FIU celebrates Maya Angelou’s legacy, brings together Little Haiti community

Education Effect director Donnie Hale Jr; FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg; postdoctoral associate Education Effect Little Haiti Margarette Mahotiere; Carlotta Walls LaNier; and vice president for Engagement Saif Y. Ishoof.


That is the word used to describe women like Carlotta Walls LaNier and Maya Angelou, whose courage and resilience paved the way for desegregation, the civil rights movement and helped change the lives of thousands of black Americans who suffered through extreme racism.

Walls LaNier confronted angry mobs and the Arkansas National Guard to enter Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision ordered the desegregation of schools. Angelou is best known as an author, but as her grandson and community activist at Airbnb Elliot Jones says: “She was a civil rights activist before she was an author. She would make it a point to show up and stand and would not move or be moved.”

On April 4, Walls LaNier spoke to more than 100 community leaders in Little Haiti – including Maya Angelou’s grandson Elliot Jones, FIU President, Mark B. Rosenberg and Vice President for Engagement Saif Y. Ishoof – for a day of reflection and celebration in honor of Angelou and her 89th birthday. Angelou passed away in 2014. 

“It is truly an honor to be here on Dr. Maya Angelou’s birthday,” Walls LaNier said. “I am very impressed with the history of collaboration between FIU and the community. I wish I had that in 1957, but the efforts that you have put into making your community and education system work together is just phenomenal.”

Also in attendance were Education Effect Director Donnie Hale Jr.; the director of the Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center and FIU alumna Gepsie Metellus; and the Little Haiti Education Effect donor Rose Ellen Greene. Bringing together some of Little Haiti’s most influential and impactful community leaders, the breakfast was an opportunity to share and celebrate successes, discuss innovations and opportunities for collaboration, and to learn about the work FIU was doing in Little Haiti.

With a $2 million donation from Greene, a longtime volunteer at Jesse J. McCrary Jr. Elementary School, the Education Effect – a groundbreaking partnership between FIU and Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) aimed at student achievement – expanded into the historic Little Haiti community. The gift is the largest in Education Effect history.

The expansion into McCrary Elementary also marks the first time the program is working with students, their parents and the community to together address issues with students in the school and the feeder pattern schools.

In addition, it has incorporates researchers, faculty, and staff from FIU’s Center for Children and Families, a nationally recognized interdisciplinary clinical center committed to improving the lives of children and families.

“Both Maya and Carlotta have dedicated much of their lives to helping others reach their American dream,” President Rosenberg said at the breakfast. “At FIU we are no different. From the beginning, FIU has always been about access. We believe that no one who is driven and determined deserves to fall through the cracks. We measure our success by who we include not exclude.”