Rattlers celebrate tradition at Convocation

Gaither Gymnasium was filled to capacity Friday morning as students, faculty and alumni gathered to attend the Florida A&M annual homecoming convocation. 

FAMU alumnus Bernard Kinsey, entrepreneur, philanthropist and black art collector, served as keynote speaker. 

Kinsey encouraged students to live up to their fullest potential by sharing influential stories and reciting poetry. 

One of the stories he shared with the audience was an analogy about chickens versus eagles. 

“You’re not a chicken, you’ve got to be an eagle,” Kinsey said.  “I don’t care what you’ve done at this point… Do not dream chicken dreams because we are all eagles.” 

Kinsey said he lives by the words “God grant me the gift to give it to someone else that needs it more than me.”  He stressed the importance of giving and helping others.

“Add before you ask,” he said.  “You can’t get what you need from somebody before you give.  God does not bless us for trying to be greedy and hoarding blessings.” 

Kinsey mentioned forming friendships in college and working with others. He said one of the best things about coming to FAMU is the relationships students form.

Kinsey serves as president and founder of KBK Enterprises Inc., which is a management consulting firm that provides advice and counsels senior executives in the public and private sector. 

The Kinsey Collection, owned by he and his wife Shirley, is an extensive collection of black art and artifacts that document the black experience from 1632 to present. 

Kinsey explained the significance of the collection and urged the audience to visit Tallahassee’s Mary Brogan Museum where the art is located.

“There is an opportunity to grow and learn and see a side of this story called African-American history,” Kinsey said.

Mealer Bell Richardson, 100, the university’s oldest retiree, was presented with 10 roses for each decade she has lived.  Richardson worked for the university for more than 30 years and retired under former FAMU president Benjamin L. Perry Jr. 

Richardson said she was pleased to be honored by Ammons and said how she loved being able to attend convocation.

“I enjoyed the speaker and the band,” Richardson said.  “It has been a long time since I heard the band.  They made me want to get up and dance.” 

Ashley Johnson, 20, a third-year mathematics student from Plymouth, Fla., said convocation was very embracing and inspirational.

“The atmosphere was very welcoming and homelike…..I was going to attend Florida State University but when I visited there, it didn’t feel like this.  I like how at FAMU you feel a part of a family,” Johnson said. 

Lauren Thomas, 18, a first-year computer-engineering student from Bainbridge, Ga., enjoyed the message and the whole convocation experience. 

“Kinsey’s speech was enlightening and heartfelt.  I truly enjoyed his encouraging anecdotes,” she said.  “I loved the feeling of past, present, and future rattlers coming together to celebrate yet another homecoming.” 

Some alumni who attended were excited to be back in town for homecoming and are always present at convocation. 

“Every since I was a student I never missed convocation and I still haven’t missed one.  I always enjoy the speakers,” said Marcia Giles, a FAMU alumna. 
Bill Adams, FAMU faculty member and ADA coordinator, said the most important message he received from the speaker was the idea of giving back to others.

“No matter how high you go you can’t forget where you come from,” Adams said.  “Kinsey said something that all students should remember. You should always give back no matter what.”