Kimani Jackson is a Rattler who leads with passion and purpose. The talented 19-year-old is a singer, dancer and actor, and was recently crowned Mr. 1937 for The Beta Alpha chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
Jackson was born Aug. 26, 1999 in Baltimore, where his parents met at Morgan State University. He is a New Yorker at heart, however. Raised in a Pentecostal church, Jackson discovered the true power behind his voice in the church.
“It was right there I knew this was my calling,” Jackson said. “The church went ballistic.”
Jackson had been singing around his house since he was 3 years old, but it was that day in church two years later that he accepted his “calling.” It was his first big performance.
Since then he has auditioned for television shows, sung at several events and worked tirelessly toward perfecting his many crafts. He intends to use music to make people feel good in the midst of hardship and adversity.
“I live to inspire this world and lift people with music,” Jackson said. “We’re here to bless other people.”
Jackson’s musical style is inspired by R&B, soul and gospel music. He finds inspiration in artists such as Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Donny Hathaway and Luther Vandross.
“I grew up listening to all those great artists who ‘sang,’” Jackson said. “S-A-N-G.”
He was told by his middle school music teacher that he wouldn’t make it far singing gospel. He was also told that he sounded “too Motown,” Jackson didn’t let that discourage him. He released his first single, “All of Your Worth,” on Friday, inspired by R&B, soul and pop.
“It’s not about what other people think about you,” Jackson said. “If you continue to go down the path God is leading you, doors will fling open.”
Gbeke Omodara, fellow singer and residence assistant, admires Jackson’s perseverance.
“Kimani has changed my life significantly,” Omodara said. “No matter what, Kimani always has positive energy and doesn’t let obstacles hinder him. He is one of my most inspirational friends.”
Omodara also said Jackson has helped her become more confident with her style of music and who she is as a singer.
Singing is only one of this Rattler’s talents. Jackson picked up acting when he was 4 years old and was signed to Wilhelmina Kids, a modeling and acting agency, when he was 10 years old. He has since acted in a Wilhelmina radio commercial, several Sesame Street episodes, Tyler Perry’s “Madea’s Neighbors from Hell,” and Perry’s “If Loving You is Wrong.”
“My favorite thing about acting is you’re free to create who you believe the character may be,” Jackson said. “To become the character and to truly find out what I can relate to so that I can tell a story.”
In addition to acting and singing, Jackson dances. He is best at hip-hop but wants to improve in contemporary and ballet dance styles.
“I want to be versatile in everything I do,” Jackson said.
So how did this extraordinary New Yorker get all the way to Tallahassee? He went on a college tour down the East Coast and stumbled upon the highest of seven hills.
“I fell in love with FAMU, and I didn’t know how I was going to get here,” Jackson said. “When I got accepted I was ecstatic.”
Jackson said nothing compares to Florida A&M University’s spirit: the pageantry, the dance troupes, the support, the culture. And, not to mention, the weather.
The vocal performance major is here on a partial music scholarship, and has made it his mission to leave his mark on FAMU. He is a member of Strikers Dance Troupe, the New York Club, the Concert Choir and he is a residence assistant for the university.
“If the campus is the same way it was when you got here and you’re not contributing at all to your campus, then you’ve done yourself a disservice,” Jackson said. “Uplift your campus and bring it to a new level.”
Jackson plans on bringing a new event to campus called JAMM, just artists making music. JAMM is intended to be an outlet for all artists, creating a space for collaborations, advice, fun and support.
Chrétien Adams, a sophomore music industry major, has known Jackson for nearly two years. He still remembers the day they met.
“I met Kimani during freshman orientation when we both went on stage to sing in Lee Hall,” Adams said. “My first impression was ‘he can really sing!’”
Adams believes he is hearing a one-of-a-kind gift when Jackson is performing. He said in the next 10 years he envisions Jackson performing in front of an audience with more than 1,000 people, whether he be singing, dancing or acting.
Jackson has high hopes for his future.
“Follow your dreams,” Jackson said. “If you give your all and believe in yourself, it’ll happen. Don’t put all your eggs into a backup plan.”