TEA Connect Blog

04 April 2022

TEA Western Division Celebrates Black History Month

The TEA Western North America Division finished out February with a celebration of Black History Month, welcoming a panel of black professionals from across the breadth of our industry. The conversation was animated, friendly, and full of well-earned knowledge from panelists’ careers in engineering, show development, and entertainment design.

The panel included:

  • Gentry Akens, Creative Executive, Four Points Creative
  • Shelby Jiggetts-Tivony, VP Creative and Advanced Development, Walt Disney Imagineering/Live Entertainment
  • Donnelly Williams, Business Development Manager, Altec Integrated Solutions
  • Justin Stucey, Creative Producer and our panel moderator

Mr. Stucey kicked off the panel with an introduction that paid homage to so many of our black colleagues in the TEA and highlighted their contributions to our industry. From there the panel dove into personal histories, big breaks, inspiration, and the future of themed entertainment. 

                   L-R, Top: Justin Stucey, Donnelly Williams, L-R, Bottom: Shelby Jiggetts-Tivony, Gentry Akens

Hearing the histories of the panelists, their breakthrough jobs, their challenges, and their successes helped to illuminate the many different paths one can take into themed entertainment. Mr. Akens made a point to mention the optimism and encouragement from his parents he received at a young age and how it shaped his confidence to push forward through his professional career including as the first black artist at Hanna-Barbera.

Mr. Williams told the audience stories about growing up in Canada, watching sci-fi movies, and passionately trying to learn how to recreate the animatronic effects he saw. This interest and curiosity lead to a long run of teaching and learning alike, and eventually lead to his current career in engineering for attractions.

In regards to those at the beginning of their careers, Ms. Jiggetts-Tivony encouraged “Imagineering” to understand that “Imagineering” is made up of over 140 different design and production disciplines, and to find a focus that speaks to you and excel at it.

All three panelists shared similar feelings about a life of learning and experimenting in their respective fields. A question from the viewing audience asked about what their favorite piece of emerging tech was and the panel expounded about the upcoming possibilities of XR and the metaverse. These developing tools can lead to breakthroughs in ways that help drive innovation across themed entertainment.

Black history should be celebrated every month of every year, and we’re glad to participate in this celebration of our colleagues. Our black members are important to us and bring a perspective to our work that resonates with all our audiences across the world. The fields of themed entertainment, experiential entertainment, and attraction design must encourage and collaborate with the significant diversity in our membership to design and build experiences that speak to all our members and all audiences, and we look forward to hosting many more discussions and events such as this one. 


Special thanks to TEA Western Division Communications Committee Members, Theron Langhorn, EventBrite graphic; Jon Bryan Salvador pre-event social content writer; Justin Stucey, post-event social content writer; Lisa Jey Schanley all social media graphics; Jack Stolrow, TEA Digital Youtube video editor, and to Jeff Crocker, article writer.


Posted by Morgan Lucchese



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