Bobby Powell inspires during MLK Convocation

A poster promoting today’s MLK Convocation and keynote speaker Bobby Powell. Photo courtesy FAMU INFO

Bobby Powell Jr., a proud graduate of Florida A&M University, believes in many of the ideals articulated by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“A life of service is a life that counts,” Powell said this morning as he addressed FAMU in this year’s MLK Convocation. 

Amid COVID-19, FAMU’s MLK Convocation was held virtually with virtual performances from the 114th Miss FAMU, Erika Johnson and the Marching 100.

Johnson welcomed virtual guests with the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” as Powell — a state senator representing  West Palm Beach — prepared for his speech as this year’s keynote speaker. 

FAMU’s Gospel Choir also performed virtually.

A tribute video played as listeners took a moment of silence to thank the frontline workers during this time and to commemorate King for “a life of meaningful service.” Dr. Martin Luther King would have been 92 years old. 

Powell, a Democratic member of the Florida Senate, spoke briefly about the importance of MLK Day and the significance of MLK’s “The Other America” speech. 

“Dr. King realized back then that this other America didn’t enjoy the same fruits as others and today we still have an America where there’s a certain group of people who have 13 times less the wealth of its counterparts,” Powell said. 

He added: “I wanted to address the idea of there being two Americas. When is there a better time than now to speak on and encourage our FAMUly how to move forward and stay strong.”

Powell provided a piece of his own history as well. He spoke about his mother’s passing during his time at FAMU and how he was “planted” by mentors at FAMU. He named Professor Rosevelt Wilson, who was the editor- in-chief and founder of the Capitol Outlook, County Commissioner Bill Proctor, County Commissioner Carolyn Cummings and Ann Wead Kimbrough, who was the chief of staff of Dekalb County and served as the dean of the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication.

Powell put a charge on everyone listening with a few simple actions to live a life of service even in these unprecedented times. 

His first rule is to make a decision. “Determine what you want to be and where you want to go,” he said.

Next, was to develop a plan and put it in writing. He also urged all Rattlers to find a person who is selfless rather than selfish, to help you get to where you’re trying to go. Finally, his last rule was “Just GO!” 

“You have to go and you have to go hard, fast and strong,” Powell said.

Powell added that being chosen as the keynote speaker was indescribable. “The amount of people we can reach now virtually is different but beneficial. To be able to come back and share with you all the ways that we can make a difference is really amazing.” 

Powell said that it was important to specifically address the idea of their being two Americas. 

“When is there a better time than now to speak on and encourage our FAMUly how to move forward and stay strong. Rattlers are leaders and we have to step up to the plate,” Powell said.