Florida Memorial University president, Dr. Jaffus Hardrick—in reaction to the months of unrest following the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd—announced the founding of the FMU Social Justice Institute. It is my privilege to serve as its founding director. Our intention is to create a research institute and solutions-focused think-tank examining racial inequality and injustice in Miami-Dade County and the state of Florida. The goal of the FMU Social Justice Institute is to serve as a resource for creating and facilitating tangible reforms in order to achieve a more just and fair society. The greater vision, however, is to create in South Florida a society bereft of social injustice and racial disparities.
As the only Historically Black University in South Florida, and with its 142-year track record of educating servant–leaders, Florida Memorial University is well-positioned to explicitly advocate for uplift racial justice for the communities that it has served since its founding in 1879—Live Oak, Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and now Miami Gardens and Opa-locka. Unfortunately, the scourge of anti-Black racial violence that threatened FMU’s existence in both Live Oak and St. Augustine still exist, manifesting in new and vicious ways. The increase in overtly racist speech and actions in the nation over the past several years—as evidenced by both the continued murder of unarmed men and women of color, and the violent murder of Heather Heyer in the aftermath of the White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017—are proof that our nation’s previous efforts toward addressing this long history of inequality are incomplete.
In more recent years, Florida Memorial has also had a front row seat to the tragedy and ongoing movement born by the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin. In 2012, our campus mobilized to support Sybrina Fulton, who is an alumna of FMU. After the marches and the trial, we extended an invitation to the Travyon Martin Foundation to establish their offices on our campus. Since that time, we’ve watched the powerful advocacy and healing work of Tracy Martin, Sybrina, and their family, and the ways that they have embraced and inspired our students.
It makes perfect sense, for both historical and contemporary reasons, that Florida Memorial University would embrace social justice as a core part of its agenda to serve the South Florida community, with hopes to bring real energy and solutions to address the reality of systemic racism and racial injustice. The questions are complicated but the answers are within our reach if we are willing to do the work. FMU is mobilizing the resources of our campus, both capital and human, along with the support of the South Florida community, to address the thorny issues of the day and to produce future change-agents to build a brighter and better society with true opportunity for all. The Social Justice Institute will be the genesis of that work.
– Dr. Tameka Bradley Hobbs, Founding Director for the FMU Social Justice Institute and Associate Provost for Academic Affairs
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