On FAMU’s campus, Andrew Gillum campaign represents tradition of excellence for HBCU grads

At Florida A&M University, students are bracing for a win and another example of black excellence.

Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In Dr. Atira Charles management class at Florida A&M University, there is a real life case study playing out before students’ eyes: Andrew Gillum, a FAMU alum and pride of Tallahassee, is in the middle of the campaign of a lifetime.

For young Black students at one of the nation’s oldest Historically Black colleges and universities, Gillum is more than a famous alum or a lesson in political leadership– he’s a shining example of the type of quality graduate HBCU’s regularly produce.

“A lot HBCU’s are dying and this is a serious matter, ” said Jabari Knox, a third year political science student from Chicago, IL, who also sits on the Student Government Association’s board.

This is a shining moment to show that in in spite of our disadvantages, we still can succeed.  We should have elected figures on our campus all the time.  This shouldn’t be a new thing for us.  We should be treated like all these other universities because we do breed success,” says Knox.

His fellow classmates agreed, with nearly all students raising their hands when asked if they registered to vote this midterm election season, many inspired by Gillum.

The students watched closely as Gillum navigated the murky waters of racist and political attacks which played out in the media.  How did Gillum handle himself as a Rattler?  In the students’ eyes, he earned an A+.

“It was kind of funny just the way that Mr. Gillum was able to clap back,” said David H. Jackson III, a business major and president of the Student Government Association– the same organization Andrew Gillum once led.

For students like Jackson, who grew up in Tallahassee, Mayor Gillum has been a shining example of leadership from before they started college.

“I was kind of removed from politics,” says Zoë Charlton, who also grew up in Tallahassee and says Mayor Gillum would come to her elementary school to speak about government. “Seeing it in person from a real politician— a real black politician was for me amazing.”

“I remember when I saw reports about when the Hurricane had come through the town  Andrew Gillum was one of the few people who was there like moving debris and helping people… get back together,” says Kayden Hope, a FAMU student.

“From a black man’s perspective he’s a great role model and someone who you can see that’s someone whose being proactive in their community, that’s what we should be doing.”

Tonight as polls close, Mayor Andrew Gillum is hosting a watch party to countdown the final hours and results of his historic race for governor.

Of all the places he could’ve chosen to host it, Gillum picked a place where he knew his presence– and election– would mean the most:

FAMU’s main campus center, in front of the eternal flame, a statue erected in honor of the school’s selection as Time Magazine’s campus of the year in 1997-1998.

“I would not be who I am today were it not for me having passed by the Florida A&M University,” Gillum told theGrio in an interview this summer. “As the saying goes “Iron sharpens iron…” I had the chance to have whatever iron I have, rub up against some other excellent examples of Black excellence. ”

“This shouldn’t be a new thing for us,” says Knox of Gillum’s national moment.  “We should be treated like all these other universities because we do breed success.”