Nakeesha Seneb has always known that she wanted to be a storyteller. In the early chapters of her own story, she grew up in a family of limited means, where she was the first to finish high school and the first to go to college. An avid reader, she was smart; she tested well and she excelled in gifted classes, even winning a local, state and international award for a film she produced in high school. She jokes that her family didn’t know what to do with her. “I pushed my family outside of their comfort zone because I wanted to do so much that wasn’t on their radar,” she remembers. “It was an interesting way to grow up – I felt like the black sheep of the family.”
Knowing there was no money to pay for college, Nakeesha applied for 76 scholarships, including the Coca-Cola Scholarship. As a result of her efforts, she was able to pursue her passion in college, specializing in storytelling via radio, TV and film. Her laser focus on media landed her a job with National Geographic Television, where she remained until she took a break to have children. Watching children’s programs with her own kids motivated her to return to the medium she loved and she became a writer and producer of children’s programs for the Black Family Channel.
At the same time, she began to teach college courses and loved it. As she explains, “Writing for children’s media and teaching adults really require the same skill set. It’s figuring out what you want someone to learn and breaking it down into entertaining pieces.” The teaching chapters of her story have continued to unfold throughout her graduate studies, which she is poised to complete in the near future.
Even though Nakeesha is consumed with scholarly writing at the moment, she has not abandoned her passion for writing creatively. “I can see clearly where I’m headed,” she says, “I’m just not there yet.”
What she also sees is the need for more books and visual media that positively feature people of color. “There are not a lot of people writing books about black nerds,” she explains. “One of my main goals is to reach little girls like me, who are African-American, smart and wondering why no one else in their classes looks like them.”
Toward that end, she and a friend began Tapestry Writers Collective (http://tapestrywriters.com/), a community and a resource for diverse writers. “We try to identify writers and stories that speak to those kids in those classrooms who feel no one else is like them. Each week, we publish a blog listing of books written by people of color, featuring people of color. Sometimes there aren’t a lot of positive role models, and it’s the same with TV. And while they’re not exactly invisible, there certainly isn’t a spotlight being shown on those authors, screenwriters or storytellers. Tapestry is one voice – two women and an army of bloggers – trying to increase exposure.”
Nakeesha credits the Coca-Cola Scholars network with helping to spread the word about Tapestry Writers Collective. “Those people really care and they want you to succeed,” she observes.
“I jokingly tell people that that the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation is like a mafia – once you’re in, you’re in. They never let go of you. It amazes and astounds me that they are constantly in contact all these years later. The fact that they are checking on me drives me forward because I want to be able to tell them something good.”
As she looks toward the upcoming chapters of her story, Nakeesha remains inspired by being part of the ever-growing family of Coca-Cola Scholars. “If you have more than 5,000 people driven to make an impact on the world, and they have this incredible connection, a lot of change can certainly happen.”