80’s sensation Penny Ford attends FAMU homecoming

The Walls Group members Ahjah, Paco, Darrel and Rhea with singer Penny Ford.
Photo courtesy of Penny Ford.

Florida A&M University’s homecoming draws in many alumni and spectators far and wide. One of which being the globally renowned recording artist, Penny Ford who flew in all the way from Germany.

Not only is Ford a 80’s sensation, she also has ties to FAMU that many people are unaware of.

“My roots are from here,” Ford said. “I didn’t realize how much I missed it and how connected I felt to this side of the world.”

In fact, on her mother’s side of the family, there are three generations of FAMU alumni. Ford is a Cincinnati native and a world traveler who has not been to Tallahassee since she was eleven years old.

Ford grew up singing in the church and soon after tried her hand at jazz. This is where she met her idol, Chaka Khan, whom she worked with for many years. They then moved to London together. After receiving a call from German producers, Khan insisted and encouraged Ford to take the job and from there, her career took off.

“My life changed… I went to Germany to sing music that I didn’t understand,” Ford explained. “I just told them, ‘Give me a bottle of champagne, a pack of cigarettes, and turn on the mic’ and now I’ve got like a serious global hit.”

Ford’s hit song “The Power” went number one in nine countries. Ford was first apprehensive and did not want it to be released, but after kind words from The Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger, she realized her music has positively impacted people worldwide.

Although Ford has sold over 16 million records and toured around the world, Ford's family is still not convinced that she’s “all that,” because she did not attend FAMU.

Ford’s second cousin, Mary Ann Wright Peters, is just one of many FAMU graduates in the family. Peters graduated in 1967, but still tailgates at every football game with family and friends.

“I loved it. I hadn’t seen her in some years,” Peters recalled. “It was a joy seeing her and I really got a kick out of seeing her enjoy Homecoming.”

Ford went on to work with big names such as George Clinton, Brandy, Toni Braxton, Jennifer Lopez and many more. Ford has also worked with singer and songwriter, Kipper Jones. Ford and Jones both danced on Soul Train and did a USO Tour together.

“Penny and myself, Will Downing, Cherelle, and a guy named Keith Washington were a package and we toured the Caribbean together,” Jones said.

Along with touring all over the world, Ford has also had her eyes on The Walls Group since they were little kids singing on YouTube. Both Ford and Jones were persistent on encouraging The Walls Group.

“At the end of the day Kirk franklin is the one to put you guys on… next thing we knew they had got in touch with him and tah dah,” Jones said.

During the visit, Ford was able to see the group perform which made Ford’s homecoming experience even sweeter.  

“They have the most earthly influence over my life right now, through their music,” Ford said. “This was a bucket list thing for me.”

Ford enjoyed her time visiting FAMU and being with her family. She believes there is nothing like being in the presence of so many highly educated black people and she is already anticipating her next visit.