November 19, 2009Raynard JacksonLast week I was honored to be asked to moderate a panel on leadership during the annual Fall Leadership Institute of the Florida African American Student Association Incorporated (F.A.A.S.A.).F.A.A.S.A. was born in the spring of 1976 under the name of the Florida Black Student Union. It was founded by six institutions: Florida A&M University, Florida Atlantic University, Hillsborough Community College, Indian River Community College, Palm Beach Community College, and St. Petersburg Junior College. Its purpose was developing, implementing, intensifying and perpetuating a complete program to identify and address educational, economic and cultural concerns of students of African descent. F.A.A.S.A. represents over 60,000 students in colleges and universities throughout the state of Florida. Their PACE PLAN (Political Activism; Academic Excellence; Cultural Awareness, and Economic Empowerment) is the vehicle used to address these concerns.What began as a dream has turned into a magnificent reality. Over 200 college student leaders from throughout the state of Florida and not one male had pants hanging below their waists nor one female inappropriately advertising their bodies. Not one time did I hear the word “nigga!” Not one time did these students blame outside forces for the state of their lives (negative or positive); but rather they concluded that they were a product of the choices they made. They each could have fulfilled all the stereotypes about young Blacks—selling drugs, indiscriminately impregnating girls, wearing clothes that showcases the most intimate features of their bodies, talking loud and sassy to authority figures (of course with the obligatory neck moving in a circular motion).But, none of that. Each student presented their own set of personal issues that had to be addressed (as we all must face). That is exactly why I am so optimistic about these students. They have chosen the path of education as the springboard to enlightenment and opportunity. Some have been dealt a very disastrous hand, but they have made the decision to rise above the hand they have been dealt.The whole approach and purpose of F.A.A.S.A. is not to make these student’s problems disappear, but rather to equip them to make the best decision that will lend itself towards resolving their issues.I could have easily chosen any of the young ladies at random (and unannounced) and plucked them from any of the events and taken them straight to a White House function with me and they would have blended in perfectly in terms of dress and social skills. I could have just as easily taken any of the young men to a business meeting with me and Donald Trump and be confident that they could have hung with some of Trump’s question.You had students like Andria (stop existing and start living…follow yours dreams….God has already equipped you to make them come true); Paul & Ryan (God has placed in you a great desire to serve…go for it!); Kesheena (the Queen Bee; you have a lot of people who look to you for guidance…but don’t let them become dependent on you); Michael (as president, always remember, that one measure of a man is the caliber of those who choose to follow you…from what I have seen, you will be a great leader); Brianna (the little quite storm…believe in yourself as I believe in you…I want to see your drawings); Shamecca (you have been tried by fire, but so has a diamond…so, let your light so shine); Lashae (Miss personality…your personality will open doors no man can close); Chelsea (your smile lights up the dark…don’t live your life in fear of loss, but rather live in hope of gain!); Tony (the gentle giant…your personality is like honey to bees…that could be good or bad…the choice is yours); or Troy (you have a great memory and a sharp mind…stretch yourself to be even better than you already are).Where was the media? Why wouldn’t they cover such a gathering? But, I can guarantee, had something gone wrong or a fight had broken out at the hotel, there would have been 24/7 coverage of this event. To all my friends in the media, I will be awaiting your response to this.I am encouraging all my readers to visit F.A.A.S.A.’s website at: www.faasaweb.org to learn more about this great organization. Hopefully, by January you will be able to make contributions through their website. Until then, you should contact them and send them a contribution. We have all criticized today’s students (and in most cases rightfully so), but now you have been made aware of a group that is everything we claim students should be—by way of their behavior and decisions. Now, it’s up to us to reinforce their choices by supporting them financially, spiritually, and emotionally.FAASA’s Board of Elders (board of directors) has made a total commitment to this organization (and mind you, they are volunteers). A chicken can give eggs indiscriminately, with little or no effort, but when you ask a pig for bacon, that’s a total commitment. The Board of Elders are giving bacon to F.A.S.S.A. I understand that everybody is not willing to give bacon, but everybody can give a few eggs (dollars). Please reach out to the elders and show your support. They are James “Jim” Parker, Vertrilla Hunt, Felicia Phair, Donald Cleveland, and Ann Birdsong. Elders, always remember, “The sign of a great teacher is one who makes himself increasingly unnecessary.”Remember, when all is said and done, there’s more said than done. I am committed to helping F.A.A.S.A. become bigger and better. Participating in their conference took me back to the days of my youth and how I grew up. A time when you were surrounded with groups like F.A.S.S.A. and people who actually cared about you. As far as Florida goes, when it comes to students, all things are F.A.A.S.A (ble)!