Culture | September 23rd, 2020
From Mascot to Mr. FAMU: Redefining Royalty
By: Dejania Oliver
The royal court serves as the faces of the College of Love and Charity (COLAC). Kimani Jackson has earned his crown now as the twenty-first Mr. FAMU.
Jackson had a smooth transition from high school to college in 2017. He was involved in school and he served as the vice president of his class and the president of the student council. So, when he came to FAMU, he naturally involved himself in many different organizations and became a “hidden figure” on campus as Venom, the school’s mascot.
Many students had speculations about Venom’s identity. Jackson served as the mascot for three years and revealed his identity with the documentary: Unmasked. As a performer, he enjoyed the work and liked that he could entertain his peers.
“It’s been great reinventing who Venom is,” Jackson said. “I was able to add more character to him and make him more personable.”
The documentary was the student’s first glimpse into how Jackson’s personality translated to Venom’s personality. FAMU students Jayla Herring and Kinaya Willis both worked on the documentary and commend Jackson’s work ethic and school spirit.
“Kimani never really took ‘no’ for an answer,” Herring said. “If we got a no Kimani would try to find a way for us to get a yes.”
Willis said the purpose of the documentary was to show what it is like behind the costume and how much work goes into becoming Venom.
“Being that venom is a huge part of FAMU’s school spirit, we thought it was an important story to tell,” Willis said.
After the documentary was released, there were speculations from students that Jackson was preparing to campaign for a royal court position. However, students were expecting his campaign to be for King of Orange and Green, and students were shocked when he announced he would be running for Mr. FAMU instead. He realized he wanted to run for the position after serving as the mascot in which he was able to discover what Mr. FAMU meant to him. Jackson felt that it was important to show that Mr. FAMU should have a base of school spirit before anything else, and he made the decision to run because he wanted to show everyone that being passionate about your school should not just be synonymous with one position.
Campaigning at FAMU is an arduous task filled with months of planning and execution. The candidates subject themselves to constant scrutiny as people critique their flyers, outfits, and physical appearance. The process is described by many as challenging and “messy” for the candidates as they have to read and hear people judge them. For Jackson, he anticipated the comments people would make about him. Despite that, he decided to put his best foot forward and face the criticism head-on.
“I looked at it as an artist,” Jackson said. “You have to be ready for people to say all kinds of things. This is what truly prepares you for the real world. If nobody’s talking, you’re doing something wrong.”
One of the many criticisms Jackson faced was that he did not fit the stereotypical image of Mr. FAMU. Image plays a huge role in the royal court and in the past people equate that to looking a certain way. Jackson is not over six feet, he does not have a short haircut, and he is not in any of the organizations you typically associate with Mr. FAMU. Yet, Jackson embraces his differences and realized that although he does not fit that look, his personality and drive are the only things he needed to be good for the position.
“The stereotypes are deeper than anyone would assume, ” Jackson said. “I don’t fit any of those stereotypes. There is a standard to uphold but it’s about who you are as an individual, if you are a great leader, and if you have rattler spirit.”
Kimberly Adams was one of the students on Jackson’s campaign team, and she wholeheartedly believed in his vision. She felt he was all about change and bringing something new to the university, and she respected his drive to succeed as a member of the royal court.
“He wanted to show people that you can be different,” Adams said. “You don’t have to fit the norm and you should always stand for what you believe in.”
When Jackson won the crown, he described the feeling as liberating. During the campaign, he always felt there was more work to do and when it was over, he was just glad that he was able to connect with students and inspire them. He was praised for his campaign and the fact that he did not let anyone’s preconceived notions deter him from going after the position. Jackson was able to transcend the typical image of Mr. FAMU and he believes being Venom helped him with his current role.
“As Venom, I had the opportunity to learn more about FAMU while traveling with the royal court and it made me the Mr. FAMU I am today,” Jackson said. “When talking to students, I told them you don’t want someone who is about to get to work, you want someone who has already been working.”
Jackson has big plans for the university and the students. He wants to provide resources for students struggling during the pandemic and virtual schooling and raise awareness on different topics like mental health. He hopes to continue serving to the best of his ability and continue working hard for FAMU students.