All in the family: Gillums in top seat

With a seemingly hereditary ability to be the voice for the voiceless, rise for any pivotal political cause, and above all lead the masses with reverence and vigor, the Gillums are making their family name known in Tallahassee.

Born to Charles and Frances Gillum and raised in Gainesville, junior political science student Monique is the youngest child and only girl of the “Gillum Seven.”

“I think that Monique is a leader in her own capacity without the influence of her brother,” said Whitney Murray, 20, junior political science student from Jacksonville.  “If you ever talk to her you know that she is a tough girl, especially being the youngest with six older brothers.”

Monique’s brother, Andrew Gillum, who served as a FAMU senator, senate president and then student body president in 2001-2002, has definitely passed the “torch” that was eloquently used as the slogan for his little sister’s student body president campaign.

In her three years at FAMU, Monique, has been a freshman and sophomore senator, where she was the chair of the student relations committee, initiated the Rattler Reach-Out program and co-founded the FAMU Chapter of the National Organization of Women along with Jillian Jones and Whitney Murray.

She is also a renowned member of People for the American Way, as well as a recent recipient of the Florida Achievement Award from the Florida Commission on the Status of Women for women who work to improve the lives of women and families.

After entering college, Monique chose to run for a position as a freshman senator while her name was indirectly popularized by her brother’s status in the city.

Andrew stood out as he won awards through his years in high school even on to FAMU, but 2003 was his standout year when he was elected as a Tallahassee City Commissioner, making him the youngest person ever put into the position at the age of 23. 

“I’m sure people knew who my brother was, and for some people who did vote for me they could have felt like ‘well if he did a good job then so will she,’ and for others who felt like the position was thrust upon me, but I always emphasized that I was a separate entity from my brother,” said Monique, who ended up setting a record for the second highest number of votes in FAMU senate history.

“I remember going to the debate that year because my friend was in the pageant portion,” said Felicia Rust, 21, a junior nursing student from Miami. “But hearing Monique give her speech made me think of her as Monique, not as Andrew’s little sister. 

Her voice was direct, passionate and flawless. If anything, people think of him as Monique’s big brother now.”

Some people wonder how two great leaders can be born in the same family. 

“The times I see Monique and Andrew together, they are always in work mode, but I’m sure like any other siblings they have their moments (of disagreement),” Murray said.

After serving two terms as senator and holding the title of student body vice president, Monique is the new student body president, a position held by her brother six years ago.

Monique said she and her brother remain poised and humble to the people they serve because that’s how they were raised.

“When I was in high school and I came to a football game with my brother, we went to an SGA tailgate party, and before we began to eat everyone prayed,” Monique said. ” I knew this was an atmosphere that I wouldn’t get at any other school along with the wonderful Marching ‘100.’ ”

As she takes the reins under a new president at the University, while schools and colleges are being placed on probation, the University is facing money problems and accreditation is coming up, Monique has her work cut out for her.

But with all the struggles that she has, be it people who thinks she is only “somebody” because of her brother, or those who think her gender plays a part in her strength, Monique makes a name for herself as a woman leading and effecting change.