What started out as a class assignment has been transformed into one of Florida A&M University’s largest social media pages and a great recruiting tool.
“It’s so much rich culture here, so it’s like how could you not share it,” said Ernest Nelfrard, who earned a degree at FAMU in journalism in April 2017. It was during his time on the hill when he created what is now one of the university’s more influential social media pages, Rattlers United.
“A professor by the name of Professor Abrams … he explained to us the idea of students having a voice, an outlet and telling a story from our perspective. And it was like a challenge to create something that will represent the student body in a positive light or leave FAMU in a better situation than when you found it, ” Nelfrard said. Rattlers United began as a page on Instagram in the fall of 2015 by the name of FAMU Black. The page highlights any and everything going on at FAMU. From football and basketball games idolizing school spirit, to FAMU’s famous set Fridays and homecomings, student organization, to graduation, Rattlers United displays it all.
“At the time FAMU 19 had just got on campus and that Sunday you all had a manhunt and I noticed how the class was really strong and you guys were really united. Right there and then I was thinking of something and I said Rattlers United. So the name was actually inspired by FAMU 19.”
Like many, Nelfrard faced various obstacles throughout his college career. In sharing his story, he said that like many students, exceling academically was not an issue for him, but receiving financial aid was. He had to withdraw from the university for an entire year at one point.
Once he returned, Nelfrard said he felt the need to do something that would create a voice for students.
Many student leaders, parents and alumni believe that Rattlers United and many other student media platforms play an important role in the increasing enrollment.
“One of the orientation leaders said to me that they kept on asking students what inspired them to come and a bunch of them said Rattlers United,” said Nelfrard.
“As an alumni and now parent of student at FAMU I think the platform in which Rattlers United stands on is incredible. You can feel the love and energy that’s on campus through the photos and as a parent it helps you worry less because you can see your child is in good hands. And as an alumni it feels like you never left,” Yolanda Davis, a FAMU alum and parent, said.
Not only does the page display the daily lives of students on campus but it also shines a light on social topics, such as black love.
Nelfrard created a segment entitled “The 7th Chapter” that accentuated black love and finding your soul mate in college.
“I wanted to do a definitive body of work, so I created the 7th chapter. I got the name because FAMU sits on 7 hills, in the Bible the number 7 is a lucky number and also, it’s the amount of days God took to create the world. So, I said you can go through all the chapters but when you get to the 7th chapter you’ve made it. I made it to show that people can come here and meet their significant other,” he said.
Current and former Rattlers who met on the highest of seven hills submitted themselves along with their love stories to Rattlers United for the segment.
His girlfriend submitted Jordan Nix, a recent FAMU grad, for the 7th chapter.
“He always showed love to us over our relationship. His platform I believe will continue to always have a part in FAMU’s culture,” said Nix.
Both he and Nelfrard said they were exposed to black love growing up in their household. For Nix the examples in his life were his parents and Nelfrard’s derived from the main characters in a historical television series entitled “A Different World” created by Bill Cosby.
“I think the problem is right now we don’t have enough examples of what black love is, we need more examples. Don’t tell me what love is, teach me,” Nelfrard said.
Continuing to build the Rattlers United brand, Nelfrard says that there is much more to come. Although he is moving away from Tallahassee, he said that does not mean Rattlers United will stop.
Since the fall of 2015 Rattlers United has grown and expanded to all social media platforms; with 10,000 likes and followers combined on Facebook, 1,500 followers on Twitter, and almost 23,000 on Instagram.
From this, Nelfrard has continued to build the Rattlers United brand and was even offered a TV deal with a company called Dream Network.
“I didn’t realize how big it was until we ended up getting a TV deal. Me and a young lady by the name of Marquavia Smith started a show called First Strike. The first episode locked us into a deal with Dream Network out of New Jersey and broadcasted to over 2 million households. That means 2 million people who did not know about FAMU Culture before now know because of that show,” Nelfrard said.
When asked how he plans to continue Rattlers United, Nelfrard said it is important it for him to keep the legacy going. Therefore, he plans to bring in other students and develop a team that will continue to house the brand on the campus of FAMU.
“Integration is innovation and simplicity is sophistication, it’s little things like that. You do the small things and they have the most profound impact on people. First, I want to at least have blueprint and with that bring on a team and say this is the Rattlers United way.”
Many students, alumni, and faculty believe that Rattlers United will be one of the richest parts of university’s culture and history.