Florida A&M

Judge Rodney Smith Receives Lifetime Appointment to Federal Bench

Judge Rodney Smith
The Honorable Rodney Smith, Judge, US District Court for the Southern District of Florida

On June 12, 2019, at 2:43 pm ET, Florida Circuit Court Judge Rodney Smith ascended to the position of judge, US District Court for the Southern District of Florida via confirmation vote of 78-18 by the United States Senate. The position of federal judge is a lifetime appointment.

Smith’s confirmation is reason for many to celebrate throughout Florida and around the nation. He graduated from Miami Northwestern Senior High School, a historically-black public school in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood. To complete his undergraduate studies, he attended Florida A&M, a historically-black public university. He continued to reach his educational goals by earning a degree from Michigan State University College of Law, a non-Ivy League law school. 

His path to the federal judgeship began with the nomination by President Donald J. Trump for the judicial seat. Smith completed an extensive questionnaire and was advanced for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2018. He was selected as one of ten finalists for federal judge. As part of the process, the committee sends a blue slip to senators from the home state in which the judicial nomination was received. A senator from the nominee's home state can approve the nominee and advance the nomination to the full Senate or disapprove or take no action regarding the nominee thus ending the process for the nominee becoming a federal judge.

Smith interviewed with Senator Marco Rubio and then Senator Bill Nelson. He also interviewed with White House Counsel’s Office and the Department of Justice. He was formally nominated in May 2018, but upon the adjournment of the 115th Congress in January 2019, Smith’s nomination was returned to the President. He was re-nominated later that month upon the convening of the 116th Congress.

Fifty-one affirmative votes were required for Smith’s confirmation. With a final vote of 78-18, he received many more votes than needed. There was still concern that 2020 presidential candidates Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren were among the 18 senators voting against his confirmation while Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders were among the four senators who did not vote at all.

Smith began his legal career as an Assistant State Attorney in the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office in 1999. He later practiced at several private law firms before joining the Office of the City Attorney for Miami Beach as a Senior Assistant City Attorney in 2007. He was appointed County Court Judge by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008. In 2012, Smith was appointed circuit court judge by Gov. Rick Scott where he served until his elevation to federal judge.

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida includes the following counties: Miami-Dade; Broward; Palm Beach; Monroe; St. Lucie; Martin; Highlands; Indian River and Okeechobee. The Southern district has jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases in those counties that fall under federal law.

Smith is a highly-regarded attorney and highly-respected in the community. He is proof that faith, hard work and a great attitude can take you far in life. He is a member of several organizations including Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity, 100 Black Men of South Florida, Jack & Jill Dads, Boy Scouts of America; FAMU National Alumni Association, and 5000 Role Models of Excellence. Judge Smith and his family are active members of New Birth Baptist Church Cathedral of Faith International.

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Judge Rodney Smith was sworn by Judge Donald Graham on Monday, June 17, 2019 at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Courthouse in Miami.
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Judge Rodney Smith and son with Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson and fellow  5000 Role Models and staff.
Judge Rodney Smith and 100 Black Men
Judge Rodney Smith and fellow members of 100 Black Men of South Florida. From left, Judge Darrin P. Gayles, Stephen Hunter Johnson, Pierre Rutledge and Torrence Phillips. 
Judge Smith with Kappa brothers
Judge Rodney Smith with his brothers of the Miami Alumnae Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity
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Judge Rodney Smith with fellow FAMUans Kenneth Williams and Thomas Jones who are also his Alpha Phi Omega brothers and members of the Miami-Dade Chapter of the FAMU National Alumni Association.
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Friends accompanied Judge Rodney Smith for his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2018. From left, Christopher Norwood, Larry Handfield, Hans Ottintot, Samuel Mustipher and Robert Tyler.



 


Longest-running local community Kwanzaa Celebration continues at The ARC in Opa-locka [VIDEO]

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The Spirit of Kwanzaa lives in Miami-Dade County. On Saturday, December 29, 2018, it was demonstrated at The ARC (Arts & Recreation Center) in the beautiful City of Opa-locka, Florida. The 29th Annual Mary Williams Woodard Legacy Kwanzaa Celebration evolved into a true community event welcomed by various groups and entities beyond its local beginnings. 

More than 150 people were in attendance as the traditional procession of the Council of Community Elders was announced via drummer Jah Will B. Elders are not recognized because of age but due to their contributions to the community. Many are often unsung heroes. This year’s elders included Chief Nathaniel B. Styles Jr. who also served as event MC; HRH Iya Orite Adefunmi; School Board Member Dorothy Bendross Mindingall; Bernadette Cecelia Poitier; Rubye Howard; Thomasina Turner-Diggs; Eric Pettus; “Broadway” Cuthbert Harewood; James Wright; Amare and Amani Amari; Netcher Hopi Mose and Angela Berry.

Because of construction at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, where the event has been presented for many years, its consecutive presentation would have been interrupted were it not for Opa-locka Vice Mayor Chris Davis; Nakeisha Williams and the Opa-Locka CDC; and Nakia Bowling of Zoe’s Dolls. 

As is customary, the Nguzo Saba, Seven Principles of Kwanzaa and symbols of Kwanzaa were explained with the assistance of audience members and the Ivy Rosettes of Gamma Zeta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority who also served as hostesses. Tracey Jackson delivered the welcome on behalf of the Miami-Dade Chapter of the Florida A&M University National Alumni Association. Remembering those who have transitioned is an important aspect of Kwanzaa. Dr. Natasha C. Stubbs delivered a moving recognition of local and national individuals who became deceased since last year’s Kwanzaa event. Entertainment was provided by the Next Generation Dance Academy and poets Rebecca “Butterfly” Vaughns and realproperlike. New World School of the Arts junior, Nicholaus Gelin, serenaded attendees with his trumpet during the feast portion of the evening.

“We enjoyed the event,” said a mother who traveled from Coral Springs with her son and his best friend to attend the celebration. They said they will attend next year and the boys want to participate on the program. 

The Kwanzaa Celebration is hosted by the Miami-Dade Chapter of the FAMU Alumni Association, the Dr. Arthur and Mary Woodard Foundation for Education and Culture; and Osun’s Village African Caribbean Cultural Arts Corridor.

 



 

 

 

 

 


Longest Running Local Public Kwanzaa Celebration Moves to The ARC in Opa-locka on 12/29/18

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Miami, FL December 23, 2018: For almost three decades the Miami-Dade Chapter of the Florida A&M University National Alumni Association has celebrated the seven-day Pan-African holiday of Kwanzaa. This year, due to renovations at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center and the absence of many members traveling to witness the University’s famous marching band participate in the Rose Bowl and surrounding activities, it seemed the event would not take place. 

When one of the organization’s community partners found out the celebration was going on hiatus this year, the true Spirit of Kwanzaa took over and plans were quickly changed. On Saturday, December 29, at 3 pm, the 29th Annual Mary Williams Woodard Legacy Kwanzaa Celebration will take place at The ARC (Arts & Recreation Center), 675 Ali Baba Avenue, Opa-locka, FL 33054,

“We are deeply appreciative that Opa-locka Vice Mayor Chris Davis, the Opa-locka CDC, Zoe’s Dolls and Next Generation Dance Academy reached out to help. Their support lets us know our teaching the Principles of Kwanzaa at this celebration through the years, has not been in vain,” said Vanessa Woodard Byers, event chair, and daughter of the late Mary Williams Woodard, educator and Kwanzaa advocate for whom this celebration is named. 

Kwanzaa is a non-religious, non-political community-building and family-strengthening holiday. The community is invited to come out and learn more about it. There will be music, dance, poetry and other artistic demonstrations. One of the highlights of the event is the distribution of dolls by young philanthropist, speaker, and business executive, Zoe Terry. Through her company, Zoe’s Dolls, dolls are given to little black and brown girls as a vehicle for building self-esteem and pride in their self-image. 

The event is free but register online at KwanzaaMiami29.eventbrite.com. Donations of books and new, unwrapped educational toys, for children in the local community, are appreciated. Potluck food donations for the Feast are also welcome. It is hosted by the Miami-Dade Chapter of the FAMU National Alumni Association, the Dr. Arthur & Mary Woodard Foundation for Education and Culture and Chief Nathaniel Styles, Jr. of Osun's Village African Caribbean Arts Corridor in partnership with the Opa-locka CDC, Zoe's Dolls and Next Generation Dance Academy.

For more information, email Vanessa Woodard Byers at vanessawbyers@gmail.com or call (305) 343- 9088. Event updates are available on Facebook at Celebrate Kwanzaa in Miami and on Twitter at @KwanzaaMiami. 

HARAMBEE!

Here's video of last year's event courtesy of LaShannon of PrPlMiami.

 

 


$1.1M Available to Black-Owned Businesses in Florida. Come Out Thursday, August 23 to See If Your Business Qualifies

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Thanks to a $1.1 million grant included in last year’s budget,   black-owned businesses across the state can now apply for a loan through a program administered by the Florida A&M University Federal Credit Union in partnership with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Locally, the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) and Florida A&M University Federal Credit Union will present LOANS AND LENDING FOR BLACK BUSINESS OWNERS, 6:30pm-8:00pm, Thursday, August 23, 2018, St. Paul AME Church, V.F. Mitchell Fellowship Hall, 1866 NW 51 Terrace, Miami, FL 33142. 

“The MDCPS Office of Economic Opportunity is excited to partner with the FAMU Federal Credit Union and provide meaningful information on loans and lending to local black businesses,” said Torey Alston, head of OEO for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

Learn more about the application process and requirements to access these funds. The event is FREE to attend. You may RSVP at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/introducing-florida-am-university-credit-union-tickets-48927176502. Please share this information with your networks.

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FAMU Marching 100 selects first female drum major

Cori bostic

Remember her name. Florida A&M University's Cori Renee Bostic, an Atlanta native, has made history as the first female drum major of its world renown, incomparable Marching 100 band. This move is so major. The Marching 100 tradition didn’t allow women in the band until 1974. Carmena Fennell, Carla Wilson and Debra Hines were the trailblazers.

Bostic is a junior in the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and Tau Beta Sigma Sorority. The FAMU half-time performances just got more interesting. Who knew that was possible? Homecoming 2018 will be LIT! 

 

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Miami’s Melissa Mitchell wins SPANX Illuminate-Her™️ Art Contest!

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Congratulations to Melissa Mitchell, winner of the SPANX Illuminate-Her™️ Art Contest! Melissa is an Atlanta-based, self-taught artist, who has a love of vibrant colors, unique shapes, and bold dark lines. Born and raised in Miami, she attributes her Bahamian heritage, melodic sounds and the colorful world around her as her greatest inspirations.  Her art has been featured around the world. Her unique head wraps, Abeille Creations, have adorned the likes of Lupita N’yongo featured in Vogue magazine. Melissa is a proud graduate of Florida A&M University and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Her art will debut on SPANX styles next Spring. Stay tuned! 


Nelson secures federal funding for Floridians

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U.S. Senator Bill Nelson

 

Washington, DC – U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) announced that the $1.3 trillion spending package Congress unveiled last night includes funding for several projects and programs important to Floridians including: increased spending  to fight the opioid epidemic, additional funding for citrus greening research and significant funding for democracy programs in both Venezuela and Cuba, as well as provisions Nelson co-sponsored to address gun violence. 

Funding for the following Florida projects and programs sought by Nelson have been included in the federal spending package: 

·         $3.3 billion to fight the opioid epidemic and mental health crises. An estimated 2.6 million Americans suffer from opioid use disorder. In Florida alone, more than 5,200 people have died from an opioid-related event in 2016 – a 35 percent increase from 2015. Nelson requested additional funding for treatment, prevention and research. 

·         $67.47 million in total funding for citrus greening research and the Citrus Health Research Program. As citrus greening has hurt growers across Florida, Nelson has advocated for increased funding to study and address the problem to help the state’s citrus industry. 

·         $895 million for Kennedy Space Center to modernize launch facilities, more than doubling what the center received last year.  Nelson requested the increased funding to bolster work on launch and processing infrastructure needed for NASA’s initiative to explore deep space. 

·         $121 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to purchase a reliable backup for its aging hurricane hunter jet.  Nelson has been pushing for a replacement since 2015. The funding comes in the wake of several incidents over the last two years when the jet NOAA uses to gather hurricane measurements was grounded during hurricane season. 

·         $76.5 million in total funding to protect and restore the Everglades. U.S. Army Corps budget was also increased, allowing additional funding for Everglades restoration. 

·         $82 million to repair the Herbert Hoover Dike. U.S. Army Corps budget was also increased, allowing for additional funding for dike repairs. 

·         $279.6 million, a 14-percent increase, in funding to support Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The four historically black colleges and universities in Florida—Florida A&M in Tallahassee, Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach and Edward Waters College in Jacksonville – prepare over 16,000 students for careers in STEM, aviation, law, nursing and other fields. 

·         $250 million in federal funding for positive train control grants.  Positive train control technology will help prevent deadly crashes on our railroads. It’s critically important for those railroads that carry passengers, like Sunrail and Tri-Rail.  Nelson, the ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee, pressed for the funding to help passenger railroads meet a federal deadline to install the lifesaving technology.  

·         $100 million for research and development program for automated vehicles. The SunTrax facility at Florida Polytechnic University is a qualified proving ground and will have the opportunity to benefit from the program. 

·         Restored and increased funds to $35 million for democracy programs in Venezuela and Cuba. Nelson requested Congress “redouble, not eliminate support for democracy and human rights” in Venezuela. The democracy programs support civil society organizations and promote human rights. 

·         Included $60 million for the Nonprofits Security Grant Program. The program helps certain non-profits harden their facilities against attack, such as organization like the Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) in Orlando and Miami and elsewhere. Nelson requested this funding after JCCs across Florida received a series of telephone bomb threats. 

·         Increased funding for the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program to $5 million. Nelson requested $5 million in funding to provide long-term support and services for Holocaust survivors. 

 

The spending package included several provisions Nelson co-sponsored to address gun violence in Florida and across the country, including: 

·         Fix NICS Act. Nelson cosponsored this bipartisan bill, which requires federal agencies and states to develop implementation plans to upload to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) all information prohibiting a person from purchasing a firearm, rewards states who comply with these plans through federal grant preferences, and reauthorizes and improves programs that help states share information on criminal records with NICS, among other things. 

·         STOP School Violence Act. Nelson co-sponsored this bipartisan bill that would allow schools to access federal funds to invest in programs, training and technology to keep students safe. 

·         CDC Gun Violence Research. The spending package included language to clarify that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can conduct research on gun violence.


FAMU President's Student Recruitment Tour Stops in Miami, Monday March 12

President's Tour 2018

Florida A&M University president Dr. Larry Robinson, the University’s performing troupe, the FAMU Connection, various FAMU staff and student leaders will make their Miami stop of the 2018 President’s Recruitment Tour at 6:30 p.m., Monday, March 12, 2018, at Miami Jackson Senior High School Auditorium, 1751 NW 36th Street, Miami, FL 33142.

All interested high school students and their parents are invited to attend. Attendees will have an opportunity to chat one-on-one with University academic representatives, student leaders and alumni. Scholarships will be awarded on the spot to graduating seniors contingent upon qualifying GPA and test scores. 

Interested students can apply online at www.famu.edu/admissions

 

 

 


Miamian favored by FAMU football team to be next permanent FAMU head football coach

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As a surprise to no one, Florida A&M University head football coach Alex Wood will not return to lead the football program next season. Wood resigned a couple of days after a loss to Bethune-Cookman in the Florida Classic. Although FAMU holds a tremendous lead in the series matchup, 49-22-1, this year would be the seventh consecutive loss to BCU.

It is understood that there are two games a FAMU football coach must win each year for job security — Homecoming and the Florida Classic. A FAMU coach could probably go 2-9 and get less grief from FAMU fans if those two wins are Homecoming and the Florida Classic. If the truth be told, considering the Homecoming and Florida Classic losses under Coach Wood’s tenure, the FAMU fans were much kinder to Wood than they were to some of his predecessors. I’m not justifying that position but it is what it is.

To those of us alums not directly involved with the FAMU football program, Coach Wood seemed to be a nice guy. He was close to winning several games this season but it didn’t happen for him and the team. When a new coach replaces all of the previous staff except one person, FAMU fans expect a winning season quickly. Wood might have accomplished that with the opportunity to coach the team another season but that was not to be.

FAMU offensive line coach Edwin Pata was named interim head coach by outgoing athletic director Milton Overton who has taken the athletic director position at Kennesaw State. Overton will be succeeded by interim athletic director John Eason.

Pata is that only person from the previous coaching staff that Wood did not replace. Pata has coached at FAMU for five years and earned his masters degree in sports management from FAMU. The FAMU football team has already let it be known that they want Coach Pata as the permanent head football coach. They’ve even started a hashtag on social media — #NoOneButCoachPata.

Edwin Pata is a graduate of North Miami High School where he earned honors on the gridiron as an All-State tight end. He earned his undergraduate degree at Florida State University and played football under Coach Bobby Bowden. Pata was very complimentary of Coach Wood’s progress with the program. Pata could be that person to make the program a winner again.

In the meantime, a nine-person search committee for the FAMU head football coach has been established. The committee members are: interim Athletic Director John Eason, former FAMU trustee Spurgeon McWilliams, FAMU National Alumni Association President Lt. Col. Gregory Clark, Rattler Boosters Treasurer Selvin Cobb, FAMU professor Ebenezer Oriaku, FAMU linebacker Elijah Richardson, 220 Quarterback Club President Eddie Jackson, SBI Dean Shawnta Friday-Stroud and FAMU’s director of track and field Darlene Moore. Although the need for a Committee is questionable, it would really be great if the search committee included FAMUans from South Florida who are not current FAMU employees. 

It has been stated that there is no timeline for selecting the head coach but that interim status does impact recruiting. Dr. Larry Robinson was named permanent president of FAMU today. The selections to fill the interim athletic director and head football coach positions should not be rushed but should be filled as quickly as possible for the sake of program stability.

Let’s Go, Rattlers! 

 

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Related Link: Watch it: Edwin Pata introduced as FAMU's interim head football coach

 

 

 


Oakwood University Crowned Champion at 28th Annual Honda Campus All-Star Challenge

 


-Oakwood University awarded $75,000 institutional grant from Honda


-Bowie State University, Florida A&M University and Tuskegee University rounded out the top four teams


-Robert Batten, Dean of Bowie State University, named Coach of the Year

HCASC 2017 Oakwood


TORRANCE, Calif., April 11, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- After twenty rounds of intense competition, Oakwood University was crowned the 28th annual Honda Campus All-Star Challenge (HCASC) National Championship Tournament (NCT) champion on Monday, April 10, taking home the championship trophy and earning a grant of $75,000 for their HBCU. The four-student team demonstrated its academic prowess by quickly and accurately answering questions about history, science, literature, religion, the arts and popular culture. Oakwood University was one of 48 Historically Black College and University (HBCU) teams that qualified for the NCT by competing in a series of regional competitions on campus throughout the academic year.

A packed studio audience filled with HBCU students, school presidents, alumni, volunteers, fans and Honda associates watched as Oakwood University clinched the title over runner-up Bowie State University. This is the third time Oakwood University has won the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge.

Coached by Dr. Rennae Elliott, the winning team included Caleb Briggs, Olivia Campbell, Joshua Nwaoha and team captain, Sesly Huerfano.

"I've seen firsthand how the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge changes students' lives by building their confidence and giving them a place to belong on campus," said Dr. Rennae Elliott. "We have a whole network of people back home and across campus who have supported us throughout the tournament; it truly has been a team effort." 

Runner-up Bowie State University earned a $30,000 grant, while the third and fourth-place finishers – Florida A&M University and Tuskegee University – earned $20,000 each.

"Honda congratulates Oakwood University on their exciting achievement in the National Championship Tournament, and we applaud all of the students who participated in this year's Honda Campus All-Star Challenge program," said Steve Morikawa, Vice President, Corporate Relations and Social Responsibility, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. "HCASC is made possible each year through the efforts of the many volunteers and we extend our thanks and appreciation to all of the volunteers who helped make this annual tournament a success."

In addition to honoring the top four teams, Honda recognized outstanding individuals who have made an impact during this year's Honda Campus All-Star Challenge. Robert Batten, 11-year HCASC coach and Dean of Bowie State University, was named Coach of the Year. Danian Medearis of North Carolina Central University was selected by fellow HCASC players to receive this year's Ernest C. Jones Sportsperson Award. Named for one of HCASC's early volunteers who mentored students in the program, the award recognizes a student who epitomizes team spirit, camaraderie, good sportsmanship and academic focus.

Honda established the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge in 1989 as a way to highlight and recognize the academic talents of HBCU students. More than $8.5 million in grants from Honda have provided support for books and tuition, scholarships, enhancement of student programs and other investments to improve campus facilities. This year's journey to the championship began in the fall, with 89 HBCUs competing for a spot in the finals. Nearly 100 volunteers, including Honda associates, helped produce the 2017 National Championship Tournament, hosting the students, conducting registration and serving as game officials.

For photos, videos and more information about the 2017 HCASC competition, including a full list of the 48 teams that qualified, visit HCASC.com. Connect with HCASC on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and follow the conversation using #HCASC.