FAMU’s homecoming comes full circle for Professor alum

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Maurice Johnson, a returning professor at Florida A&M University, hasn’t missed a return to FAMU since the moment he first set foot on campus in 2002.

This year marks his 20th homecoming – themed “The FAMU Experience” – and the first year of his “homecoming” to college just in time to celebrate coinciding milestones.

“It’s amazing,” Johnson said. “The students immediately embraced me when I returned. Some of my former students were 18 and 19 when I had them, and now they are seniors and in leadership positions.

Johnson previously taught at FAMU from 2011-2020 before leaving to teach at Florida State University. He now teaches at both schools.

At FAMU, Johnson currently teaches Hip-Hop and Global Mass Communication, an online course, as well as Visual Storytelling, a course that has never been taught before at the university.

He also continues to teach at FSU in the Media Techniques and Mass Media Law courses.

Johnson earned his bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from FAMU in 2007 and his master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from FSU in 2011.

He says that although he left FAMU for a year to teach at FSU, he “never closed the door” to his initial alma mater.

“It was an opportunity to go back to the J School (School of Journalism and Graphic Communication) in addition to teaching here, the institution from which I acquired the knowledge that became the basis of everything I I do now,” Johnson said.

Dean of the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication Mira Lowe says it’s gratifying to have Johnson back in the classroom as a teacher.

“Having been a student at FAMU, Professor Johnson really connects with the students here,” Lowe said. “He inspires them, and they inspire him too.”

Johnson finds many of his students stopping by his class to tell him how important he has been in what they have become.

“It makes me feel good to know that despite my absence, I was still present here,” Johnson said. “Now that I’m back, I can pick up where I left off.”

Another coincidence is that the FAMU School of Journalism and Graphic Communication, from which Johnson graduated, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

“I am thrilled to celebrate the school’s 40th anniversary this year, especially during homecoming week when alumni from across the country will be on campus,” Lowe said. “Having former students return to SJGC to reconnect and meet current students is a great moment. The camaraderie cannot be matched.

Founded in 1982, FAMU’s journalism program is the first to be nationally accredited at a historically black college or university (HBCU).

University graduates include ABC News President Kimberly Godwin, comedian and Daily Show correspondent Roy Wood Jr., former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and ESPN play-by-play commentator Tiffany Greene, who will be the speaker for Friday’s call. .

The journalism school will host a reception Thursday at the Meek-Eaton Black Archives from 6-9 p.m.

Significance of FAMU and HBCU homecomings

With FAMU being an HBCU, Johnson explained how his establishment was born out of necessity as it was created to serve black people when they were barred from attending most colleges in the late 1800s.

Having attended an HBCU adds to Johnson’s pride in the university and reason for celebration, especially since he is a first-generation student. Born at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia, he is the child of two military veterans – his father from Detroit, Michigan and his mother from Canton, Ohio – who met while stationed there.

“‘The FAMU Experience’ is about experiencing love and charity and embodying it once you leave the institution,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t stop when you take that step and graduate.”

He remembers how, when he was traveling in FAMU clothing, people often stopped him to let him know they were excited about him being a Rattler. For Johnson, the small act relates to the strong symbolism of the university and how students and alumni should represent it positively.

“FAMU’s homecoming experiences have such an impact, not only for students and alumni abroad, but for the culture as a whole,” said the FAMU alumnus, Melissa Mitchell, a Miami native who currently lives in Atlanta. “We see the influence of FAMU everywhere. Everywhere we turn there’s a Rattler doing something.

Mitchell, who is also a full-time artist and founder of the company Abeille Creations, has been attending FAMU reunions for 30 years even though she started attending FAMU in 2000. There are more than 50 FAMU graduates in her family.

She knew without a doubt that she would be part of this week’s events.

“It’s a chance to remember all it took to graduate, what it means to be a Rattler and what it feels like to have accomplished so many different things,” said Mitchell said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to come back every year. This year will definitely be a FAMU experience and an epic experience.

Stronger links between alumni and FAMU, back to basics

FAMU alumnus Patrick Crawford, 71, has been attending the much-anticipated reunion since 1964 when his siblings were college students. He graduated from FAMU in 1974.

Crawford is currently in Tallahassee and says he looks forward to the excitement, the competition and the football game when he gets home, as well as seeing some old faces.

“I started my teenage experience watching my first football game at FAMU, and I was amazed to say the least,” said Crawford, a native of Marianna, Florida. “From that time on, I attended reunions every year until I finally became a student. It was a dream of my life to attend, and my desire to return continued strengthened over the years.

Crawford met his wife Carolyn Crawford at FAMU, and his children also attended college – including two-time FAMU graduate Omari Crawford, who served as Mr. FAMU from 2008 to 2009.

Omari Crawford will also be attending this year’s reunion and sees it as more than just an opportunity to catch up with old friends. For him, it is also an opportunity to get closer to his family.

When he enrolled in FAMU in 2004, he was one of approximately 40 relatives from both sides of his extended family attending college. Since Omari Crawford graduated in 2009, more than 70 of them have attended or graduated from FAMU.

“It means more to me than to anyone else,” said Omari Crawford, 36, from Decatur, Georgia. “When I go home, it’s not just to see friends, colleagues, teammates and classmates, but it’s also to see a lot of my family members. It really is a family reunion. »

This year’s FAMU reunion began on Sunday October 23rd and will continue until Saturday October 29th.

“We’re really looking forward to getting back together, catching up and feeling the spirit that we felt when we were 18 and first set foot on the hill,” Johnson said.

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