Students at Florida A&M University expressed excitement, optimism and even outrage over the unmasking of FAMU’s mascot, Venom.
It happened during the winter break when the student who has been wearing the Venom costume for more than two years asked to be interviewed “unmasked” in a documentary produced by two students in the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication.
“Drill ‘em down, drill ‘em down.” Those are the lyrics that students hear as they watch in awe as the popular school mascot dances on the sidelines, halftime at football games, or even in the bleachers.
“If it’s one thing the Venom knows how to do is catch your attention. I’m not going to lie. With this unmasking it has us shocked and I’m wondering what’s next,” senior Tatyana Berry said.
Kimani Jackson, a third-year vocal performance student from Brooklyn, New York, has held the mask and the secret of being Venom, since his freshman year in fall 2017.
“Being the Venom was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. I’m going to miss it so much,” Jackson said.
FAMU once was relocated at High Wood Plantation. This is where the Rattler mascot was born. The popular folklore tells us that the abundance of rattlesnakes on the land influenced the naming of the mascot.
“I’m an actor so we do things like this all time. It was harder for others, faculty etc., A lot of people weren’t even used to it being a secret, but that is a tradition I wanted to strengthen within my three years,” Jackson said.
In typical tradition, the identify of the school’s mascot is to remain a secret, so speculation did arise as to why Jackson decided to unmask himself as Venom now.
FAMU alumna Kaja Hall, questioned the motive behind unmasking Venom in the middle of the school year and not at the end of the term.
Jackson’s only motive was to enlighten those through his unmasked documentary about perseverance, creating awareness, and inspiring people around the world to be the change that they want to see.
“It was a different approach to shine the light on the HBCU experience through the lens of a mascot,” Jackson said.
As the school year continues into the spring semester, the university finds itself in search of a new mascot. Jackson assures that he is eager to help the next person to wear the mask while continuing to work and build on the tradition.
For more information, the documentary is on YouTube, under FAMU Venom Unmasked.