Disney Launches Howard University Fund to Support Black Storytellers

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Disney has partnered with Howard University to help advance opportunities for underrepresented students in media and entertainment.

The initiative, the Disney Storytellers Fund at Howard University, was announced by the Walt Disney Company on Sunday at the Essence Festival of Culture.

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The multiyear program will provide stipends over a five-year period for student projects focused on storytelling across animation, digital design, gaming, journalism, live action, performing arts, product design, visual design, virtual reality and more, per the company.

Disney is also funding a new creative collaborative space at the university and says it will provide access to speakers, mentors and internships to students in the program to help spark interest in the fields needed to build skills for a future career in storytelling.

“Across Disney’s brands, we are working to amplify underrepresented voices and untold stories,” says Jennifer Cohen, executive vp 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.”

Phylicia Rashad, dean of the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts at Howard, added in a statement, “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 the products that we use in life. The Disney Storytellers Fund is a great support for our emerging artists as they explore and develop their potential within and across disciplines.”

The program is part of Disney’s social investment and collaborations, including school-age STEM programs, to increase access to careers in storytelling and innovation for those who have been historically underrepresented.

Also at the Essence festival on Friday, Disney revealed the name, arrival date and more details about its reimagined Splash Mountain ride, which had been criticized for its racist depictions. The revamped attraction, titled Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, makes its debut at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Disneyland in late 2024.

The company has recently widely come under fire over its lack of response to Florida’s so-called Don’t Say Gay bill. Florida ultimately voted to strip Disney of its special tax district, though the ultimate outcome of that bill remains unclear.

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