The street is blocked off south of Bethel A.M.E. Church. Young marching-band members clog the road, reviewing their formations. Majorettes take their final stretches, wearing outfits designed to sparkle in the sun. Band members blow out their last practice notes. There are a few white folks sprinkled throughout the crowd, but approaching the campus, it’s clear that Homecoming Day at Florida A&M University might be the blackest place possible to meet Andrew Gillum.
That makes it the perfect place, really. The man who may soon become Florida’s first African American governor arrived here almost 19 years ago as a freshman, and ended up protesting the state’s governor at the time: Jeb Bush. Gillum was one of the organizers against Bush’s push in 2000 to tier the state university system in a way that would have put FAMU at the bottom, making it a “baccalaureate factory,” as Gillum called it, without graduate programs. Bush did succeed in endIng affirmative action in state college admissions, but Gillum and his fellow Rattlers helped FAMU maintain its master’s and doctorate programs. Now, he is asking Floridians to give him Bush’s old job.