Speakers: Nichole Pitts (Host) and Jeanell English (Guest, EVP – Impact & Inclusion at The Academy of Motion Pictures and Art)

 

Nichole Pitts

Welcome to the podcast, Jeanell. I’m so excited to have you.

Jeanell English
Thank you. I’m so happy to be here. Thank you for thinking of me. This is awesome. I love that you’re creating this space. Really, really love it.
Nichole

You were the first person that I’ve had the conversations about DEI with, so of course you were just a natural, you know, a natural person where I was like, I have to have Jeanell on the podcast so that we can talk all things DEI.

And one of the things I love is that you’ve had this fascinating career journey from Discovery Channel to the Oscars, but even just living abroad in London and then Paris andthen you spent several months in Seoul. Is that correct? Cause I remember that you were gone for months and I think that’s when you were working on the Olympics, is that right?

Jeanell

Yes. Oh my goodness. Yeah, you’re bringing back memories. If you’re like walking throughmy like journey, I can like see Little Jeanell in each of these places and spaces just learning and absorbing. But yeah, absolutely. My career’s been super interesting and I’ve had the opportunity of really working and moving always with a commitment to inclusion, to equity, to access in all of these spaces and countries that I’ve lived and worked in.

But yes, definitely lots of time in Europe, lots of time traveling around Europe. Called London and Paris home. Lived in Korea long enough to pay taxes, so that was home as well for a period.  But also just got to travel a lot. Spent some time in India as well, and in Japan. And yeah, I’ve had a lot of, I think, experience in just exploring cultures and trying to understand my own identity in those explorations and travels.

Nichole 

Did you find that DEI was different in or how you were perceived or even looking at cultural differences and all these different places that you visited and lived. Did you see a lot of difference between there and then what we grew up here with in the US?

Jeanell 

Oh, absolutely. I mean, even the term, the acronym of DEI, that does not really mean anything in a lot of spaces and places.

And, you know, the work and owning and having a title with inclusion and diversity. And at one point well-being, there was a huge question of what is this and why does it even matter? And honestly, for me, the most simple way that I would always describe it is there’s always someone who’s not in the room.

Why? Let’s talk about that. That’s all I’m here to do, is to say, Hey, is there someone missing to this equation, to this community, to this conversation, to this production that should be here that can really add a lot of value? And if we don’t know the answer to that, let’s look around, let’s see how similar we all are in this room and see if we can benefit from bringing something different in.

Nichole 

So what were some of the key differences that you’ve seen between Europe and Asia and the US as far as diversity and inclusion go?

Jeanell 

Yeah. I mean, I think in the US and understandably so, there’s such an emphasis around race. And racial identity within the country itself. And it makes a lot of sense when you think about the history of the US and the strong immigrant history and yet the strong American identity and the strong concept of if you work hard enough, you’ll get it.

So there’s very much a focus, I would say, on race and ethnicity that really does center a lot of the DEI conversations, I would say in the US where when you start to move abroad and sometimes work in more homogenous communities, in that sense, the conversation shifts. You’re starting to think about religion, you’re starting to think about immigration in a very different way in terms of the countries that someone is coming from. You’re starting to think about gender identity and sexual orientation in a very different way. You’re also looking at class, and you’re also looking at education and access to education.

So I would say that the conversations that I was having around inclusion and diversity and equity, It was very different where, you had to spend a lot of time understanding the very specific cultural nuances in a country down to even how the economy was driven, to really start to articulate what you’re talking about, why the work you’re doing matters.

Whereas I think in the US there was an understanding of, yes, these are the different racialand ethnic groups and these are the communities that are protected. And you know that kind of foundational understanding of this is what we’re talking about when we say diversity or when we say DEI was already in place.

Nichole

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. What was interesting to me though, was also, 2020 after George Floyd was murdered, especially looking at how the demonstrations were in different countries and multinational companies, how they addressed it with their offices indifferent countries. But as you said, it’s looking at it from where does DEI come up in that particular culture?

And it might not be race if it’s very homogenous, but it could be socio-economic, different abilities and things like that. I had a guest on earlier in the season from France who said that in France they focus more on abilities.

Jeanell 

Yeah. And that disability space, you’re absolutely right. I mean, it honestly really is fascinating and I would say for anyone who is working in the DEI space, Do this work somewhere else. Do this work in a country that’s not your own for this exact reason. Because I think you get stretched as a professional in terms of thinking differently about inclusion and access and how we facilitate that. Like I think you can get sharper with the tools that you use to actually have conversations that are are difficult for anyone to have because we all want to do good. That’s what keeps me going in this work. I truly have to fundamentally believe that humans are good.

We care, we wanna do something. If I didn’t believe that, I would not be able to do this work that I’m doing. Yeah. But if you believe that humanity is good, then the conversations you are having in any specific country or territory are very centered around education and understanding and wanting to get deeper into the values.

And you get very, very good at communicating your why and why you’re representing this function called diversity, equity, and inclusion. And I think you get even tighter with that communication the more you practice in different countries, cultures and territories.

Nichole 

Yeah, that’s very true. Or even just following and getting information from those that practice in different territories. Because to your point, I feel like here in the US it is very focused on race and sometimes that can have a chill effect on the conversation. I know in the UK I used to talk a lot about the socio-economic, with accent, and you know how it is in the UK after you’ve lived there for long enough, you can tune in to where people are from based upon their accent.

And people would code switch so that they sounded more posh and less cockney or even a Jordy accent, those types of things. And that was interesting to me. Something that I hadn’t thought about, even living abroad and doing DEI was a conversation that I had with another DEI practitioner that talked about someone trying to make French gender inclusive.

And I hadn’t thought about how the romance languages are very gender based with female and male words and everything that goes along with that of trying to make it inclusive from a gender perspective, but how it can actually be exclusive from those that are neurodivergent. And I think these conversations are so fascinating to have at a global level.

Something that we wouldn’t come across maybe on our day-to-day lives here, but things that they deal with and how can we widen our own lens? Yeah. To use that in our own practices?

Jeanell 

Yeah, I mean, you’re talking about the intersectionality with all of these communities, right? And how they emerge across culture. Language it’s such an interesting one cuz you’re, you’re absolutely right, Nikki. Like, just even reflecting on Spanish and French. French was hard for me to try to learn. It was hard. I’m like, a table is feminine, but it help me understand. It’s so laced in the language and it’s such a beautiful language, right?

So, how do we acknowledge the realization that gender is not binary. In fact, a lot of the things that we put into these binary spaces are finally being blurred, and the intersectionality is emerging more and more. And I think the conversation, to your point, isthe only way that we can start to understand and resolve and absolve some of the challenges or misunderstandings that come with blurring the lines. And I think blurring thelines is actually a beautiful thing.

Nichole  

Oh, I love that. Blurring the lines. I agree with that completely. in this space, people hold on to that line. They don’t want it blurred because then it’s being uncomfortable. And I think a lot of us are uncomfortable with those conversations and we need to get comfortable with having these difficult conversations.

Jeanell 

Yeah. I mean, it’s uncomfortable. Again, when I was saying I genuinely believe humanity is good and people are good, if you approach every conversation with that lens, I do think it puts you in more of a learning mindset can’t control how the other person is gonna show up or how they’re gonna receive, but for me, it has been very much an approach to say, Right, I’m coming at this from a learning mindset.

I see you, I value you, I value your experience, so let’s talk about it. Like I really wanna learn. And I think approaching these difficult conversations in that spirit can be really, really beneficial and really valuable.

Nichole 

That makes a lot of sense with what your intent is going in and having an open mind versus, I’m going to have this monologue, I’m just waiting for you to take breath and then I’m gonna tell you, this is why you’re wrong and this is what I’m holding onto versus my intent is to learn something, to inform and maybe change the way that I think. And I think that’s understanding your own bias.

Jeanell 

Oh, absolutely. Understanding so many, Yeah. Yeah. Understanding biases. Also realizing your own experiences where you may have and may be experiencing privilege and constantly just checking in on yourself with that.

I think that’s really important. So yes, bias and self awareness, period. Yeah. Like awareness is so huge. And I do feel we’re at a time where Investing in yourself and understanding yourself is definitely more acceptable, more socially present. In the, the ecosystem of the world that we’re living in, at least in my community, and I’m so proud of that. But self-awareness, that’s really what it comes down to be self-aware in all of this work.

Nichole 

Yeah. I really agree with that. Now, you were speaking about the intentionality and thinking that humans are fundamentally good. How would you define ethics and DEI?

Jeanell 

Yeah, it’s a good question. I think we all have an ethical barometer, some idea of what’s right and wrong.

For the most part, we’re not bringing in, sociopaths and whatnot into the mix here. We’ll keep it simple in the sense where we all have some moral compass. And for me, I learned early on and was brought up in more of a religious environment in the church. And that really shaped my idea of right and wrong, my sense of morality. Oh, see my dog is getting into it now too. He’s like, Yes, right and wrong.

Nichole

Duke is testifying.

Jeanell

Duke is testifying. He’s like, Yes, well, let’s go to church right now. I’m like, We haven’t been to church baby, but that’s okay. Uh, . But no, I think when you think about ethics and you think about right and wrong and you think about a moral compass and you think about diversity, equity, and inclusion your openness and your definition of even those terms are very much grounded in your belief system.

And I think being in this space of DEI also means that you’re willing to challenge that belief system and you’re open to understanding and broadening your sense of right and wrong and good and bad with every interaction and every conversation that you might have. Cause if you truly believe in this space and in this work of DEI, inclusion is the emphasis here.

Let’s be inclusive of the different perspectives, experiences that those individuals might be bringing to you to reflect on, to absorb, to understand, and be open to the fact that it might change your approach to understanding ethics and it might change your approach to understanding good and bad. So I don’t see them actually as two distinctly different spaces or topics to explore.  I really don’t I think, you know, this idea of ethics really does come down to who you are as a person. And working in the DEI space is honestly a lot about personal growth.

Nichole 

I love that answer. And I agree. I think it’s so intertwined. One of the things that I hadn’t thought about until I went out on my own to start my business is going through my branding process. My coach asked me, “Well, what are your core values?”  And I hadn’t really thought about what are my core values, The values that I had been talking about had been the company values.

And really sitting down to think, what do I value? What do I believe for myself? And I think that’s an exercise that a lot of us have to do for just ourselves to really ground us from that moral compass space. So how are we viewing things? What’s our lens? If we say we want to make the world a better place, then what are our actions doing to help us get there? Are we broadening what we believe? Are we allowing ourselves to be challenged in a space of thinking? This is a good thing. To your point before about intentionality and defaulting to, Well, people are good versus No, it’s, and I, especially in our current politicalenvironment, it’s so black and white that the conversations can be so triggering that people are like, they hear one word, don’t let them hear “woke.” There’s a diatribe that goes behind being woke. Yeah, yeah. Weaponizing certain terms.

Jeanell 

I mean, “woke” is a weapon now. My goodness. Yes. The number of times I’ve heard, Oh, we’re going too woke. We’re going too left. And I’m like, when does actually being inclusive and being open to diverse have anything to do with, my political affiliations.

And I really do struggle with that because I think it’s become polarizing honestly, in terms of doing the work and it’s stunting the progress, just that kind of distinction and almost association of wokeness and inclusion and an advocate for diversity being solely aligned to our political affiliations.

But something you did say, and I’m really curious. I’m curious for you, did you find, when you were talking about your own personal values, were they fundamentally different to thevalues of an organization? Cause I think something that comes up so often is organizations write beautiful values, right?

Their publicists, their Comms departments, write these beautiful values. So I’ve always struggled to work for an organization that wasn’t at least, on on paper in line with my values. I’m curious if you, had a realization that your personal values were fundamentally different to any of the organizations you were in?

Nichole 

I don’t feel like my values were different than the organizations. I do feel that the values were beautiful on paper, but they were a bit sterile. And people couldn’t connect to them. Now, Canva, you know, the company Canva, that their values are magnificent and the way they communicate them because they have one, it’s making the complex simple and the way that they use different imagery.

It’s very inclusive, but they’re also very passionate in making it very simple and impassioned in what their values are so that I can connect to that. And that’s what I wanted to do with my own values is look at how do I empower you to do the right thing? And for you to understand why this means something to me instead of giving you a beautifully written paragraph on it.

It’s, let me just cut it down to baring myself to say, this is why this is important, and that’s how people connect, because I think it makes you more authentic. And it’s easier for me to do that. And even with Canva, I’m like, their values really align with what they’re doing. And you don’t see that a lot of times with companies because companies can have a list of values in are engaging in fraud and corruption harassment.

It’s that these are good on paper. But one of the things I noticed being in house was a good 99% of employees did not know what the company’s values were. And I would talk about that every training and ask who knew what they were. Nobody knew what they were.

Jeanell 

Yeah, that’s very real. It’s almost this exercise that we should all go through with our organizations. What are our values? And what are our actions? And is there a match there? Do they make sense? Is the way that we’re moving as an organization in line with the things that we say we’re about? And that’s where I really do think we all have an opportunity to help influence, to help challenge if we see a misalignment or to even walk away, cuz doing work in this day and age at a place or in a space that feels very disconnected from your own personal values is hard.

And I think we’re finally waking up to the realization that it’s a choice too. It’s a choice. Wehave a choice, sometimes not always an easy choice because every, decision comes with risks and consequences, right? But, We have a choice to stay engaged and to stay working in places and spaces that don’t align with our moral compass.

We have the opportunity to leave if we need to leave and mm-hmm. , I am always reminded of that by several of my mentors as well. When there’s that value alignment and the actions align, it’s a beautiful thing. Mm-hmm. and know there’s still options. Right? There’s always options.

Nichole 

Yeah. And how do you measure success against your values? Because what we saw a lot after 2020 was companies adding diversity and inclusion to their values, but it becomes very performative because you’re looking to see, well, what’s actually changed? And if welook to measure, how are you including this? Has there been any change? And also empowering the workforce to hold the company accountable.

Yeah. This is what you say you’re going to do, then how come you haven’t done it? Or if you have, communicate that out.

Jeanell 

That accountability piece is huge. And, I reflect a lot on this in my career. I’ve always had responsibility for what we call DEI, right? I’ve always had that responsibility in some capacity in every job that I’ve had, even if it wasn’t in my title.

And what’s interesting for me, working at The Academy now, I’ve been here almost two years and my role has evolved. every, six to eight months, it’s grown and it’s expanded beyond solely a DEI traditional DEI scope to really look at sustainability, to now look at impact and all of these spaces and places they merge, right?

But I also challenge us as DEI professionals to not be complacent in this role as a DEI professional. How are we also making sure that our roles and our purpose is evolving in line with what’s happening in the industry that you’re in, what’s happening in the organization that you’re in? Because DEI literally becomes everyone’s job.

And if you’re doing this work right, you are embedding that responsibility and accountability within each department, you’re embedding it amongst each leader. It doesn’t become your responsibility. It becomes the responsibility of the organization. So for me, I’ve always measured success to be this moment of saying, Okay, who’s got this now? I may be setting it up, I may be putting the golf ball on the tee.

I may be blowing the whistle. I like, I may be setting everything up, right? I want to evolve as a human. I want my role to evolve. I wanna set up other things. And I just encourage us as a DEI community to move beyond articulating the business case of this work, but truly moving to a place where we’re able to measure that success by embedding actions into specific departments and functions and with leaders who can then be held accountable by the entire organization.

I take a lot of pride in moving through spaces and having opportunities to divorce the DEI job title. Cuz for me, that’s a measurement of my own success. I’ve now moved that responsibility into someplace else in the organization and it’s gonna be, you know, systemic change at that point.

Nichole

Do you feel like you would be moving more into an advisory role for DEI so that the business owns it, the different people and groups own it, but you’re just that advisor, that coach? Is that where you’re looking at, you think it should evolve to?

Jeanell

I think yes. Although I feel we all should have that advisory responsibility in some capacity.

I always like to say, Look, we all have a sphere of influence. We all have the ability to influence something, someone do something. So we should all be advising within our sphere of influence. So I don’t think it’s necessarily my role as, a DEI head to advise on or be the expert on everything.

But it becomes my role to say, Oh, okay, something’s missing here let’s bring this person in. Let’s bring in this community. Let’s bring in this lived experience. I might not be telling you what I think you should do, but I’m observing and I’m holding up that mirror and saying, All right, let’s take a look at who we are, what we’re doing, and what’s missing.

And I can help plug in those pieces and keep that team moving forward. So, advisory to some extent, yet I back away from the word advisory because I think there’s this assumption that your DEI person knows everything about every underrepresented community, and that is just not fair for any of us. You know, there’s always gonna be a constant need for us to grow, to evolve, to learn.

And, the most we can do is call on the communities that we have to be a part of the solutions.

Nichole 

Oh, that is a great point, it really is a community because we only know what our lived experience is, and I feel like we should be reaching out and bringing other people in to talkand share from more points of views because diversity is ever changing and so all inclusive that I don’t think you can really define it, and say everything that makes you diverse. I think it’s just pretty much all of us are unique in some way.

Jeanell 

We all are. Yeah. That’s why I’m like, represent your experiences fearlessly, Y’all and respectfully, Right. Don’t enforce your experience onto someone else, but how are you presenting what you’ve been through, what you’ve gone through, your perspectives in a way that.

It makes people curious and intrigued and wanting to learn more and wanting to embrace your experience in whatever they’re trying to solve for at the end of the day. Yeah.

Nichole

One of the things I was really curious about was with your new job title as of, was it June when you

Jeanell 

Yeah, July my God. Yeah. It hasn’t been even that long.

Nichole 

Yeah. But you have this role now of Executive Vice President and it’s Impact and Inclusion,and I really wanted to know a bit more about how that title came about with impact and inclusion and what it really means.

Jeanell 

Yeah. You know, I like to say it’s my job to make sure that we’re doing is much good and we’re having as much impact in communities, in our environment, with our brand, with thereach, with our members at The Academy, with the programs that we’re running.

That’s really how I fundamentally describe my job. And it comes down to really exploring the future of the industry. How are we investing in the future of the entertainment industry? How are we making sure it’s diverse? How are we, bringing equity into those programs to ensure the future of film is diverse and representative?

Cause that’s beautiful. It’s necessary. It also looks then at how are we measuring that impact? What’s our reach? What’s the experience? So often we can roll out a program because we’ve been doing it for so long, but what’s that touch point? What’s that call to action to say, Let’s pause?

Let’s pulse check. Is this still right? Is this still fit for size? And for me, that’s where impact comes into all of this work. It’s about really challenging yourself to think about who, how, where you are having an impact. And is that in line with where the need is? Is that in line with the communities that are still being left out?

Is it in line with where the industry is today considering the research that’s out there, the conversations you’re having with studios and executive? So impact for me brings in that layer of accountability to all of this work on inclusion and diversity and sustainability to justsay, All right, what are we doing and who are we doing it for?

And what’s the end result? So that was, the important marriage in my title, and I felt it was really important. And our leadership team agreed to include inclusion. To still remind, the industry that being inclusive is core to how we move as an organization. And I’m speaking now from an Academy perspective, but it’s core to how we move as an organization. And because of that it’s important to have that title included.

Nichole 

That makes a lot of sense. And I love that you said the impact piece really ties to accountability cuz I do feel like without accountability you really can’t make progress in this area.

Jeanell 

For me, I, yeah, I, I couldn’t agree more. I really am an advocate for impact being a part of all of our job descriptions, if not a part of our job title. Just with the realization that, let’s just pause for a beat. What are we doing? What are we impacting? How are we doing that? And do we need to pivot as well?

Nichole 

So speaking of inclusion and having that impact with the accountability, how did the #OscarSoWhite influence that? Going back to 2015 when the hashtag began in looking at the Academy Awards where there were no black actors or actresses nominated in any of the actor categories, how did that hashtag influence the DEI message from The Academy?

Jeanell
Yeah. It’s interesting because we say Oscar’s so white, yet the academy and the Oscars really is a reflection of the industry at large.

So I would say it was a real challenge and moment for the collective film industry to say, Huh, what just happened? Mm-hmm. and from an Academy perspective, this was pre my time. It was a real moment for us to really look at who our members were, where were they coming from, what communities did they represent?

Because notoriously you’re going to find comfort and familiarity into those experiences, those stories, those films that are most like you and like your experiences. So at that moment, in 2015, It was this really great opportunity, I think, for the industry that I would say, even pre George Floyd and pre like this emergence that happened in 2022 to start really thinking about DEI seriously. So yes, The Academy responded and was saying, All right, so step one, let’s look at our membership. Right? We need more representation and diversity in our membership that truly does align with this global film loving community, right? Cause that’s who we’re representing here. So we had an aggressive goal that was placed to double the number of women and underrepresented communities in five years.

And we did that. And it was this beautiful moment where our members were saying, Wait, they’re not in The Academy? They should be. And we just started looking back and bringing in those individuals who were creating and making excellent work and filmmaking, uh, Into the organization and we started to see a much more diverse and inclusive membership base.

And yet our evolution continued, right? So yes, we hit that goal. We got to 2020, we’ve doubled the number of women and those from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in five years. Awesome. But that’s also not enough, right? It’s one thing to look at your membership, but then it’s also how are we embedding a commitment to inclusion and fostering a diverse industry?

Cuz to become a member there are certain criteria that you have to meet. You have to have achieved a certain level in your career or worked a number of years or progress. So ifyou’re not having those opportunities to progress in the industry, your eligibility to become a member it is just not there.

So we also started to look at, and this is our new Aperture initiative. How we can broaden the aperture through which excellence is realized, and that required us to look at our talent development programs. How are we engaging in the future of film and making sure that we are bringing in a diverse community to really be the the future of this industry.

It was bringing our members and to be a part of that investment in the future of the industry. That was huge. We also started looking at our library and our film archive. I think what’s so funny is so often you think of The Academy and you automatically go to the Oscars. I mean, there’s a reason we are around 364 other days in the year.

And we have this incredible film library, an archive, and recently museum. Andwith that comes this responsibility to say, what films are we archiving that we want history to have record of because this is a beautiful film and it’s a beautiful reflection of humanity in a specific time?

So we started looking at our archives. We also started looking at our libraries. How are we describing the work from certain filmmakers? What does that process look like? And then in our museum, how are we opening up a place for education and exploration to sometimes problematic and challenging histories of film to create a space for broader education, learning and awareness, and also excitement to wanna invest and be a part of this future and making sure it’s positive. So from my perspective, #OscarSoWhite was a good moment for The Academy to really lean into and think seriously about this value of upholding excellence in filmmaking and questioning what that actually means. It was necessary, right? It was necessary. And I am really proud, honestly, of the work that we’ve been doing.

Nichole 

And speaking of more about your Aperture initiative, what sort of, ways are you providing more accessibility for people of color, those in the different marginalized communities, to be able to get that access to membership?

Jeanell 

Yeah. Yeah, I mean in a lot of ways, honestly. There’s several ways you can qualify to become a member and it varies by all of the different crafts and areas in film. So we’ve really aligned all of our talent development programs up based on some of those criteria. So we’re looking at, there’s not as much representation in film music.

This past year we launched a program looking at film music composing for Black British musicians, which is, a powerful step to say, Hey, we see your talent, we invest in it. And your talented musician, have you thought about a path in film? Cuz it’s here for you. And it’s really, really exciting. So we’ve been actively looking at where there’s the least representation in these different crafts within the filmmaking community. And, really challenging ourself. Okay, if we can’t meet some of our representation goals for this year, then how can we next year, what does that look like? How are we investing in just monitoring the industry and supporting the industry and mentoring and providing tangibleskills that, will propel someone into the next layer of their career.

So that’s something I’m proud of. And it really does go down to, just talent development ingeneral. Honestly, it’s the talent development piece and I think a big part of that as well. When I reflect on we launched our inclusion standards for Best Picture consideration not long ago now, it’s also become really important for us to have these conversations with the studios and the production companies who are actually making the films and hiring the talent and giving the experiences to be eligible for Best Picture consideration.

One of the things, and one of the ways a film can qualify is by demonstrating a commitment to the future of the industry. Do you have apprenticeships? Do you have internships? Do you have opportunities, you know, trainees on your production? So I really do believe in the power of investing in the talent development side as a path to really changing this industry.

Nichole 

Yeah, I love that. And I’ve seen, I think with your first year that you were at The Academy,you really were pushing on accessibility at the Oscars and was it 2021? Had to be 2021 cuz you moved from London in 2020. . I keep up with the . Had to think when would people where, But I remember you were very passionate about accessibility and I hadn’t even thought about maybe it hadn’t been accessible. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Jeanell 

Oh my goodness, Absolutely. Cuz you’re hitting on one of my passion points and this is something that I learned. Also, this is one of the powers of film, right? If you are able to watch a film that gives you a window into an experience that is not your own, that’s such a great and powerful conversation starter.

And that was how I felt with the first Oscars that I had the privilege of working on. We had some incredible films that were being considered that were really centered around people with disabilities. And for me, I had an opportunity to meet the filmmakers. I had the opportunity to meet the talent.

I had the opportunity to really learn and to realize there’s no such thing as inclusion without accessibility. And I’m so appreciative for that experience. The films Feeling Through and Crip Camp that were, nominated that year, getting to know those filmmakers and the teams that worked on those films was truly necessary for my own evolution in doing work in this space.

Truly, and I have to just say, if you have not seen either of those films, you definitely should. There’s also so many others I can, support and recommend as well, but I just, I’m so passionate about this simply because as well, like, it’s funny cuz we can so easily separate the disability community in our minds and in this diversity conversation.

Yet this community is our community. I think the stat in the US is one in four individuals are people with disabilities. I mean, that’s substantial. That includes, my father, that includes my goddaughter. That’s my community, my friends. And if we continue to create that distinction, we’re really not gonna see any progress.

And you’ll see me getting emotional because this is clearly a space and a community that means so much to me. And I just advocate for all of us doing more, being more mindful. And again, that whole, point I was making earlier about making sure we’re bringing people and their lived experience into the solutions that we’re providing. That is so, so, so essential.

Nichole 

Yeah. You know, one of the things, with film and even with tv, it is some of the shows, if they do like a nighttime House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones, I’m thinking about that. It’s so dark, you can’t really see it.

And I’m like, now if I’m having a problem seeing it, then what about those that do have vision issues and talking to people where it’s like, I need closed captioning. The little things that you’re not thinking about just to make it more accessible or when we have conferences, are you asking, , do you need live transcription? Do you need someone to translate for you? If it’s not our lived experience, we don’t really think about it.

Jeanell 

We don’t, and you know, Nikki, I even push us a step further to say, Oh great, we’ve added in, captions. We’ve now, provided audio descriptions. Who’s assessing the quality of that service?

Right? Because to your point, it’s about the lived experience. We, it’s not enough for us to say, Let’s make this available. Our next step is to ask the community what’s the experience? Is this making this truly inclusive to you? Is this truly accessible? Because I’ve seen so many programs where, You know, yes, all these boxes are quote unquote ticked, but the quality of an interpreter is not as strong as it could be, or the captions are not as accurate