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New coach, new initiative might be game-changer for Florida Memorial University

‘Lift Ev’ry Voice’ is at the center of school’s plan to help uplift HBCUs

4:02 PMFlorida Memorial University, a historically black university (HBCU) in Miami Gardens, Florida, is going all out to let people know it’s about the culture.

First, it launched an initiative called Lift Ev’ry Voice to inspire entertainers, athletes, authors, professionals and entrepreneurs to recommit and support HBCUs. Next, with the help of NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, the school introduced its new head men’s basketball coach, Ansar Al-Ameen. Thomas was instrumental in getting Al-Ameen to the school.

Before the announcements Tuesday, there was much suspense on campus as media, students and the university community gathered for a news conference.

During the news conference, Thomas and FMU president Jaffus Hardrick talked about the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the black national anthem. Hardrick said it was birthed at FMU by brothers John Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson. James wrote it as a poem; John put it to music.

“HBCUs are still relevant institutions, and they remain committed to educating today’s and tomorrow’s students and preparing them to compete in the 21st-century global marketplace or pursue graduate degrees,” said Hardrick.

Added Thomas, who coached the Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks and later Florida International University: “HBCUs are just as important today as they were when they were founded in our society.”

Al-Ameen, who was head coach at Prairie View A&M and an assistant at Texas Southern and Fresno State, said after his introduction: “It was an amazing opportunity just to come here. You know, I think back at all my time as an assistant, all my time working with NBA players, all my time wanting this opportunity.”

Al-Ameen, known as one of the best workout trainers in the country, is credited with coaching top players, including LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce. During his career, he’s been described as a no-nonsense coach whose steady diet of consistent discipline has helped transform students who were being written off into honor roll students.

“I’ve known Ansar for years,” said Thomas, who is a close friend of Hardrick’s. “I’ve watched his work with players. I’m positive that with these young athletes that we have here, that he’ll impart knowledge and he’ll impart wisdom.”