I recently had the amazing opportunity to join former Spelman President, Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, and New York Times bestselling author and illustrator, Nikkolas Smith and Frederick Joseph, as they spoke with Walt Disney World cast members, Disney College Program participants and local Boys & Girls Clubs students in honor of Black History Month!
All three of these individuals have made incredible contributions to the Black community, and continue to pour knowledge, effort and time into teaching our storytellers of tomorrow about the importance of dreaming and having the courage to go after them.
Here are my top five takeaways from the meaningful dialogue.
1. Continue to push forward. Dr. Johnnetta spoke about the proverb, “seven down, eight up, ”which underscores the importance of resilience – it’s in our DNA. Fred and Nikkolas embody this philosophy of perseverance as they shared their personal challenges when following their passion — but they persevered through hard work and inspiration.
2. Diversity is essential to creating a more inclusive world, and Black History Month plays a significant role in this effort. This celebration encourages us to recognize and appreciate the contributions of Black people to our society’s growth and progress. It promotes a sense of togetherness and understanding of diverse cultures and experiences. Community outreach is an excellent way to also promote diversity as it brings people together, regardless of their backgrounds. By engaging in community outreach activities during Black History Month and year round, we can promote a more inclusive world.
3. “Cross generational collaborating is going to be how we succeed in this life.” In my role as Disney Ambassador of Walt Disney World, I get to spend time with cast members and the community, extending inclusivity beyond our resort. These conversations allow me to reflect on all we do as a company to give back to our community. Through charitable contributions and strong relationships with local nonprofit organizations, we strive to help the next generation of diverse storytellers and innovators dream about their futures, build their talents and skills and become who they imagine they can be. This is why it was so special for these three trailblazers to speak with students from the Boys & Girls Clubs to encourage, invigorate and inspire them to keep dreaming.
4. It’s important to amplify diverse voices. I am reminded of this every day in my interactions with others, and I am excited to continue this journey, working toward a more inclusive and equitable world for everyone. I was struck by Nikkolas Smith’s incredible talent as an illustrator and his commitment to using his art to amplify the voices of marginalized communities. Similarly, Frederick Joseph’s work and his advocacy for diversity in media and advertising has had a profound impact. It was an honor to be in the presence of people who have dedicated their lives to making a positive difference in the world for others.
5. The time is now! It was an honor for me to be part of the conversation with Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Nikkolas Smith and Frederick Joseph. Their stories and insights were truly inspiring and left a lasting impression. As a Disney Ambassador, I am proud to extend these messages of inclusivity and Black joy to those around me.
I am grateful for this opportunity to learn from these incredible individuals and will continue to use their teachings as a source of inspiration in my work as a Disney Ambassador and beyond.
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