Florida A&M is approaching its 125th anniversary this year, yet flagrant headlines detract from this extraordinary milestone. Usually, that’s the moment when FAMU students revere the people who they can relate to and judge their beloved university better than any critic. Alumni.
The student body may represent the possibilities, fortune and tenacity of FAMU, but alumni represents the progression and effectiveness.
El’Tanya Brown, a 1998 elementary education graduate from Ocala, Fla., says that going to FAMU puts a person in a league of greatness.
“FAMU was my training ground to prepare me to go out and compete in the real world. I was taught how to market myself to get my foot in the door. I was groomed to be stellar and professional in all my endeavors to solidify myself as a permanent and vital fixture in any arena,” said Brown, the 2012 Military Spouse of the Year nominee.
Then there are alumni who can articulate a time where segregation was a reality instead of a pastime. Alumni are the ones who put the significance of FAMU in perspective. They understand the meaning and purpose of the university and helped to create the acclaimed university it is today.
Eva B. Mannings, who earned a degree in business, graduated from FAMU in 1946 when the school was called FAMC, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes.
“There were several teachers who were influential in having me know about FAMC. They talked about the programs and activities FAMC had. I had a neighbor who went to FAMC and she shared with me stories about FAMC. So, when I finished [high school], I got a Florida state scholarship and I was eligible to attend the college, so I came and I liked it,” said Mannings, the Miami native.
“The skills, the treatment and the attitude that I got from FAMC are lifelong. I’ll never forget it.”
But, on this third day of Black History Month, one can’t help but reflect on why an institution like FAMU is important for African-Americans. It’s been 51 years since Florida State University desegregated, 53 years for the University of Florida and about 50 years for the University of Miami, so why consider a HBCU? Cynics would probably ask this question but alumni would answer it.
Valeria Crump Robinson-Baker, a 1979 pharmacy graduate and a third-generation Rattler, said that FAMU gave her a sense of pride in her race.
“FAMU is a wonderful breeding source for African-American leaders for the future on local and national level. FAMU gives you confidence that you can be all that you want to be, if you are willing to work for it. Since, I had family that attended the university before me, it was nice to be able to identify with my parents and grandparents when they would bring up old memories of their days going to FAMU.”
When asked, “Why FAMU?” alumni had only one word that came to mind: legacy.