If you have followed the local news in Tallahassee, or perused the FAMU Alumni Facebook group, you will no doubt find that the discussion around FAMU and Her stability have intensified. It is no secret, of course, that FAMU and her alumni are number one in virtually every professional sector. In music, film, medicine, fashion, politics, corporate, and entrepreneurship, the FAMUniverse is far reaching and wide-ranging.
It is however, a terribly kept secret that Florida A&M has faced some very real struggles since the departure of Fred Humphries nearly 15 years ago. Even in 2015, FAMU is still plagued with the age old problems of lack of financial stability, lack of federal support, and athletic department woes. To add insult to injury, Florida A&M’s future was almost thrown into turmoil when 5 Board of Trustees members and its chairman voted to terminate President Mangum without cause. That was the last straw for me; It was then that I knew that the time had come for the FAMU young alumni to answer the call of service.
Now, I could get into the age old generational debate of seasoned alumni versus young alumni and all of those things that come along with it. But, thisis not that. What this is, is a few suggestions on what we as FAMU young alumni can do to take Our alma mater to charts uncharted.
Write the Vision and Make It Plain
The first thing that we as alumni can do to get involved is to believethat FAMU is capable of phenomenal greatness. Last week, faithful FAMU alum Denzel Stewart asked alumni to share their visions of FAMU in 2035. I make no apologies for expecting to see FAMU possess a School of Medicine, A School of Entrepreneurship, A School of Dentistry, A School of Film, a hemp-based agricultural program, a hotel with INTERNATIONAL locations and a school of Hospitality and Tourism. I believe in my heart that FAMU deserves a theater on campus, an in door track, a degree granting program in Hip Hop Studies and a Black Male Teacher Training Institute and “Hip-Hop” charter school. We are entitled to full and complete financial autonomy and a multi-billion dollar endowment. Of course, every single thing on this list is going to take an incredible amount of time, patience, political prowess, relationship management, and financial resources. But, we are capable. As long as we believe in our heart that FAMU can be greater than she has ever been, can she truly be greater than she has ever been.
No more sideline coaching. It is time that every single one of us make it a point to sign up and serve our local FAMU alumni chapters in 2016. As we have seen, some very real threats have formed against the institution and her leadership and we as young alumni must begin positioning ourselves to eradicate, eliminate, and annihilate all threats that seek to cause FAMU harm. In the words of FAMU alum Victor Gaines, FLOOD THE MEETINGS IN JANUARY! Every Rattler, both young and seasoned, must make it a point, to attend the first alumni meeting in January. I am going to compile a list with all of the chapter meeting dates in January and distribute among the alumni. There should be 10,000 Rattler faitful ready to go in January. You have been given the charge; it is up to you to answer the call to serve.
HBCU Young Alumni MUST Support Student Entrepreneurs
I am an avid supporter of entrepreneurship and an even bigger supporter of student entrepreneurs. If we are thinking globally, and long-term, FAMU young alumni must begin investing our monies into future business owners and employers. young alumni should make it a point to support student start up business grants or resources that support these students at all cost. The spirit of giving must be cultivated from the moment students walk on campus. It is inevitable that students will face the hardships that come with attending any institution of higher education (parking, registration, financial aid, etc). For many, these experiences leave bad and bitter tastes in their mouths. These negative experiences are held on to for years as their excuse for not giving back. Listen...let it go. If we begin to invest our money into student entrepreneurs early on, we give hope to the chance that these students will look beyond these nuances, and if for no other reason, support the National alumni association because the National alumni association supported them. The association can then in turn, re-invest in student entrepreneurs creating a cycle of entrepreneurial support.
Young Alumni Must Support Entrepreneurship Among Each Other
I can think of few networks more beneficial than that of the Florida A&M young alumni. Lets begin using these unique relationships to build platforms to showcase and support FAMU alumni business owners and entrepreneurs. I have been proposing for years that sometime at Homecoming, the Al Lawson Rec Center should be turned into a Black Business Expo showcase and highlighting FAMU alumni businesses and entrepreneurs. Young alumni should also form entrepreneur networks within their respective local chapters so as to stay connected and maximize reach. Lets make this happen;lets make this money.
Young Alumni Must Form Investment Groups
For any young alumni that are still located in Tallahassee, or if you have been back recently, then you’ve probably noticed that there is lot of revitalization going on in, and around the South side.. Most of these efforts are being financed by the Florida State alumni and Boosters who have invested millions of dollars into property renovations. Currently, FSU, backed by its powerful alumni and booster community, has purchased the land adjacent to the Civic Center and will be expanding the civic center into a hotel and multimedia complex. Late last year, a Tallahassee resident purchased over 70 properties in the French Town area of Tallahassee (A predominately and historically Black enclave in Tallahassee) and sold every last property to FSU.
As young alumni, we must be proactive in forming investment groups if we are going have any type of financial footing or economic leverage in Tallahassee. When I come to Tallahassee, I wouldn’t mind staying in the Alonzo Jake Gaither suite on the 22nd floor of the Rattler Renaissance International Hotel & Plaza. I dream grand only because I know what we are collectively capable of producing.
Although the gentrification of Tallahassee is ongoing, I think many would be surprised to know what much of the problem actually is. I spoke with a Realtor in Tallahassee a few months ago who informed me that one of the biggest contributors to the revitalization/gentrification efforts in Tallahassee is…young millennials. Us. Many millennials, who are now beginning to inherit property and homes from their aging parents and grandparents and are selling them before their loved ones have even been buried. Forming investment groups will not only give us the opportunity to begin building economic leverage through real estate acquisition, but also the freedom to be able to provide for our very own students. The sheer number of FAMU students who experience homelessness on a yearly basis should be enough motivation alone to make these moves. We must begin to identify what Our students and Our communities need (grocery stores, hotels, AFFORDABLE student housing) and begin formulating plans with the city and university to get a piece of that economic pie.
Bring It On Home
It is time, people. The call has been given, and the responsibility is yours, whatever your current relationship is with the national alumni association, commit to make it stronger in 2016. Commit to signing up for service in your local chapter in January. Commit to being a better alumni by paying your dues, serving in your local chapter, and remaining loyal to FAMU at all times. I am here to serve and will use every avenue I have to do such. I will highlight student and young alumni entrepreneurs. I will use all of my social media to communicate the message of the NAA. I will go above the call of duty. I will connect with the Chicago chapter of the NAA in January. I am committing to the FAMU NAA Convention in Tampa in May. This is my commitment Hold me to it.
Here is my call of action to you, Rattler nation:
2. Flood the meetings in January.
3. Sign up for your local chapter.
4. Do the work.
FAMU Today, FAMU Tomorrow, FAMU Forever!