steve harvey & lamman rucker

Steve Harvey & actor Lamman Rucker at Disney's Dreamer's Academy

*Actor/Comedian Steve Harvey wasn’t acting when he lectured a group of kids at the Disney’s Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine’s annual event. He was dead serious because young lives are at stake for children in a cutthroat culture where only the strong minded and educated survive. It was just last week that The Walt Disney Company announced a new initiative to hire, train and support returning veterans. But for the last five years Disney has made it possible for 500 high school students pursue their dreams.

Launched in 2007, Disney’s Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey was developed to motivate high school students in grades 9-12 to achieve their dreams. This year the students engaged in multiple activities, including interacting with a range of industry professionals and experienced intensive introductions to a variety of career paths. They participated in workshops on various subjects, including the medical field; entrepreneurship, entertainment, culinary arts, and an inside look at Walt Disney Imagineering team, the imaginative gurus behind Disney’s theme parks and attractions.

With a chance of a lifetime opportunity, 100 students from across the country were selected to take part in the 2012 Disney’s Dreamers Academy (DDA) with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine, March 8-11 at Walt Disney World Resort. Often described as the world’s most creative classroom, the four-day power packed program not only inspired, but also fueled the dreams of the students to dream even bigger, discover worlds of possibilities imagined and get a jump-start on their future.

In one of his addresses Harvey said, “I’m awfully blessed to be here. But the real deal of it is God blesses you to become a blessing [to others]. He gave a mind-boggling account of his schedule that let everyone flabbergasted. To their amazement he gave them some advice that adults should surely take heed when planning their day: “I tell people all the time I get the same 24 hours in a day that you get. It’s just about [time] management. You can either watch TV, watch somebody making money or you can go out and participate and get in the program and make yourself some money.

“I’m not a big fan of watching 5, 6 hours of a reality show a night. I got people that I work around and all they talk about is what’s happening on a reality show. If I got four hours when I get off work, I’m going try and do something positive to move my family forward. People kill me about money. Feel how you want to feel about money but it’s a cool tool if you can get your hands on some of it. Money may not be able to buy you happiness, but poverty can’t buy you nothing.”

Spending days at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, “Where the spirit of Africa comes alive,” was like living on a live movie set, with a host of live animals as the backdrop. The animals inhabit aces of meticulously re-created African savanna that practically surround the resort. Exotic birds and all manner of hoofed animals, including giraffes, zebras, and Thomson’s gazelles, call the wildlife reserve home.  With the freedom to wander within a dozen or so yards of the lodge itself, these animals allow guests to go on safari without leaving their balconies. At Disney, dreams do come true for those fortunate enough to spend some magic moments there.

lenny kravitz & jennifer lawrence

Lenny Kravitz and Jennifer Lawrene in 'Hunger Games'

On Lenny Kravitz’s 2010 Black and White America” CD, that is a response to quotes about Obama and racism in America, there is an incredible song called “Dream” that epitomizes the idea. Kravitz is now living a dream that many would give anything to step into. Ironically, he didn’t ask for it. “I was in the studio in the Bahamas when Gary (Ross) called me and said the role of Cinna in ‘The Hunger Games’ was mine if I wanted it,” he says. “I didn’t know what ‘The Hunger Games’ was but I did find some Internet downloads. So here I am reading this book at night after being in the studio all day and I couldn’t put it down.”

It is good to see people of color are in the future, albeit a dismal and blighted one where the favorite pastime is seeing kids obliterate one another in “The Hunger Games.” Those among the colorful class include Amandla Stenberg, Latarsha Rose, Dwayne Boyd, Dayo Okeniyi, and Karan Kendrick, to name a few.

      This is Kravitz’s second film—and for good reason. “I was fortunate to be a part of ‘Precious,’ which was a great film, he recounted. “Now ‘Hunger Games.’ So I’m two for two, which is pretty good. I’m into taking my time; I’m into giving it the respect that it deserves and growing in a very sort of natural way. But in the past I had dreadlocks and it was like, ‘Let’s cast Lenny as the badass street dude with the dreadlocks.’ It was always really stereotypical roles offered, really no imagination. I did past up one film that I probably should have taken. Julian Schnabel, a good friend of mine, asked me to play Basquiat. It might sound funny, but at that time I was trying to become me because it was at the time of my first album. But Jeffrey Wright was amazing. He was unbelievable.”

      Since “Hunger Games,” the phone has been ringing off the hook for Jennifer Lawrence’s stylist in the film. “Yes, there are a lot of people calling now and there are meetings and there are scripts,” Kravitz admits, “but we’ll see what happens. I mean, I still have my day job but I will be doing more movies. All I know is that I’m on tour right now and people are showing up backstage for photographs and some people are yelling ‘Cinna’ now. So that’s very strange, you know what I mean? They have ’Hunger Games’ posters and books. When we were in North Carolina, there were people with posters and books at the hotel even before the film was released.  There was a whole infrastructure of these people that were like, ‘Don’t f—k up my story!’

Jennifer Lawrence, the poised protagonist in “Hunger Games,” co-starred with Kravitz’s daughter, Zoe in “X-Men: First Class.” She, along with other cast members hung out with the two. Like Kravitz, Lawrence was not in pursuit of Ross. “The first time that I heard about the movie, I was incredibly skeptical,” she says. “I didn’t hear about the movie and go, ‘oh, boy, I want to join. I thought, great, they’re going to ruin another great book series with a movie, and then I met with Gary, and realized quickly that I could not have been more wrong.”

It was a role Lawrence had no qualms about embracing. “She becomes this symbol for revolt and freedom and hope, and goes for it,” she enthuses. “This young girl realizes that she’s a symbol, and fights. She’s loyal and she fights for what’s right. She’s not quiet when something’s wrong. She strong. She’s not a follower, she’s a leader and in a good way. And I would like this message to be prevalent, Don’t be a leader in a bad way, don’t be the one that starts the parties.”

Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected].