Sep 7, 2021
For most, Sunday’s Orange Blossom Classic (OBC) was greater than a season-opening sport. It marked the primary time in 43 years that the famend occasion returned to South Florida, bringing the Florida A&M University Rattlers and Jackson State University Tigers to the Hard Rock Stadium discipline.
For Kendra Bulluck-Major, bringing again the OBC wasn’t simple – however she stopped at nothing to get it carried out, together with the assistance of native officers and universities.
Now the manager director of the Orange Blossom Classic Association, Bulluck-Major was first launched to the sport by her father. He didn’t attend FAMU however was a fan of the college’s marching band – the Marching 100.
“He would always tell me about the Orange Blossom Classic parade and that’s what piqued my interest to say, well, let me learn more about this and let’s see what we can do to revive it,” she mentioned.
Bulluck-Major spearheaded the trouble by reaching out to Oliver Gilbert III, vice chair of the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, and explaining what an excellent concept it could be to convey the sport again, contemplating the historical past and significance of what it meant to the neighborhood.
“A lot of people had the idea, but Kendra Bulluck-Major approached me years ago with the idea of bringing the Orange Blossom back,” mentioned Gilbert. “She had a good plan, so we sat down and started talking about it.”
As a FAMU alumnus, Gilbert made it his mission to convey the OBC to Miami Gardens.
“The reason why I dived in and started to make it happen is because I remembered what the Orange Blossom was when I was a kid,” he mentioned. “I know what it meant to my generation when we were growing up, and I knew what it could be for future generations.”
Continuing to fulfill with officers, together with then Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez, Bulluck-Major was able to set her plan in movement when everybody got here on board.
Back in 2019, Giménez handed a $9 billion county price range for fiscal year 2019-20, which offered funding for the return of the OBC and the Battle of the Bands occasion. The revival of the OBC was introduced by the City of Miami Gardens again in 2020, with FAMU set to play towards Albany State University, however the relaunch was postponed as a result of world COVID-19 pandemic.
“[The OBC] plays a significant role in the history of not only Black Miami, but HBCUs throughout the country,” mentioned Miami Gardens Mayor Rodney Harris. “All we’re doing here in the city right now is welcome them with open arms.”
Working solo on an enormous project like bringing the sport again and producing weekend occasions surrounding it turned out to be extraordinarily troublesome. Bulluck-Major started to assemble a crew of employees on board.
“I knew I needed help. I started off with one assistant,” she mentioned. “From there it was getting even more overwhelming, so I started contracting individuals. Just learning the process and learning the different moving parts, not just the football game, but the luncheon and all of these events around the game.”
Headlined by restaurant chain Denny’s and powered by The P3 Group, a number of sponsors for the sport and its weekend occasions included Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami Gardens, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, Bacardi, Lowe’s, Pepsi and Toyota.
Neki Mohan, Nat Moore, Angela Suggs and Myles Pistorius (L-R), panelists at Friday’s “Careers in Sports and Entertainment” symposium.
(Bianca Marcof for The Miami Times)
Florida A&M University college students and alumni pose for a bunch photograph on the “Careers in Sports and Entertainment” symposium on the Hard Rock Stadium.
(Bianca Marcof for The Miami Times)
A Jackson State University scholar asks panelists a question eventually Friday’s symposium about careers in sports activities and leisure.
(Bianca Marcof for The Miami Times)
“We have been very fortunate to have a lot of corporate partners this year,” mentioned Bulluck-Major. “There’s been a lot that’s happened in our country over the last few months, and this is the way to show the diversity and the spirit of Black excellence, just seeing individuals who are supportive of their institutions.”
Despite all of the actions surrounding the sport, which included a live performance and a parade, college students didn’t go unnoticed.
On Friday, a job recruitment truthful hosted by CareerSource and a “Careers in Sports and Entertainment” symposium befell on the stadium, permitting for college kids and alumni to use to jobs and hearken to panelists in careers they is perhaps thinking about. Panelists included Miami Dolphins nice Nat Moore, Angela Suggs of the Florida Sports Foundation, music government Cortez Bryant, movie producer Will Packer and others.
“To have [the game] back and hopefully to see it grow and be what it once was or even better is a motivating factor for me to get involved,” Moore mentioned. “I always look at this as a great opportunity to share good experiences. I am who I am today because other people came to share with me when I was young.”
From 1933 to 1978, the OBC was the must-see sport of the postseason. Founded by J.R.E. Lee Jr., the son of FAMU’s president, the inaugural sport was performed in entrance of two,000 followers at a “Black-only” ballpark in Jacksonville. FAMU beat Howard 9-0.
The postseason faculty soccer sport was generally known as the “Black National Championship” and matchups between FAMU and different HBCUs continued on for 45 years consecutively in Jacksonville, Tampa, Tallahassee and Miami – which recurrently drew crowds of greater than 40,000 to the Orange Bowl. Legendary Hall of Fame coach Alonzo Smith “Jake” Gaither led the FAMU Rattlers to 11 victories within the basic from 1947 to 1969.
After a greater than 40-year hiatus, the sport is seeking to keep.
“My commitment is to make sure that we keep this game here within our city so that we continue to expose it to our kids,” mentioned Miami Gardens Vice Mayor Reggie Leon. “And from the national level, help those HBCU football players get the same opportunities as students that go to PWIs (predominantly white institutions) when it comes to contracts with the NFL and things like that with exposure.”
Moving ahead, Harris mentioned the town is engaged on getting a long-term settlement to ensure the OBC has a house on the Hard Rock Stadium.
“We’re looking forward to making sure that it’s always here because it’s a tradition and it’s something that our younger generation can be proud of,” he mentioned.
“We have two wonderful universities that have expressed the desire to allow this to move forward. As long as we have the support of our local officials, the support of the universities, I anticipate this being around for years to come,” Bulluck-Major mentioned. “On Oct. 1, we’re right back into planning for next year, so it is an ongoing process.”
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