The Walt Disney Co. DIS has created a Disney Storytellers Fund at Howard University, a historically Black educational institution in Washington, D.C., with the goal of creating employment opportunities in the media and entertainment industries.
What Happened: According to the Washington Informer, the new fund will provide stipends over a five-year period for student projects focused on storytelling within different media platforms including animation, gaming, journalism, performing arts, and digital design.
Disney will also provide the Howard students with speakers, mentors and internship opportunities to grow their storytelling skill set. Disney, which announced the fund’s launch during the Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans on Saturday, July 2, will also provide financing for a creative collaborative space to be co-located within Howard’s Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts and the Cathy Hughes School of Communication.
“Across Disney brands, we are working to amplify underrepresented voices and untold stories,” said Jennifer Cohen, Disney’s executive vice president of corporate social responsibility. “The Disney Storytellers Fund at Howard will help us support students and the innovation and creativity that the university has cultivated for more than 150 years. We are excited to help the next generation of Black storytellers bring their ideas to life.”
“Our students at the College of Fine Arts find their creative expression in many ways — in the performing arts, in animation, in the design of products that we use in life,” said Phylicia Rashad, dean of the Boseman College and an award-winning actress. “The Disney Storytellers Fund is a great support for our emerging artists as they explore and develop their potential within and across disciplines.”
Why It Happened: The new fund is the latest effort by Disney to tap Black creative talent. In October 2020, the company hosted a series of virtual career sessions exclusively for students at the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)
In May 2021, the studio launched the Onyx Collective, with the primary focus of generating and acquiring Black-centric projects. The first projects under the Onyx Collective brand were Questlove’s documentary “Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised),” which won the Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature, and the docu-series “The 1619 Project” that debuted on Hulu and was coordinated in collaboration with the New York Times NYT, Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF-A) and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films.
In April, Disney teamed with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) in presenting 21 students with a $5,000 annual scholarship and a paid summer internship at the company, where they would receive mentorship opportunities and assistance securing possible full-time jobs upon graduation. Disney Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Latondra Newton said the scholarships represented “an important part of our efforts to reimagine tomorrow by amplifying underrepresented voices and untold stories.”
Photo: Nina Simone in the Oscar-winning “Summer of Soul,” presented under Disney’s Onyx Collective brand. Photo courtesy of Hulu / Searchlight Pictures