Students prepared their signs and banners as the Marching 100 gripped its instruments as if they were weapons preparing for battle. However, this protest could not be described as any less than a war as students marched from Florida A&M University’s ‘Set’ to the steps of the State Capitol.
“We are on a battlefield. We are fighting for the future of FAMU. Although your ammunition may be running low due to tuition hikes and expensive text books, we are still on a battlefield,” shouted Student Body Vice President Calvin Hayes.
Students rallied at the Capitol in an effort to capture the state legislators attention that education should be number one priority and to place a cap on budget cuts.
“I want you to walk with your back straight and your banners held high and lift every voice,” Hayes roared through a megaphone as students continued to march with fist pumping in the air.
Signs that read, “No more cuts,” and “higher learning must continue,” seemed to be endless when at the front of the pack.
The energy was explosive as the Marching 100 led the sea of students. City noises were drowned out and the only sound that could be heard among the crowd was unified chants followed by the rhythm of the 100’s drumbeat.
“They may not be able to give us much money, but they can’t take our hearts. They can’t take our souls, and they can’t take our passion,” Hayes said.
FAMU President James Ammons said that the drive that the students have is what the legislators need to see.
“All throughout the history of Florida A&M University, students have been at the forefront of every major social and political issue in this state of the nation,” Ammons said. “I’m just so proud to see our students embrace that legacy and let their voices be heard on these important issues affecting higher education.”
Police blocked off traffic as students turned from Palmer Street onto Adams Street. Hayes along with Student Body Vice President-Elect Breyon Love weaved through the crowd with mega phones yelling, “Tell me what democracy looks like.”
Students responded in harmony with, “This is what democracy looks like.”
After the 30-minute hike, Hayes gave a sermon-esque speech to inform students that the march is only the beginning of what’s to come.
“FAMU students will fight and win whatever the battle may be,” he said with roaring passion.
Student Body President Gallop Franklin stood before the crowd at the Capitol and informed the students that budgets are not the only thing on the agenda.
“We’re not talking about budget cuts anymore,” Franklin said with gusto.
“We’re talking about investing in higher education. We’re talking about the new Florida Initiative asking for an additional $100 million to $150 million for the next five to seven years.”
Franklin told students that legislators are trying to raise the recommendations and qualifications for Bright Futures scholarships by raising the required SAT score and GPA and that students will also need need-based components.
“This fight is not only for you. This fight is for Rattlers that are yet born. This fight is also for the entire state university system,. We have to make sure we are dedicated and understand what our true purpose is,” Franklin said.
District 1 County Commissioner Bill Proctor also delivered a speech and told students that they must remain strong in order to see changes.
“You have to remain vigilant because you are the children of the masses, you are the laboring classes, but the people in this building,” Proctor said while pointing to the Capitol.
“They represent the owners, they represent the plantations, they represent those who would marginalize you. Be clear, be vigilant, and be strong. Receive the baton that’s been handed to you and run on and see what the end is going to be,” said Proctor.
Although students rallied for the cause of stopping budget cuts, some said the rally was not necessary.
“I believe that we shouldn’t have to rally,” said Ashley Nelson, 21, Franklin’s Chief of Staff. The state and our Legislators need to know that students come first. We build up the economy in the state. We should be priority. Education should not be one of the first programs that is continually under funded year to year.”