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Every year, Disney World, Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine host 100 high school students, their parents and the media for a weekend of career exploration, encouragement and inspiration. The weekend is called Disney Dreamers Academy. Every year celebrities and professional speakers come in to encourage the students and their parents. Being at Disney World it’s fun for the media too. But inevitably I find that I needed the inspiration from the speakers and celebrities as well. This year Jussie Smollet spoke. See what he had to say.

You started off as a child actor but today you’re so authentic and outspoken and yourself always. So, was it hard for you to get there or were you always like that?

I wasn’t always like that but I think that was always in me, for sure. Because my mom is not to be played with. I would say that my mother is a cross between Cookie Lyon and Fräulein Maria from The Sound of Music. She is not to be played with. We were always told that we had the choice to do what we wanted to do and we had the choice to make sure that we represented ourselves, our communities, our families and our people in a very, very positive way. We had a responsibility to that and not to shy away from that responsibility. Don’t shy away from the responsibility of being a role model or trying to show myself in a positive light.

I make mistakes. I’ve screwed up before but at the same time, it’s just this idea of leading with love. And I feel like if you lead with love, then you can’t really go wrong with that. Not everybody’s going to agree with everything you say, and rightfully so. That just comes from my mom.

Even with every one of my siblings, even the ones that are not in the spotlight, we’re crazy enough to believe that we actually can speak our minds and we should be able to speak our minds and every single person has a voice and should be able to voice those opinions, especially if the root of those opinions is love. If you’re not spewing hate, then why shouldn’t you be heard?

I think that everybody’s really afraid because of what’s going on in the world and in our nation right now. But in actuality, I think what we’re seeing is a new world order. And what we’re seeing is young people are coming up in a way that we have not seen in a very long time. This is what the world is and we have to turn the volume up on these dreamers. We got to turn their volume up a little bit louder and turn the volume of all the hate down because if that’s what you hear then that’s what you’ll start to believe.

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