April 4, 2013
. — Throughout his lifetime, Florida A&M University (FAMU) alumnus Jemal Omar Gibson — an author, motivational speaker, corporate executive and philanthropist — has been called to teach, speak, serve and inspire. In his first book, Drugs: My Curse, My Savior, Gibson chronicles how he escaped the surroundings that unapologetically threatened to destroy him. Born to drug addicted parents, Gibson was forced to navigate through the toxic world of illegal drugs, poverty and violence in search of a better life.
“I wanted to chronicle my life story for my daughters because I knew if something happened to me, no one would be able to piece my life together,” Gibson said. “Then, after talking with (motivational speaker) Les Brown, I knew it was more than just my story, but a story that could be used to help uplift others.”
Gibson, a Chicago native, arrived at FAMU as a student with $20 in his pocket, and without housing or financial aid. He received numerous scholastic achievement awards, including an Army ROTC scholarship. After completing two internships with Apple Computer, Inc., he was offered a full-time position as a systems engineer while he was still a full-time student. Gibson, who graduated with honors from FAMU’s School of Business and Industry in 1993, later served as an infantry officer in the United States Army. He says the discipline he gained through these educational and business experiences stand in direct contrast to his chaotic upbringing.
“There is no doubt in my mind that I am the man I am today because of FAMU,” he said. “That's why I try to give back inspirationally by speaking to the students whenever I can, and professionally by hiring as many as I can and financially with various scholarships. When I arrived with just $20 and no financial aid, they could have sent me home – which they almost did. But (FAMU Professor) Dr. Richard Flamer saved my life. I don’t mean that tongue-in-cheek. Many in my family didn't make it and if he would have sent me home, I honestly believe there is a good chance I wouldn't be here answering this question. So when I say ‘FAMU, I Love Thee,’ I truly mean it.”
Gibson currently serves as the commercial business director for AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals. Throughout his professional career, he has proven to be a gifted communicator with an ability to inspire and motivate. He has trained thousands of individuals on a variety of personal and professional leadership development strategies. He has spoken at countless workshops, schools and for various organizations and corporations including Kraft, AT&T, Volkswagen, the National Sales Network, and the 2012 and 2013 Disney’s Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine.
“Right after the book came out, I started getting requests from Fortune 500 companies, non-profits, schools, and churches to come and tell my story,” he said. “But (motivational speaking) is something that has been a part of my affirmations since 2009.”
In 2010, he established the Jemal Gibson Suit Scholarship Mission, which provides $30,000 to FAMU’s School of Business and Industry to purchase business suits for students in need. The suits are a requirement for specific classes and forums within SBI. He has donated hundreds of books to substance abuse centers, community organizations and book clubs aimed at inspiring others to rise above their circumstances, and to help improve literacy. During Hurricane Katrina and the 2011 tornados that devastated parts of Georgia and Alabama, Gibson helped secure corporate donations and volunteered his time to help others recover. In 2012, Gibson received FAMU’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Gibson and his wife, Lisa, reside in Atlanta. The couple has three daughters, Iman, Zhara and Nadya.
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