By MICHELLE HOLLINGER
Special to South Florida Times
Brianna Rollins captivates. Whether on the track field where she earned a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics or in a quasi- intimate gathering at the beautiful Perez Art Museum Miami, the Miami Northwestern graduate has a way of capturing attention.
On Nov. 2, Rollins held court with local sportscaster, Jim Berry, for the Synergy Symposium where local funders and community organizations that run children’s programs, and other stakeholders assembled to discuss ways to reduce poverty, increase access to education, boost health and safety, promote family and encourage entrepreneurship in the neighborhoods they serve. They were also there to celebrate the hometown hero who is the first athlete from Miami to win a gold medal in an individual Olympic track and field event.
Presented by Concerned African Women Inc., Miami-Dade County and The Children’s Trust, the nearly standing room only event afforded those in attendance to get “up close and personal” with Rollins during what felt more like a casual conversation than interview. She and Berry bantered about her childhood growing up in Liberty City and its role in her emergence as an international track star after winning the 100-meter hurdles.
‘These are people that work with young people every day, they formed non-profits, probably have to fight,” Berry explained about the audience members before asking Rollins what she’d say to motivate them and the children they serve.
“I was one of those kids for sure,” she shared. “We might not appreciate it in that moment, but we realize that you guys are so much appreciated.” She also emphasized the role that community organizations play in helping inner city youth gain exposure to “life outside of Miami and outside of Liberty City.”
Rollins, the eldest of seven siblings, spoke candidly of her struggles and triumphs at the gathering, drawing laughter and spontaneous applause. Although she began running track while she attended Northwestern, Rollins said it wasn’t until college that she realized how far it could take her.
Following the session with Berry, Rollins interacted with audience members to take pictures and answer their questions one on one
She expressed her appreciation for the reception she received upon returning home.
“They embraced me with so much love, some people I never met before. Being able to give hope to the kids and anyone that needed motivation,” Rollins said.
The audience laughed at Rollins’ response to Berry’s question about what she did following her win. “I just ate. During the season you can’t indulge in certain kinds of food, so I just indulged.” Next for Rollins include the world championship next year in London followed by the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.