Florida A&M University alumnus and City Commissioner Andrew Gillum, gave what some felt was an inspirational speech at the University’s Black History Convocation. The convocation, which took place Friday morning, honored the achievements of ancestors and FAMU alumni through music and rhetoric.
Gillum began by thanking the “ancestor giants” that paved the way for him and the rest of the Rattler family. Gillum also recognized some FAMU alums including film producer William Packer, actress Anika Noni Rose, Luther Wells who is in theater, and current SGA vice president James Bland for completing his first independent film.
Gillum reminded the crowd that it had a responsibility to carry on the University’s tradition of excellence.
“We are here at FAMU, an academy of higher learning,” Gillum said. “There is a reason why FAMU is located in the hood. We are here to inspire the black boys and girls that are running the streets.”
Tyja Robinson, a freshman nursing student from Atlanta, said this was one of the highlights of Gillum’s speech.
“It feels good knowing that FAMU was in this area for a reason,” she said.
Gillum closed by issuing a challenge to FAMU students.
“Be a mentor for one hour a week, to pour something significant into a child, and to give back to the community,” he said.
Those interested in taking up the mentoring challenge were asked to personally contact Gillum at firstname.lastname@example.org with their name, e-mail and phone number.
Students seemed to be receptive to the task of mentoring local children.
“Everyone should mentor a child and get involved in this challenge,” Robinson said.
Markashia Jeter, 20, a sophomore broadcast journalism student from Atlanta, said Gillum’s speech could spur her to further her community service.
“Hearing the passion in his speech made me want to do more,” Jeter said. “As a mentor at Nims Middle School I see the sacrifice that our youth have embodied throughout the years. I am sensitive to this matter as I am a product of a single mother, and it’s important to take the advice of Commissioner Gillum and put forth effort to our endangered African-American community.”
The FAMU Symphonic Band, directed by Shelby Chipman, the associate director of music, played “The Locomotive Chase,” bringing an end to convocation.
Chipman took the chance to recognize Julian White, director & chairman of the Department of Music.
White, has more than 44 years of service to music, of which 34 have been dedicated to FAMU. White is a member of the American Band Masters Association, one of only three blacks in the association.
White noted that the highlight of convocation for him was commissioner Gillum’s invitation for community outreach.
“His speech touched on the aspects that students needed to hear,” White said, “to go out into the community and give back with mentorship.”
Despite the strong convocation theme of Carter G. Woodson and the Origins of Multiculturalism, student attendance was low.
Walter Selver, 22, a senior biology student from Palm Beach, said he enjoyed the performance of the symphonic band but expected to get more background about black history during the convocation.
“Convocation was not geared to talking about the past more and then transition to the future,” he said. “I didn’t hear too much about black history as I thought he would have.”