BET's 'Cousin Jeff' urges blacks to take control of their futures


Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Enlarge |

Jeff Johnson, who hosts the "Jeff Johnson Chronicles" on BET, addresses a crowd Tuesday night in the Reitz Union Grand Ballroom at the University of Florida.

JARRETT BAKER/The Gainesville Sun
Jeffrey I. Johnson, who's known as "Cousin Jeff" on BET, helped kicked off the University of Florida's Black History Month by reminding a crowd of nearly 200 students that the future is in their hands.
He said they can take their hands and sit on them or they can use them to build a better future for themselves, their people and the world.
Johnson spoke to a nearly all black crowd in the Grand Ballroom at the Reitz Union, Tuesday, explaining that black history is more than just one month and that it's up to the audience to make sure others know it.
"We act as if black history is within this box," Johnson said, adding that to most people February is just about slavery and the civil rights movement, which is part of that box. "We can't allow McDonald's to dictate our history to us."
Johnson took the audience through a timeline of famous black leaders, stretching back thousands of years.
But he started with recent history-maker Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who was sworn in as Liberia's new president on Jan. 17 and became the first elected female head of state in Africa.
Then he went back through black leaders in the 1990s, '80s and '70s. He spoke of Marcus Garvey and Harriet Tubman and talked of ancient African civilizations that taught the Greeks math.
"I don't want to be a pimp, a thug or a baby-making machine when I come from a legacy of doctors, lawyers and leaders," he said.
"(We need) black students to teach Asians, Latinos and white students about our history," he said.
He reminded audience members that they don't need a leadership title to be a leader, but they need to have a vision. He also said that when they are leaders, they serve their people and not themselves.
The UF 2006 Black History Month is titled "Return to Royalty," which, according to Billy Holcombe, executive director of the UF Black History Month, is to remind others of the role Africa has had in civilization and its achievements in construction and mathematics.
"We wanted to bring him (Johnson) here because he's college-aged and can give a young person's point of view," said Ashley Gantt, an English major at UF and co-director of speakers for the Black History Month 2006 Committee.
"A lot of students think in the box and they need to realize the outside of the box," she said.
Gabriel DuPree, a wildlife ecology and conservation major at UF and co-director of speakers, said, "Johnson inspires the young generation to continue to strive to be leaders and in doing so they make a connection with their past royalty."
Also scheduled to speak for Black History Month are writer Michael Eric Dyson and filmmaker Spike Lee.
University of Florida Black History Month: Schedule of major events Tonight: Speech by Spike Lee, O'Connell Center, 8 p.m.
Friday: Step Afrika, Rion Ballroom, 9 p.m.
Saturday: Kid's Day, T.B. McPherson Park Feb. 9: Speech by Michael Eric Dyson, Grand Ballroom, 7 p.m.
Feb. 10: Play "Back in the Days," Rion Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Feb. 16: Comedy Show, Grand Ballroom, 7 p.m.
Feb. 17: Fashion X-Clusive, Florida Gym, 7 p.m.
Feb. 18: 17th Annual Florida Invitational Step Show, O'Connell Center, TBA
Feb. 24: Escape to Morocco Ball, Grand Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Feb. 28: Closing ceremonies, Rion Ballroom, 7 p.m.
For a complete list of events, go to the Black History Month Web site, http://grove.ufl.edu/~bhm.
Events schedule Schedule of major events
  • Tonight: Speech by Spike Lee, O'Connell Center, 8 p.m.
  • Friday: Step Afrika, Rion Ballroom, 9 p.m.
  • Saturday: Kid's Day, T.B. McPherson Park
  • Feb. 9: Speech by Michael Eric Dyson, Grand Ballroom, 7 p.m.
  • Feb. 10: Play "Back in the Days," Rion Ballroom, 8 p.m.
  • Feb. 16: Comedy Show, Grand Ballroom, 7 p.m.
  • Feb. 17: Fashion X-Clusive, Florida Gym, 7 p.m.
  • Feb. 18: 17th Annual Florida Invitational Step Show, O'Connell Center, TBA
  • Feb. 24: Escape to Morocco Ball, Grand Ballroom, 8 p.m.
  • Feb. 28: Closing ceremonies, Rion Ballroom, 7 p.m.
    For a complete list of events, go to the Black History Month Web site, http://grove.ufl.edu/~bhm.
    Events schedule The following is a schedule of major events to celebrate Black History Month.
  • Tonight: Speech by Spike Lee, O'Connell Center, 8 p.m.
  • Friday: Step Afrika, Rion Ballroom, 9 p.m.
  • Saturday: Kid's Day, T.B. McPherson Park
  • Feb. 9: Speech by Michael Eric Dyson, Grand Ballroom, 7 p.m.
  • Feb. 10: Play "Back in the Days," Rion Ballroom, 8 p.m.
  • Feb. 16: Comedy Show, Grand Ballroom, 7 p.m.
  • Feb. 17: Fashion X-Clusive, Florida Gym, 7 p.m.
  • Feb. 18: 17th Annual Florida Invitational Step Show, O'Connell Center, TBA
  • Feb. 24: Escape to Morocco Ball, Grand Ballroom, 8 p.m.
  • Feb. 28: Closing ceremonies, Rion Ballroom, 7 p.m.
    For a complete list of events, go to the Black History Month Web site, http://grove.ufl.edu/~bhm.
  • Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

    Comments are currently unavailable on this article

    ▲ Return to Top