Words By: Jenee Matthew

(Photo Courtesy of Rattlers United) Ferrisa Connell walking to give her occasion of light at the MLK Convocation


Ferrisa Connell, senior Public Relations student Tampa, Fla., did not try to entertain the students of Florida A&M University as she spoke at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. convocation on Friday morning. Instead, she took her opportunity as the occasion speaker to challenge her audience in Jake Gather Gym.

“So I challenge you to be selfless and willing to serve someone,” Connell said. “Somewhere, someone is waiting for you to be that light.”

This was Connell’s first time speaking at convocation. She stated that she was asked because speaker Alisha Gordon is a journalist, advocate and a graduate of a Historically Black College and University, similar to Connell’s lifestyle.

Connell explained that the occasion of “light” is very important to her since she tries to be a light that can help guide others.

“We are here to give honor to a man who showed the world his marvelous life,” Connell said. “Today we pay homage to the life and legacy of civil rights leader, the reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Connell explained how Dr. King’s quote “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,” helped her through a majority of her life’s most difficult moments.

“With the murder of my cousin and death of my niece all in the same year, this quote is how I try to live my life, I try to be used as a light by God’s grace,” Connell said.

Nostalgic memories brightened the faces of those in the audience as Connell shared with them her childhood experiences of MLK day consisting of having a day off from school, attending parades and eating barbecue- not being able to understand the day’s importance.

As a member of the women’s conference, she helped plan project 126, a community service initiative that helped her realize that MLK day was not just a day of fun and barbecue, but a day of community, humanitarian service and interracial cooperation.

Connell said it was her time here at FAMU that opened her eyes to the importance of the holiday and she began to participate in activities with the sole purpose to serve and empower others.

“It was about lifting someone else up and that’s the power of an HBCU,” Connell said.

Connell concluded her speech with the bible scripture Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to our God who is in heaven” hoping to encourage students to leave Gaither Gym that morning be that light

(Photo Courtesy of Ferrisa Connell) Ferrisa Connell with convocation keynote speaker Alisha Gordon
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