Agnew Walks Students Through Civil Rights History and Issues a Challenge
By Navael Fontus
Florida A&M University celebrated its 35th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation like never before. On Jan. 15, Gaither gymnasium was filled with students, faculty and alumni who came to celebrate not only King’s birthday but his accomplishments and those who have begun to walk the path the civil rights leader graciously started for equality in our nation.
One such person who has been said to be fighting for continued equality is FAMU alumni and community activist Phillip Agnew, who served as convocation keynote speaker. Agnew has walked that path and has left his footprints as activist and co- founder of Dream Defenders. He offered attendees a walk through American history.
In front of the packed Gaither Gymnasium, Agnew told his listeners to go with him through space and time as he spoke about civil rights and racial crimes that rocked the nation the past years. From Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., to John Crawford III in Beavercreek. Ohio, Agnew mentioned many of the Blacks around the nation who have been killed due to racism and unfair police brutality.
He also challenged FAMU students to fight back and begin making a difference in the movement that is at hand saying: “It’s time for the students of Florida A&M University to ascend to (its) rightful place in this movement, to embrace the winds of change and to begin to build something completely new. It’s time to rise up.”
Agnew also introduced more of himself to the Rattler community. He shared his personal life when he attended FAMU and the trials and tribulations he faced and how he overcame. At the end of his speech, he received a standing ovation as the crowd appeared truly touched by his speech.
“This is a perfect example to feel great,” Elmira Mangum, Florida A&M University president said. “This is a perfect example to our students about what is possible. How they can go through their education and be socially conscious and aware and use their knowledge and experiences and critical thinking that they gain here at Florida A&M to advance society.”
During the convocation ceremony, Mangum presented Agnew with an award.
“It’s invaluable to have such a strong support system from my alma mater,” Agnew said.
“This is the place that took me in 2003 when I did not think that I would ever be able to come to a place like this. And so to be able to do something that makes this place and the people that raised me proud is very humbling and exciting too.”
In addition to Agnew, the FAMU Gospel Choir performed a moving rendition of the “I Have a Dream” speech. Bishop Lorenzo Watkins III offered invocation at the start of convocation and both Student Government Association President and Vice President spoke during the ceremony.
“As a student at Florida State University this is the best experience I’ve had at an event,” said Danielle Adams, President of the Florida State chapter of Dream Defenders.
“It was amazing to see young Black people interested in the topic. It was powerful for the school to do something like this to show the kids that somebody who was just you three, four years ago is actually being powerful and being a part of the movement.”