Rattlers, young and old, filled Florida A&M’s Grand Ballroom on Friday night in honor of the 125th Anniversary Legacy Tour “We Are FAMU.”
The kick-off celebration featured alumni from different decades, including many living legends. Current students and members of the Royal Court and attended the event. Although the official anniversary for the university is not for another seven months, the celebration has already begun.
According to the website www.FAMU125.com, a year-long series of special events are planned to celebrate the aspirations and accomplishments achieved over the past 125 years as well as illuminate the university’s vision for its future.
The event commenced with welcoming remarks from President James H. Ammons and an invocation from Minister Ola Sylvia Lamar Sheffield, co-pastor of Greater Works and Deliverance Center International Ministries, Inc.
A short reception followed the invocation. FAMU’s Mahogany Dance Company performed a piece entitled “For Colored Girls,” to a song to a song titled “Four Women.”
Bianca Fleurant, an allied health student, described the performance as “captivating,” saying it captured the true essence of the many faces of the FAMU woman.
“We come in different shades and different body types, different generations and Lord knows, we all have these names that some can’t pronounce and for some may be simple,” said Fleurant. “We all have different stories but in the end we are still FAMU women.”
Student musician Shakim White-Springer of FAMU Developmental Research School played his trumpet to introduce soloist Tiandra Cooper.
The tone of the evening was set when Cooper sung “I Know Where I’ve Been.”
The audience quickly fell in love with her voice. As she sung, models from Epicurean Fashion Experience walked the runway, representing the different decades of FAMU.
The lyrics of the song included, “There’s a light shining bright showing me the way,” which complemented the lighting of the torch.
“The torch symbolized excellence in education, this is our moment. FAMU is still going strong and this is evident,” said Darryl Jones, speaker of the night.
The concert choir performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” in honor of Black History Month. The choir also sped things up with their upbeat arrangement of “I’ll Take You There.”
“We are FAMU,” was a segment where alumni and students made brief statements of how they represented the university and what they’ve done ending each statement with “I am FAMU.”
The speakers included Rep. Alan Williams, Mr. and Miss FAMU Fred Johnson and Nakena Cromartie, Former Sen. Alfred Lawson and Ammons.
“I was born a baby Rattler, I am FAMU,” said Dr. Makeba S. Hearst, the only African-American chiropractor to own and operate her own practice in Tallahassee.
However, it was Valencia Matthews, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, whose speech moved the entire audience.
“This torch carries a legacy of those who have come before us leaving a massive footprint for us to not only admire but to also challenge us to leave our own,” said Matthews.
Ammons ended the night with the infamous “Rattler Strike Chant,” and the entire room pulled out their fangs and “striked, striked and striked again.”