FAMU President Larry Robinson, wife, Sharon Robinson, JSU President Thomas Hudson and wife, Phylandria.
Florida A&M University (FAMU) officials and alumni said the revival of the Orange Blossom Classic (OBC) was a success.
About 36,000 spectators converged on Hard Rock Stadium, Sunday, September 5 for the football game between FAMU and Jackson State University (JSU). It marked the first time in more than 40 years since the OBC was held. The events leading up to the game gave an economic boost to the Miami-Dade-Fort Lauderdale area, said Oliver G. Gilbert, III, vice chairman of the Miami Dade County Commission, who is credited with the return of the OBC.
“This weekend was amazing. FAMU showed that what we can do to a local economy is extraordinary,” said 1995 FAMU graduate Gilbert, moments after the game ended with a 7-6 JSU victory. “We didn’t win this year, but we will win next year, We got heads in beds, people in restaurants, and people buying stuff. We got that right now in Miami-Dade County.”
Students were also major beneficiaries of the OBC. The FAMU National Alumni Association announced $21,000 in donations during its soiree. Donations included $10,000 from the Polk County Alumni Association, $5,000 from Southern Glazer Wines and Spirits and $5,000 from alumna Kim Godwin, ABC News president.
During the football game, the P3 Group Inc. presented a check for a $150,000 donation over three years to the FAMU Foundation Endowment. The P3 Group, Inc. is the nation’s largest minority owned public-private partnership developer.
“I am very pleased,” said Shawnta Friday-Stroud, Ph.D., vice president for University Advancement and executive director of the FAMU Foundation. “People came not just looking to have a good time but looking to support the University and the students”
The OBC events included a Careers in Sports & Entertainment Symposium featuring FAMU alumni such as movie producer Will Packer, Director Rob Hardy, Florida Sports Foundation CEO Angela Suggs, and JSU alumni Cortez Bryant, who manages artists such as Lil Wayne.
At the OBC Welcome & Kickoff Luncheon honorees included State Senator Shevrin Jones, Miami Dade County Commissioner Keon Hardemon, Bryant, Packer and Hardy, and Maia Chaka, the first Black woman to join an NF on the field officiating staff. Actress KJ Smith, a FAMU alumna, served as keynote speaker.
Among the other highlights were two sessions of the Legislative Issues Conference. At the Saturday morning session, participants spoke about how JSU and FAMU alumni in Florida and Mississippi can support each institution’s legislative priorities and make their voices heard. Both schools can benefit from pending federal legislation.
One priority for both FAMU and JSU is New Infrastructure Grant Technology and Education (IGNITE) for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The legislation is part of the $3.5 trillion infrastructure package and will provide support for deferred maintenance for HBCUs. JSU and FAMU are signatories of a September 7, 2021, letter to Congress supporting the legislation.
“The playing field is not level. The infrastructure bill will directly help HBCUs improve our declining infrastructure,” said JSU President Thomas K. Hudson. “We can’t be contenders if underfunding of HBCUs continues.”
Earlier during the pandemic, HBCUs benefited from passage of the federal CARES Act, which allowed institutions, like FAMU, to clear students’ outstanding balances. FAMU also received more than $100 million in debt relief from construction of the 700-bed FAMU Towers and other on campus progress. HBCUs need to improve their advocacy to ensure they get the support they need to withstand economic crises.
“it’s not about us. It’s about the next generation we are cultivating,” said FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D. “When the next coronavirus comes, we need to be better positioned.”
To see more photo highlights from the Orange Blossom Classic visit here.