Alpha Phi Alpha Encourages, Motivates and Educates Voters with "Alpha Train" Caravan [VIDEO]

Alpha Train

Perhaps the Black community in Miami is on the precipice of a political and cultural revolution. Perhaps this generation of millennials will usher in a resurgence of Black unity and Black power reminiscent of Miami’s past. On Sunday, November 1, 2020, the men of the Beta Beta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, executed a community caravan to bring awareness of the importance of the using the right to vote to effect change for our people and the community at large.

For this ambitious project, the fraternity partnered with Florida Memorial University, South Florida’s only HBCU. Before the fraternity members and their supporters set out on their journey, there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included dignitaries from the university’s Board of Trustees.

As the attention-getting caravan, with full escort, rolled into the first of four stops, the early voting site at the Miramar Branch Library & Education Center, the energy was immediately apparent. The featured speaker at that location was the honorable Wayne Messam, mayor of the City of Miramar and member of the Beta Beta Lambda Chapter. The fraternity distributed t-shirts and bottled water to early voters waiting in line.

The excitement continued at the next stops, the early voting sites at the North Dade Regional Library in Miami Gardens and the North Miami Library. The caravan concluded at the Joseph Caleb Center early voting location, in the City of Miami, with messages from community leader and past chapter president, Pierre Rutledge and current chapter president Michael Grubbs.

More than 200 people in 70 vehicles participated in the caravan. At each of the stops, hundreds of voters and onlookers were educated on “A Voteless People is a Hopeless People,” a national program of Alpha Phi Alpha since the 1930’s when many African-Americans had the right to vote but were prevented from voting because of poll taxes, threats of reprisal, and lack of education about the voting process.

“Yesterday...I looked into the eyes of children and our seniors across South Florida and saw the impact of the Beta Beta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, "Alpha Train" Road to the Polls. It offered hope and meaning to a community struggling to believe in the Democratic process within our country. We endeavored to wake up South Florida and let our name, example and action(s) lead the way,” said Taj Echoles, chair of Beta Beta Lambda’s Alphas In Action Task Force, the civic engagement arm of the chapter.



About Beta Beta Lambda Chapter (adapted from Chapter's website):

Beta Beta Lambda Chapter has been an active part of the Greater Miami community since its inception on November 19, 1937. Like many chapters across the country, it was established by men with a common interest in improving the community through education and public service.

The chapter’s founding members are Felix E. Butler, MD, Nathaniel Colston, MD, Ira P. Davis, MD, Aaron Goodwin, MD, Frederick J. Johnson, Samuel H. Johnson, MD, Leo A Lucas, and William H. Murrell, MD. Under the leadership of Solomon C. Stinson, Ph.D., the chapter was incorporated in the State of Florida as a legal entity on November 30, 1978. Under the leadership of Earl H. Duval Ph. D., the Beta Beta Lambda/Alpha Foundation was created and incorporated on September 25, 1995.

In June 2006, AlphaLand Community Development Corporation was created and incorporated under the leadership of Gregory D. Gay, Dana C. Moss, Sr. CPA, Lyonel Myrthil, and Eric Hernandez, Esq. The foundation and CDC are 501©3 not-for-profit organizations. The chapter’s executive board also serves as the Board of Directors of the foundation and the CDC has a separate board of directors with membership from the chapter.

Beta Beta Lambda Chapter and its subsidiaries are providing leadership through its many service activities such as Alpha Outreach, Project Alpha, Alpha-Dade Youth Sports Program, Alpha/Big Brothers & Big Sisters Partnership, Sankofa Project, Knights of Gold, Boy Scouts Troop 1906, Alpha/Head Start Partnership, Voter Education Project, and Scholarship Award Program.


Related Links:

Beta Beta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity (Facebook)

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated

Photos: AJ Shorter/AJShorter Photography

Nelson secures federal funding for Floridians

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.

Inaugural Florida Classic HBCU Summit Sun. 11/23



A historic and important conversation is scheduled for the weekend of The Florida Classic 2014 in Orlando, FL. The presidents of the four HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in Florida are the featured panelists for a discussion at the inaugural State of the Florida Black Colleges and Universities Summit.
In an effort to further its mission of supporting HBCUs, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) has agreed to sponsor the summit. TMCF is a nonprofit organization that helps nearly 300,000 students attending its 47 member-schools that include publicly-supported HBCUs, medical schools, and law schools.

The summit is a public forum that brings together the presidents of Florida’s four HBCUs to discuss strategies for improving retention and graduation. This inaugural conversation will be held at the Rosen Centre in Orlando on Sunday, November 23rd at 10:30 a.m., during the weekend of the Florida Blue Florida Classic 2014.

Since its inception, TMCF has raised over $200 million for programmatic support, capacity building support, and scholarships for its member-schools and the students matriculating on those campuses. A partnership with the Florida HBCU summit gives TMCF an opportunity to better serve the HBCU community and advance efforts that improve educational outcomes.

TMCF joins the Tom Joyner Foundation, Florida A&M University, Bethune-Cookman University, Edward Waters College, and Florida Memorial University in supporting this landmark event. The current presidents of the four institutions are - Dr. Elmira Mangum - Florida A&M; Dr. Edison O. Jackson - Bethune-Cookman; Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis - Florida Memorial; Nathaniel Glover - Edward Waters.

What’s Happening this Weekend? Politics, Football, FAMily and Fun!

President Clinton campaigns for Gov. Charlie Crist in Miami-Dade County. FILE photo: Florida Politics

This is the weekend after Labor Day, school has started and one would think our schedules allowed us more breathing room but that is not the case. This is a super busy weekend and that can be measured by the number of places Gov. Charlie Crist visits as he continues to unleash his historic re-election campaign. Crist, a Republican turned Independent and now Democrat could become the first person to hold the top elected position in the State of Florida as a Republican and a Democrat. The Crist Campaign has brought out the really big guns in the person of President William Jefferson Clinton so let’s hope that motivates eligible voters to register and registered voters to get out and vote.  

One of the largest high school football games will be played tonight at Traz Powell Stadium as the Booker T. Washington Tornadoes take on the Miami Central Rockets. Traz Powell is far too small a venue for a game with such a large fan base; SunLife Stadium is too large and FIU Stadium is too far in distance. Too bad that wasn’t considered prior to the demolition of the Orange Bowl or perhaps it was and the powers that be didn’t give a hoot about how inner-city black communities would be impacted.


By the way, the football game tickets with Miami misspelled, really should not have been sold. Mistakes can happen but that’s why there should be quality control procedures in place to catch items are made available for the public. I could go on and on about how this mistake results in derogatory comments about black schools but I think you get my point. One little misspelled might not seem like a big deal but it is.   


The Florida A&M University Rattlers play the University of Miami Hurricanes Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens. Since FAMU no longer presents the Orange Blossom Classic in Miami, when the team is here to play, the game results in a big celebration by local FAMU alumni and supporters. Several FAMU students from the Miami area will travel back home for the experience.  

There are several activities included on the list of official list of Florida A&M University-sanctioned events for this weekend: 

Friday, September 5

8PM - Set Fridays II - An evening of networking and music with DJ and FAMU alum “Ed the World Famous,” Fate Lounge - Gulfstream Park, 601 Silks Run, Hallandale Beach, FL 33009. Admission - $20. Presented by the Miami-Dade Chapter of the FAMU National Alumni Association. 

Scholarship Gala featuring FAMU President Dr. Elmira Mangum, Hyatt Regency Hotel, 400 Southeast Second Avenue, Miami, FL 33131, Admission - $85. Presented by the Gold Coast Chapter of the FAMU National Alumni Association.

Saturday, September 6

9AM - Scholarship & Recruitment Workshop, Featuring Florida A&M University President Dr. Elmira Mangum, the famous performing troup, FAMU Connection, and FAMU student leaders. Scholarships will be awarded on the spot! The Historic Lyric Theater, 819 NW 2nd Avenue, Miami, FL 33136, Admission - FREE. Presented by Florida A&M University in partnership with the Miami-Dade Chapter of the FAMU National Alumni Association. 

Noon - Rattlers Strike in the Gardens - Join the Rattlers before the FAMU/UM football game for an afternoon of music, food and fun featuring health and wellness presentations and local vendors. Betty T. Ferguson Recreational complex, 3000 NW 199th Street, Miami Gardens, FL 33056, Admission - FREE or VIP $30. Presented by the City of Miami Gardens and the Miami-Dade Chapter of the FAMU National Alumni Association.  

7PM - Football Game - Florida A&M Rattlers vs. University of Miami Hurricanes, featuring the halftime performance of the Marching 100. Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL and ESP3. 

Except for the football game, profits from these events will fund scholarships for deserving students at Florida A&M so please support events that support FAMU.  


Journalist, commentator, motivational speaker and author Jeff Johnson and several hundred youth will invade Florida Memorial University on Friday, September 5 and Saturday, September 6, for a South Florida #HacktotheFuture Youth Summit YouthTown Hall Meeting and tech workshops. This is an excellent event for your teen.

Have an awesome and safe weekend! 




75 Students from 62 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Named 2014 HBCU All-Stars


U.S. Department of Education
Office of Communications & Outreach, Press Office

The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (WHIHBCU) announced its first class of HBCU All-Stars, recognizing 75 undergraduate, graduate and professional students for their accomplishments in academics, leadership and civic engagement. Currently enrolled at 62 HBCUs, the All-Stars were selected from 445 students who submitted completed applications that included a transcript, resume, essay and recommendation. The HBCU All-Stars will serve as ambassadors of the White House Initiative by providing outreach and communication with their fellow students about the value of education and the Initiative as a networking resource.

“Engaging with the next generation of leaders who will graduate from HBCUs and go on to make meaningful contributions to society is crucial to the success of our community, our country and our global competitiveness,” said George Cooper, executive director of the WHIHBCUs. “It is a privilege to announce these 75 students who have demonstrated a commitment to both their own academic achievement and making a difference in their communities, and we look forward to working with them as partners in advancing President Obama’s college completion goal.”

Over the course of the next year — through social media and their relationships with community-based organizations — the All-Stars will share promising and proven practices that support opportunities for all young people to achieve their educational and career potential. In addition, the 45 female and 30 male All-Stars will participate in regional events and web chats with Ivory Toldson, deputy director of the WHIHBCUs, other Initiative staff and professionals from a wide range of disciplines. They will also have opportunities to engage with other scholars to showcase individual and collective talent across the HBCU community.

More information about the activities of the 75 HBCU All-Stars will be provided in the coming months as they carry out their role as ambassadors of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Here is a list of the 2014 HBCU All-Stars in alphabetical order by the state and city they are from, the school they attend and the school’s location.

2014 HBCU All Stars


Aliceville–Keiwan Harris –attends Concordia College Alabama, Selma, AL

Huntsville–Sharesse Mason –attends Alabama A&M University, Normal

Mobile–Justin Wells –attends Bishop State Community College, Mobile, AL

Tuscaloosa–Morgan Curry –attends Shelton State Community College, Tuscaloosa, AL

Tuscaloosa–Jeraun Pouge –attends Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, AL

Talladega–Chuck Stewart –attends Talladega College, Talladega, AL

Tuskegee—Kalauna Carter –attends Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL


Little Rock–Chelsea Fox –attends Philander Smith, Little Rock, AR


Los Angeles–Nicole Tinson –attends Dillard University, New Orleans, LA

Fresno–Arogeanae Brown –attends Virginia State University, Petersbury, Virginia


Tyrone Hankerson –attends Howard University, District of Columbia

-Jocelyn Cole –attends Howard University, District of Columbia

-LaTrice Clayburn –attends Livingstone College, Salisbury, NC

Abdul Nurriddin –attends University of the District of Columbia Community College, District of Columbia


Daytona–Shantel Braynen –attends Bethune-Cookman University, Daytona Beach, FL

Tallahassee–Jamil McGinnis –attends Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, FL

Tallahassee–Jazmyne Simmons –attends Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, FL

Miami–Jonte Myers –attends Florida Memorial University, Miami Gardens, FL

Orlando–Vivian Nweze –attends Howard University, District of Columbia


Riverdale–Kelcey Wright –attends Albany State University, Albany, GA

Atlanta–Lillian Harris –attends Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, GA

Rex–Elijah Porter –attends Fort Valley State University, Fort Valley, GA

Atlanta–Cameron Weathers –attends Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA

Atlanta–David Johnny –attends Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA

Atlanta–Sarah Dillard –attends Savannah State University, Savannah, GA

Albany–Bria Carrithers –attends Spelman College, Atlanta, GA


Frankfort–Chaundra Bush –attends Kentucky State University, Frankfort, KY


Grambling–Breonna Ward –attends Grambling State University, Grambling, LA

Ruston–Brooke Battiste –attends Grambling State University, Grambling, LA

Zachary–Robert Chambers –attends Southern University A&M College, Baton Rouge, LA


Accokeek–Symone Jordan –attends Bowie State University, Bowie, MD

Fort Washington–Kayla Reynolds –attends Delaware State University, Dover, DE

Baltimore–Triston Bing-Young –attends Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD

Fort Washington–Trevor McKie –attends Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD

Silver Spring–Chanel Banks –attends University Maryland Eastern Shore, Princess Anne, MD

Princess Anne–So Jin Park –attends University Maryland Eastern Shore, Princess Anne, MD


Brookhaven–Lawrence Warren –attends Alcorn State University, Alcorn, MS

Jackson–Candace Chambers –attends Jackson State University, Jackson, MS

Itta Bena–Rodney Rice –attends Mississippi Valley State University, Itta Bena, MS

Holly Springs–Larrance Carter –attends Rust College, Holly Springs, MS

Bolton–Kisa Harris –attends Tougaloo College, Jackson, MS


Greensboro–Jasmine Everett –attends Bennett College, Greensboro, NC

Raleigh–Victoria Jones –attends North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC

Whiteville–Valerie Edwards –attends Elizabeth City State University, Elizabeth City, NC

Gates–Amanda Eure –attends Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, NC

Charlotte–Jheanelle Linton –attends Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, NC

Greensboro–Shakera Fudge –attends North Carolina Agricultural &Technical State University, Greensboro

Greensboro–Leon White –attends North Carolina Agricultural &Technical State University, Greensboro

Knightdale–Joseph Wyatt –attends St. Augustine’s University, Raleigh, NC

Winston-Salem–Georges Guillame –attends Winston Salem State University, Winston Salem, NC


Newark–Akirah Crawford –attends Virginia State University, Petersburg, VA


Ardmore–Beautiful- Joy Fields –attends Langston University, Langston, OK


Chester–Ahn-yea Graham –attends Cheyney University of PA, Cheyney, PA


Leesville–Rodrea Zeigler –attends Allen University, Columbia, SC

Orangeburg–Jessica Mong –attends Claflin University, Orangeburg, SC

Lynchburg–Refugio Banuelos –attends Morris College, Sumter, SC

Orangeburg–Harold Rickenbacker –attends South Carolina State University, Orangeburg, SC

Orangeburg–Jasmine Harris –attends South Carolina State University, Orangeburg, SC


Nashville–Ciera Carter –attends Fisk University, Nashville, TN

Jackson–Stephanie Phillips –attends Lane College, Jackson, TN

Memphis–Gilbert Carter –attends LeMoyne- Owen College, Memphis, TN

Nashville–Ciera Scales –attends Meharry Medical College, Nashville, TN

Nashville–Jeremiah Cooper –attends Tennessee State University, Nashville, TN

Jackson–Aneesa Sood –attends Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL


Houston–Antoine Southern –attends Oakwood University, Huntsville, AL

Dallas–Priscilla Barbour –attends Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, TX

Cedar Hill–Glenn Johnson –attends Texas College, Tyler, TX

Houston–Jarrauri Curry –attends Texas Southern University, Houston, TX

Houston–Candace Jones –attends Texas Southern University, Houston, TX

Garland–Jade Crutch –attends Xavier University, New Orleans, LA


Suffolk–Chanae LeGrier –attends Elizabeth City State University, Elizabeth City, NC

Dendron–Whitney Johnson –attends Hampton University, Hampton, VA

Richmond–Caprichia Moses –attends Virginia Union University, Richmond, VA


Christiansted–Shereena Cannonier –attends Lincoln University PA, Lincoln, PA

Christiansted–Kevin Dixon –attends University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, USVI



International Soccer Star, David Beckham and FMU President, Dr. Roslyn Artis


(BLACK PR WIRE) – Florida Memorial University (FMU) received an unexpected surprise by International Soccer Star, David Beckham.

Beckham was greeted by University President, Dr. Roslyn Artis, followed by a brief private meeting. The two discussed South Florida and Beckham’s upcoming plans to bring MLS soccer to the community. Dr. Artis shared some of the University’s history and discussed their upcoming development plans.

FMU is among the leading higher education institutions in our community and I am so pleased that Mr. Beckham took the time to come on campus and see what our University is about,” said Dr. Artis.

Following their meeting, Beckham and Artis surprised the FMU soccer team during an afternoon scrimmage. “I was thrilled to see him in person and here at FMU,” exclaimed soccer player Francisco Allegro. “It is good for the University and I hope his goodwill efforts help both our University and community, shared Head Men’s and Women’s Soccer Coach, Fernando Valenzuela.

Florida Memorial University’s Soccer Program is among the best in the Sun Conference. For a listing of the FMU soccer teams’ upcoming games, visit the website at


David Beckham, Dr. Roslyn Artis, FMU soccer coaches and members of the FMU soccer team


SBA and Florida Memorial University Commit to Help Entrepreneurs and Underserved Small Businesses


FMU SAM Signing


Florida Memorial University Interim President Dr. Roslyn Artis and SBA South Florida District Director Francisco “Pancho” Marrero sign a strategic alliance memorandum at the University’s Lou Rawls Center for The Performing Arts, Nov. 19, 2013, while FMU business students look on.


MIAMI – The U.S. Small Business Administration signed a strategic alliance memorandum (SAM) with Florida Memorial University (FMU), the only historically black university in southern Florida, Tuesday, November 19, 2013, to promote entrepreneurship both on and off the Miami Gardens, Florida campus.

The agreement was signed during a ceremony with Florida Memorial Interim President Dr. Roslyn Artis, and SBA South Florida District Director Francisco “Pancho” Marrero at the University’s Lou Rawls Center for The Performing Arts.                 

Through the alliance, the SBA South Florida District Office and Florida Memorial University will work together to serve FMU students interested in business ownership and to also address the needs of historically underserved small businesses throughout the Miami Gardens area.

“Knowledge, exposure and opportunity are critical elements in our student’s success” said Interim President Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis.  “At Florida Memorial University, we believe in developing strategic, partnerships so that our students have the benefits of real world experience in addition to theoretical knowledge.”

Through the first of its kind in south Florida, this alliance is the latest in a series of similar agreements between SBA and historically black colleges and universities located throughout SBA’s eight-state southeastern region.  

“The purpose of these alliances is to educate today's youth, minority students of the entrepreneurial opportunities that exist today and to connect these students with resources that can help to fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams. This initiative is not meant only for business school students, but to all of the students within the college or university,”   said Marrero.

SBA South Florida District looks forward to working with its new partner.

“The strength of South Florida and especially Miami-Dade county business communities is its rich diversity of people and cultures.  Alliances such as this one with Florida Memorial University will provide a new generation of entrepreneurs awareness and access to the wide range of SBA resources to create new businesses and jobs here,” said Marrero.


For the university, the partnership extends beyond campus grounds. 


“Florida Memorial University welcomes this opportunity to join the SBA in bringing this important partnership to South Florida.  We are particularly pleased to share this opportunity with our Miami-Garden’s neighbors.” said Dr. Artis.  


Florida Memorial University celebrates 134 years


Old stories, history, awards and legacies filled the day


FoundersDay13B Dr OBanner
Florida Memorial University Acting President Mary A. O'Banner

MIAMI GARDENS, FL. – The historic bell pealed in the crisp morning air, the sound of drums drifted across the campus and a sea of orange-and-blue set the scene for the Florida Memorial University (FMU) Founders’ Day.  A processional of hundreds draped in academic regalia, history and pageantry moved across campus toward the chapel with a purpose that seemed to colorfully illustrate the theme: “Moving Forward . . . The Legacy Continues.”

South Florida’s only historically black university recently celebrated 134 years since its founding in 1879. It was also the 45th anniversary of the university’s move to Miami. Bishop Billy Baskin, class of 1971 and pastor of New Way Fellowship Praise & Worship Center, delivered a message of history and hope.

”The Founders’ Day Convocation is the most important activity held on the campus,” said Acting President Mary A. O’Banner, after she addressed an overflow crowd at the university’s Susie C. Holley Religious Center.  “I believe that our founders would be proud to know that we are continuing the legacy on the 134th anniversary of this institution.”

The convocation featured several alumni who attended the school just after it was relocated from St. Augustine, including a local minister and a current student whose FMU legacy dates back for at least four generations.

Priscilla Dobbs, class of 1972, is a retired elementary school teacher who worked for 34 years with the Dade County Public Schools.  Dobbs, who now works with the School of Education at FMU, was on program to speak about the university’s history.

“I remember when the university moved here from St. Augustine,” Dobbs said. “It was a very good year because the average family income was $ 7,850, the cost of gas was 34 cents and a movie ticket was $1.50. The big movies were ‘The Graduate‘ and ‘Guess Who's Coming Dinner.’ ”

Dobbs, who grew up in Miami, said: “I decided that I would attend Florida Memorial because of the way they embraced our community and made the community feel a part of it . . .  a number of local students decided to attend.”

She deftly entertained the audience with her tales of yesterday. She said she wanted to tell the history her way: “You don’t let anyone tell your history,” she said. “You tell your own history.”

Shaconna Derico, a fourth-generation,  junior broadcast major from Pompano Beach, told the appreciative audience that more than 20 members of her family have attended – and graduated from the university that will soon become her alma mater, as well. Additionally, a cousin is on his way to join the Fall Freshman class.

“Every year, I’ve been learning more and more about this part of our family history,” she said after the program. “There’s a long list of about 20 people who are FMU alumni. I believe there are a few marriages that have come out of here. . . There are a lot of pastors on this list, as well.”

She remembered the first time she set foot on the Florida Memorial campus and how that solidified one portion of her life’s journey : “ I came to the Baptist Youth Camp when I was in middle school. That’s when I met a lot of other family members, toured the campus and just thought ‘This must be a great place.’ I just felt like I was at home. I fell in love with it.”

“When you see the blessings come down like this through generations,” Derico said, “it’s real.”

The convocation closed with a moving candlelight tribute to the five founders and with awards presentations to three community leaders who have been strong supporters of educating youth in the Miami area. The following honors were given:

The Humanitarian Award

This award, which recognizes individuals who have given outstanding service to their community, was presented to The Rev. Canon Richard L. Marquess-Barry, Rector and Pastor/Retired, of the historic St. Agnes Episcopal Church.  When his congregation asked what they could do upon his retirement, he asked them to help him raise $50,000 for scholarships. He has contributed $12,500 to Florida Memorial, along with $12,500 each to his alma mater, St. Augustine College; Bethune Cookman University (Daytona Beach, Fla.) and Edward Waters College (Jacksonville, Fla.)

Sarah Blocker Meritorious Service Award

Barbara Wright, president of the Senior Women’s Auxiliary of the Progressive M&E Baptist State Convention of Florida, was the recipient of the highest honor the university can bestow upon a woman, the Sarah Blocker Meritorious Service Award. Wright, of Tampa, was noted for scholarship funds provided by the Convention totaling more than $300,000. 

The Nathan B. Collier Meritorious Service Award

The Nathan B. Collier Meritorious Service Award, the highest award the university bestows upon a man, went to William “Bill McCormick, class of 1987. McCormick, president and chief executive office of Medivance, was recognized for his continuous financial gifts for scholarships.

In the end, alumni told stories of yesterday, awards were presented and the FMU history was recounted. . . As the recessional began, one young man in an orange-and-blue bow tie was overheard saying, almost to himself:  “The legacy continues.” 

Founders Day DSC_0270
Florida Memorial University's Founders' Day Service

CORRECTION: Florida Memorial University to celebrate its 134th year

Founders’ Day Convocation will feature local bishop, top honors for other community leaders


MIAMI GARDENS, FL.  – Florida Memorial University, South Florida’s only historically black university, will celebrate 134 years of existence Tuesday, March 12, during its annual Founders’ Day Convocation. The observance will also mark the university’s relocation 45 years ago from its site in St. Augustine to Miami. 

“This is a time of reverence, remembrance and rejoicing for an institution that continues to provide a high-quality education to students who are in pursuit of a college degree,” said Dr. Mary A. O’Banner, acting president. “Each year, during the Founders’ Day observance, we pause to pay homage to those visionary founders who saw the need for such an institution as this.” 

Bishop Billy Baskin, founder and pastor of New Way Fellowship Praise & Worship Center, will be the guest speaker at the 10 a.m. convocation, which will be held at the university’s Susie C. Holley Religious Center (directly across from the main gate). Baskin, a 1971 graduate of FMU, is considered one of Miami-Dade’s “pre-eminent” religious leaders. He is also known for his heavy involvement with South Florida’s faith community and his work with the area’s most vulnerable residents. 

“This year’s theme, ‘Moving forward…the Legacy Continues,’ epitomizes the spirit of our founders,” said Patricia Carter, Founders’ Day co-chair and director of Church Relations. “From its humble beginnings to its present, Florida Memorial continues to thrive as a center of opportunity for students.” 

The key supporters and community leaders who represent the historic institution’s founding principles of character, leadership and service set to receive the university’s highest honors are:

  • The Nathan B. Collier Award

William “Bill” McCormick, President and CEO at Medivance Billing Service, Inc.,  and the CEO at 4KUS Consulting Group, Inc.,  A graduate of Florida Memorial College, he is the past chairman at MedValue Healthcare Services, LLC, CEO at Cullen Home Health Pharmacy, Inc.

  • The Sarah Blocker Award

Dr. Barbara Wright, president, Senior Women Progressive M&E Baptist State Convention of Florida

  • The Humanitarian Award

The Rev. Canon Richard Livingston Marquess-Barry, rector of St. Agnes Episcopal Church, the largest and oldest black Episcopal congregation in Miami, and champion for the education of youth.



Florida Memorial University is off to a great new year


SACS reaffirms the 133-year-old institution, with a clean report


Florida-Memorial-University-Opa-Locka-ADF90599MIAMI GARDENS, FL – Florida Memorial University (FMU), South Florida’s only historically black university, is off to a great start in 2013. The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) has reaffirmed the accreditation of the 133-year-old institution for another 10 years.

“To learn that Florida Memorial University’s accreditation has been reaffirmed--with no recommendations--was the perfect way to end 2012 and to begin the New Year,” said Mary A. O’Banner, Ph.D., acting president. “We are moving forward, knowing that our academic programs are competitive and the overall operation of the university is sound.”

The official news of the university’s affirmation came in December while O’Banner and other university officials were attending SAC’s Annual Meeting in Dallas, Texas.

Florida Memorial has had even more good accreditation news recently.  The accreditation of three FMU programs was reaffirmed over the last several months:  the School of Business by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) through 2020; the Computer Science, Math and Technology Program, one of the nation’s few historically black universities to earn the ABET designation, through 2014; and the School of Education.

Makola Abdullah, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, said the university had been preparing for the reaccreditation for about three years.

“The news is a testament to the teamwork of the FMU family,” Abdullah said. “It reaffirms the quality of our programs.”

O’Banner added: “This means our students can return from the holidays knowing that their university is still fully accredited and in good standing.”