Commitment to motherhood shapes Cummings’ life
By Samantha Joseph
The day that Carmen Cummings decided to end her journalism career still resonates today as it did 15 years ago when she made a promise to her son that she couldn’t keep.
None of the countless awards that she won as a journalist mattered for Cummings, who is now senior executive director of university engagement and alumni affairs at FAMU.
The reputation of being a problem solver in the community didn’t matter, either.
Cummings has certainly established herself as a role model, obvious by the numerous awards that she’s received – 125 in all.
Of course, she remembers all that. But nothing hit home like the day when her sense of motherhood was challenged.
Cummings promised her son, Dexter Martin Jr., that she’d attend a play that he was scheduled to perform in at his elementary school. She just didn’t see the conundrum coming that would interfere with her keeping her promise.
Just as she was walking out of the WCTV office to see her son’s performance, law enforcement officers called to report a body in a suspected murder case found. Cummings was asked to help out by just making two calls.
It took more than two calls. All the time her son’s play was already on stage.
“When I got to the school and pulled up to the driveway all the parents were coming down the hill with their kids,” Cummings said, wiping tears from her face. “And there was mine in his white shirt and his black tie.”
What transpired next became the reality check that made Cummings, who has always been a committed mother, switch careers.
“He said three words: ‘but you promised,’” Cummings recalled.
She became overwhelmed again during her recollection. More tears.
“I knew then that I was going to have to make a decision,” she said. “I just didn’t want to chance not being there like my parents were for me.”
Cummings grew up in Wacissa, about 20 miles south of Tallahassee. Her family was close-knit in the tiny town with one amberlight.
She learned to play the piano at an early age. She still does that, as well as being an avid singer.
When she wasn’t spending time on the piano, Cummings and her grandmother took target practice with a gun that’s still in the family. Pears growing on a tree in their backyard were the target.
When it was time to leave home for college, she settled on FAMU, where she became a better-than-average broadcast journalism student.
She parlayed her talent into becoming a stellar intern at WCTV, starting an 18-year career with the CBS affiliate. By the time that she left, the career that included being a receptionist in the beginning ran full circle to one that brought her state-wide recognition.
Being named the Best Investigative Reporter by the Associated Press is among the awards she’s won. She’s also been recognized for being Best Investigative Feature, Best Feature, along with being named Woman of Distinction of the Apalachee Big Bend, and winning the Thelma Thurston Gorham Journalism Award.
“I didn’t have the silver spoon thing you know,” she said. “Everything I got I worked for. My parents worked really hard so they needed me to get out and go on and start working.
“I didn’t want to be relegated to a certain kind of reporting I wanted to be the smorgasbord reporter. I had to crack and pursue the truth in an investigative report.”
Cummings brings the same passion to her position at FAMU. Her responsibilities include being a liaison between the university and alumni. She works especially close to the National Alumni Association and often plays a pivotal role in recruiting members.
Cummings’ charismatic and professional personality makes her the right fit for the job, said Tommy Mitchell, former president of the National Alumni Association.
“There was no one we relied on more than Carmen,” he said. “When we have events, Carmen can play the piano if we need a musical rendition or solo.”
Current NAA president Gregory Clark echoed Mitchell’s sentiments.
“Certainly she has been a great help. She is probably one of the best multi-taskers I have ever seen in my life,” said Clark. “She puts out fires that I may not even know existed.
“She is a people person and her love for Florida A&M University is just unwavering. She is the key that makes this run. FAMU is lucky to have her as a part of our team.”
So are advocates in the fight against sickle cell anemia. Inspired by her younger son, Nicholas who suffers with sickle cell anemia, Cummings has dedicated her life to assisting in the fight against the disease. She and her family have staged an annual event that has grown each year since its inception, attracting big-name celebrities.
Money raised from the event goes to scholarships to support Tallahassee Community College students who have been stricken by the disease.
“People should not have to choose between keeping the lights on and getting much needed medication,” Cummings said. “We have been fortunate to have some interesting people and be a part of it.”