Generations of Rattlers gathered in the Lawson Center Monday night to celebrate the making of history. Headlined by Sean “Diddy” Combs, Democratic candidate for governor and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum concluded his “Bring It Home Tour” at his alma mater, Florida A&M University, with a “Midnight Rally” and concert. After the Marching 100 filled the arena with “Sounds of Success.”
SGA President David Jackson III and Vice President Robyn Seniors welcomed students, alumni and supporters of Gillum’s campaign before social justice activist Brittany Packnett led the call to action.
“If they had to beat us with billy clubs and machine guns and armored vehicles and pepper spray and tear gas and all we had was our blackness, they are not confused. They don’t think that we’re powerless. No, instead they realized just how powerful we are,” said Packnett.
Special guests including DJ Khaled, Will Packer and Tiffany Haddish encouraged young and seasoned voters alike to exercise their right to vote and rebuild Florida into a state that works for everyone. Special guests Gunna and DJ Loosekid kicked off the “party with a purpose” with music for everyone from 80’s babies to Generation Z.
As the familiar faces of CNN commentator and attorney Angela Rye and producer Will Packer graced the stage, a grand chorus of traditional FAMU chants filled the air. Packer then gave a warm introduction and request, stating how Diddy had always dreamed of witnessing the incomparable Marching ‘100.’ With crowd favorite “Ice Cream Man” blaring, Diddy proudly joined the others on stage wearing a shirt bearing the bold statement “Vote Or Die.”
“We are in the midst of a black excellence moment,” said Diddy. “We have an opportunity to make history tomorrow.”
Gillum has received unparalleled support and endorsements from political leaders and celebrities such as former U.S. President Barack Obama, actress Gabrielle Union and actress Gina Rodriguez. One very crucial form of support that drove the campaign was student volunteers. Bio pre-med student Jordan Johnson is one example of the many dedicated students working to make a change where it matters.
“Working on Gillum’s campaign team made me realize that even though I am one student, my contribution really matters. I have a voice and I am making a difference,” said Johnson. “It makes me proud because I can tell my children that I contributed to change.”
The unofficial theme song to the Gillum campaign “Walk It Talk It” by Migos was the perfect lead-in for special guest Quavo who had just flown in from Canada. Students were particularly excited to see artists such as him and DJ Khaled enjoying themselves on stage while pushing a productive agenda: go vote.
A sea of Rattler hands raised towards the ceiling as DJ Khaled remixed “All I do is Win” to “All I do is Vote.” Even students that had not participated in early voting or that voted in other states came out to support.
“This event is really bringing the community together. I voted in Georgia because I’m from Atlanta but it feels really good to be a part of history. I’m here supporting because he’s a FAMU alumnus, he has big plans and he’s about to turn everything around,” said business major Cameron Freeman.
‘Bring It Home’ signs were woven throughout the stands in between waving cell phone flashlights and dancing students. The excitement in the room climaxed when Gillum took his first step onto the stage and was truly home, surrounded by FAMUly and friends.
Gillum shared his story growing up with a mother who was a bus driver and a construction worker father that couldn't always pay the bills. After reminding the crowd of his humble beginnings, he stated that his words were not talking points or a speech but instead raw passion because he has lived through the problems politicians talk about fixing.
“We can have the state that we want but we can’t get it unless we’re willing to do the work,” said Gillum. “If you’re willing to do the difficult task that quite frankly isn’t so difficult — it’s simply showing up and saying that you matter, that your life matters, that your future matters. And if it’s true, then that means you [have to] get out there and vote.”
More special guests such as Monica, Fat Joe and Christian “King” Combs performed to continue the night’s celebrations.
Comedian Tiffany Haddish also joined the stage for a “victory dance” before student leaders David Jackson and Robyn Seniors asked all FAMU students to walk out of class at 11 a.m. to vote in the Grand Ballroom.
Gillum ended his “Bring It Home Tour” in the same place it all began. Diddy and other special guests made the night memorable for everyone in attendance, setting the tone for next 24 hours in which Florida might be electing it’s first black and Rattler governor.