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FAMU president forced to hit ‘pause’ on historic $238 million gift from mystery black donor as wave of skeptics question gift’s legitimacy



Gregory Gerami

One of the most important donations to a historically black college or university is now being withheld after scrutiny by some HBCU alumni and supporters due to the donor’s confidential background.

Investor Gregory Gerami is behind the historic nine-figure donation to Florida A&M University. His $237.75 million gift is one of the most important awards ever received by an HBCU from a single donor, according to the anonymous donor. FAMU edition from May 4.

But the gift raised concerns amongst some alumni and university board members who were unfamiliar with the Gerami name and company. That, combined along with his connection to a botched $1 million donation to one other university, raised more suspicion, a lot in order that a university official called a news conference on Sunday to dispel that skepticism.

In response to the growing confusion, a gathering was held on Thursday throughout the FAMU Foundation Management Board meeting, attended by, amongst others, according to WCTV. The meeting was broadcast via the Zoom platform. FAMU President Larry Robinson confirmed that officials will “pause” the donation “pending additional information as I become aware of it.”

Adding: “It is in our best interest to put this case on hold.”

Gregory Gerami's donation to FAMU called a fraud and scam by skeptics due to his low profile online
FAMU officials received a $237 million gift from the Issac Batterson seventh Family Trust and CEO Gregory Gerami. (Photo: WCTV video screenshot)

Gerami, 30, heads Batterson Farms Corp, a hydroponic farming and hemp plastics company that produces bioplastics and fresh organic products. He founded the corporate in 2021.

Although he didn’t share his fortune, he stated that the majority of his wealth was inherited from his adopted family. According to The Sun News, before the CCU deal fell through, school administrators said his 2020 net value was about $600 million and his money assets were nearly $260 million.

Unlike many millionaire entrepreneurs, Gerami has no online presence, so his dealings are shrouded in secrecy. But he said the skepticism and scrutiny he has faced since news of his donation to FAMU became public explains why he doesn’t share much online.

“This is a prime example of why I don’t have an online presence and don’t care about having one” – Gerami said the Tallahassee Democrat. “People take things out of context. They are running away, harming and hurting people with information that is incorrect and simply inappropriate.”

The need to protect his family also motivates him to determine to stay behind the scenes. “I have a family, younger children and I come from a large family,” Gerami told an area portal. “I was born one of eight children and have nine siblings, even in my adopted family. As a parent and a family person, I have to protect my family and their safety is the most important thing.”

FAMU’s gift was funded by the Isaac Batterson Family seventh Trust, which contributed 14 million shares value not less than $239 million and can contribute a further $61 million over 10 years, according to a set schedule.

According to FAMU’s Sunday announcement, these shares were sent a month ago.

“Mr. The $237,750,000 transfer of Gerami shares was received in the same manner as we accepted all other shares donated to the University through FAMU Foundation Inc.” FAMU wrote. “As with any non-monetary gift received, such as cryptocurrency, real estate and stocks, it will be converted to cash and recorded accordingly.”

While Ivy League colleges across the country, such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton, receive massive gifts running into the billions annually, gifts to historically black colleges and universities pale as compared.

In 2019, foundations gave $5.5 billion to Ivy League schools, while 99 HBCUs contributed a complete of about $45 million. Typically, schools like Spelman, Morehouse, Hampton and Howard capture a bigger share of donations to HBCUs annually.

According to a report by ABC 27, the donation is meant for scholarships and programmatic enhancements to the college’s Disability Access and Resource Center, FAMU’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences and the School of Nursing.

It also features a general fund to support student success initiatives and special needs of the university on the president’s discretion, according to the local outlet.

As for why Gerami selected FAMU, he said the college’s focus and research opportunities in hemp production align along with his company’s goals.

While the colleges’ statements suggest the validity of the agreement, questions remain about its transparency, that are compounded by the consequence of its latest commitment to one other university.

According to The Sun 2020. Gerami was an anonymous donor who made a $95 million donation to Coastal Carolina University that fell apart inside 4 months of the announcement. Like FAMU, Gerami has no affiliation with CCU, but was reportedly dating someone from the university on the time of the donation.

The CCU award was announced in July 2020. In the next months, Gerami and the college were at odds after university officials expressed uncertainty about whether Gerami had the resources to finance the donation.

Gerami also claimed that a CCU official made racist and offensive statements towards him before his relationship with the college completely disintegrated. During negotiations with CCU, Gerami also considered making donations to other HBCUs, including FAMU.

Board vice president and FAMU alumnus Deveron Gibbons told the Tallahassee Democrats he was unaware of the donation to a Florida HBCU until the college announced it publicly throughout the commencement ceremony, where Gerami spoke.

“As Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees, I have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the university I value, but I have deep concerns that this process is moving too quickly to accept a gift without appropriate oversight.”—Gibbons he said in a press release to Democrats.

Gibbons called for extraordinary board meeting which can happen on May 15.

“We are fully aware of the skepticism that sometimes accompanies such a large gift,” FAMU said in its statement on Sunday. “As expected, some people in the public are and will continue to conduct research into Mr. Gerami. We would like to inform you that FAMU has exercised due diligence in this matter. Additionally, Mr. Gerami has conducted and continues to conduct due diligence on matters that have occurred and are occurring at FAMU.”

Another HBCU alum wrote a viral article with a provocative headline questioning the validity of the donation. Jerell Blakeley, a graduate of Howard University, published a column in: Education News Flash’s HBCU Digest on May 6 under the title “For the love of money, was FAMU deceived?”

Blakeley couldn’t come to terms with the low status of the Gerami, which seems to be at odds with the more famous donors.

“It’s not like Mackenzie Scott and the hundreds of thousands she gave to a number of HBCUs. People know who she is, where her wealth comes from, and the way HBCUs have grow to be a focus for her donations. Robert Smith is the richest black man in America, and since of one gift, Gerami, as a virtual unknown company he founded three years ago, outweighs Smith’s donations?

Blakeley called on all university management to resign “if this turns out to be a fraud”.

Gerami, nonetheless, stays confused by the entire ordeal.

“The stock has been held by the university for over a month now, so I don’t know where there would be any confusion or skepticism since the company is already in the university’s financial account,” Gerami told the Tallahassee Democrat.

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Politics and Current

Watch: Advocacy group raises alarm over police reform and artificial intelligence racial bias




Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, sits before the Grio’s “Hill with April Ryan.”

In this week’s edition of The Grio Journal, “The Hill with April Ryan,” we tackle the difficulty of police accountability, a top concern for a lot of Black Americans who proceed to call for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, is amongst those calling for federal laws within the wake of the fatal police shooting of U.S. Airman Roger Fortson on May 3 in Florida.

Hewitt tells Grio that any “chance” of passing George Floyd laws would have occurred throughout the last Congress. Republicans, who currently control the U.S. House of Representatives, oppose working with Democrats to pass any bill that may tighten accountability measures for law enforcement officers. Meanwhile, the White House continues to induce Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which was thwarted by Republican Sen. Tim Scott, who led negotiations on behalf of the GOP. Hewitt also spoke with theGrio about one other essential issue regarding racial justice: racial bias in artificial intelligence.

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Politics and Current

NOLA residents unhappy with Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s efforts




LaToya Cantrell, New Orleans Mayor

A recent survey conducted for the New Orleans Crime Coalition shows continued public dissatisfaction with Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s leadership.

For the second 12 months in a row, a majority of city residents expressed their disapproval of the mayor’s actions: only 31% expressed their support. According to the study, last 12 months only 30 percent approved her administrationwhile a staggering 60% were opposed.

Cantrell’s current disapproval rating of 59% comes as she has been embroiled in quite a few controversies, including her personal use of a city-owned apartment in Upper Pontalba and frequent taxpayer-funded out-of-town travel.

The New Orleans City Council voted to remove Cantrell this 12 months if she didn’t vacate the Upper Pontalba premises and take away her personal belongings by a certain date. Council Vice President JP Morrell, who sponsored the eviction petition, accused the mayor of “circumventing the law.”

Cantrell was also accused of upgrading her airline tickets to first-class using taxpayer funds. The Louisiana Ethics Commission found that 13 domestic and two international flights underwent upgrades at a price of nearly $30,000 over a two-year period.

Fox 8 also noted the federal investigation into Mayor Cantrell’s relationship with former security officer Jeffrey Vappie. As Dr. Robert Collins, a policy analyst at Dillard University, stated: “Society takes all these issues into account… In addition, they are dissatisfied with the fact that their city services are not provided effectively.”

While a brand new 2024 survey shows Cantrell’s approval rating for dealing with crime increasing from 24% to 29%, her disapproval rating is 62%. Additionally, its approval rating for solving infrastructure problems is just 24%, down one percentage point from the previous 12 months.

The annual survey, conducted May 29-June 4, 2024, is predicated on a representative sample of 800 accomplished interviews with adults (18 years and older) living in New Orleans. The racial composition of the sample is 58% African American, 35% Caucasian, and seven% other.

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Politics and Current

Florida police officers twice kicked down an innocent black woman’s door and forced her naked out of her home in front of multiple officers and her children




Florida Deputies Bust Down Innocent Black Woman

The same Florida sheriff’s department that got here under fire last month for shooting and killing a black U.S. Air Force senior airman has been sued for twice breaking right into a black woman’s home and dragging her outside naked, where she was handcuffed and left standing in front of his house, in front of his two children.

LaTanya Griffin wasn’t even named on the warrant issued by Okaloosa County sheriff’s deputies after they broke into her home twice in the predawn hours in 2019 and 2020, waking her from sleep and ordering him to depart, in response to the federal lawsuit Griffin filed last month.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office can be the identical law enforcement agency whose deputy in November 2023 repeatedly shot at a police automobile containing an unarmed black man in handcuffs after he was startled by an acorn falling from a tree and hitting the police automobile. Deputy Jesse Hernandez resigned.

Florida police officers twice kicked down an innocent black woman's door and forced her naked out of her home in front of multiple officers and her children
Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Eden (Photo: YouTube screenshot/WKRG)

Griffin’s lawsuit is one other black eye for law enforcement in the Florida Panhandle, which oversees a population of 212,000 people. The family of Airman Roger Fortson, who died last month in a questionable accident, can be prone to file a lawsuit following the arrest of attorney Benjamin Crump. The deputy on the case, Eddie Duran, was fired.

According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, in Griffin’s case, deputies were in search of a person named Tony Streeter, who was wanted on drug trafficking, firearms and arson charges. According to the Department of Justice, Streeter has already been convicted and is serving a 30-year prison sentence US Department of Justice.

It’s not clear from the lawsuit or Justice Department press releases what Streeter’s connection was to Griffin’s residence, however the only charges she ever faced in reference to the 2 raids were two misdemeanors stemming from the second incident: possession of lower than 20 grams of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia drug-related. But those charges were dismissed. Court records available online show Griffin’s only other run-ins with the law in the past were for traffic violations and evictions, but they were mostly civil matters.

In the lawsuit, Griffin names Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden and retired Deputy Grady Carpenter, who oversaw each raids. Spokesman for the sheriff’s office he told McClatchy News that Aden was not sheriff during these two incidents and subsequently cannot comment on the matter.

However, Kevin R. Anderson, an attorney representing Griffin, told McClatchy News that he was being sued “in an official capacity,” not a “personal capacity.”

“Knowing that a person is naked or completely naked, not once, but twice, and then just being taken out of their apartment and into a public place for people to have access to what they look like… it’s just indescribable,” Anderson said . McClatchy News.

According to the lawsuit, the primary incident occurred on Aug. 29, 2019, and the second occurred on May 28, 2020. In each incidents, officers used battering rams to wake her from sleep and ordered her to go outside naked, where she was forced to face in front of multiple officers, including local, state and federal officers, for a “significant amount of time” in front of his 14-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter.

“Okaloosa sheriff’s deputies ultimately placed a sleeveless shirt over plaintiff’s head, providing partial coverage but not coverage of her genitalia,” the lawsuit says.

Griffin is searching for greater than $1 million in damages.

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