First student keynote speaker at convocation

The university welcomed its first student guest speaker to the 30th Annual Convocation in observance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Thursday in Lee Hall Auditorium.

Student Body President Phillip B. Agnew, 21, from Chicago, took the stage before a crowd of more than 200 onlookers.”King wanted nothing more than what the Constitution promised: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Agnew said.

In his speech, Agnew focused on King’s involvement in the Montgomery bus boycott, his role as pastor of his church and his social strides toward justice.

Agnew presented a question to the crowd. He asked, “How far have we really come in the 44 years since the march of King?”He made references to the current portrayal of blacks in the media and on television.

“It’s sad when shows like VH1’s ‘Flavor of Love,’ with its predominantly black cast, is the depiction of black people,” Agnew said.

Agnew also attacked the popular rap song “Chain Hang Low” by 15-year-old rapper Jibbs. He said the song in its original form was a jingle to mock slain blacks.

“Together we can defend the borders of our university,” Agnew said.

He urged students to live a life of service and to raise the standards.

“Continue Dr. King’s legacy by living a life of action,” Agnew said at the end of his speech. The crowd applauded in approval of Agnew’s words.

“I think it was very groundbreaking,” said Montrel Miller, 21, a student from Newton, Ga. “We definitely have not hit the mark.”

The convocation included a performance by the Florida A&M University Gospel Choir. Dressed in all black, the members moved and swayed as they sang “Matchless Name.” The performance drew the crowd to its feet in a standing ovation.Also in attendance was Ebony Manchion, student Senate president, 22, of Fort Lauderdale.

“Today we gather to celebrate the life of an American icon,” she said in her welcoming address. The crowd listened intently as she spoke. “This is our occasion,” she said.

The Rev. Lawrence Q. Barriner of the FAMU Wesley Foundation led the crowd in a prayer. He asked that everyone be “fortified in and for the work of social justice” in the likeness of King.

Kendra Rich, chief justice of the student government association, said, “We are born into this world with a torch to bear and a dream to be carried further along.”

Other guests on the program included James Moran, who recited King’s “I Have a Dream” speech; James Bland, president, campus activities board; Vincent June, vice president of student affairs; and Lake Laosebikan-Buggs, director of the office of student union and activities.

The program ended with a presentation of a plaque to Agnew by the convocation’s organizers. The plaque honored Agnew for his achievements as a young black leader and an example in upholding King’s legacy.