing you there Friday at 3 p.m. in the gym.
Phillip Agnew is a fourth-year business administration student from Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.