Social Justice Game Changer: Leonard Spencer
Name: Leonard Spencer
Game Honored: Orlando Magic vs. Golden State Warriors (2/19/21)
Background: There are three specific areas that are near and dear to Leonard’s heart, and they are education, economic empowerment and building healthy communities.
As the director of supplier diversity at The Walt Disney Company, he is making a major impact on all three.
While growing up in Mobile, Alabama, Leonard saw firsthand the struggles disadvantaged individuals and families go through because of a lack of economic opportunity. It’s his mission to change that narrative and help bolster communities through more business equality.
“Pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps” is an old saying meaning to succeed or elevate oneself without any outside assistance.
But, what that phrase fails to acknowledge is that not everyone has the boots in the first place to have a chance at pulling themselves up, and Leonard, through his experience and compassion, is working day in and day out to open up doors that enable more people to have the fundamental resources they need for success.
“It can be disheartening when you see people who are doing everything right, they are working hard and still are not able to lift themselves or their families out of poverty”, said Leonard, who has a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Tuskegee University and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Alabama.
In his current role at Disney, Leonard helps identify suppliers that contribute to experiences and products Disney creates that reflect the diverse backgrounds, traditions and stories of guests, fans and cast – with a focus on making sure everyone is welcome. “Inclusion is a critical part of telling the best stories, being relevant and expanding our audiences,” Leonard said.
Leonard’s expertise goes far beyond Disney and into the Central Florida community through his membership with the Orlando Economic Partnership’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force. He led a team to garner the support from organizations to sign a pledge committing their business to creating an inclusive workforce that will establish lasting and meaningful change for their employees of color at all levels.
Leonard’s list of accolades goes on to include being honored by the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), the Florida State Minority Development Council, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and the National Business Inclusion Consortium (NBIC). He was also recognized as a champion for diversity by Diversity Plus Magazine and was named one of Florida’s most influential men of color by Onyx Magazine.
Making an Impact: To Leonard, there’s no better feeling than seeing someone overcome their challenges and reach their full potential.
“It’s not just about making our lives better, it’s about making the people around you better. That’s what drives happiness,” he said.
For Leonard and his team at Disney, one central focus is connecting diverse businesses to Walt Disney World’s economic ecosystem. The company is always in search of cultural influence that creates a future in which everyone is respected, valued, and able to reach their full potential. And it brings the team incredible joy every time they are able to work side by side with a business and watch it sprout.
“When I can help through mentoring, providing access or connecting a business to resources that help them excel and grow, that’s the greatest feeling in the world,” he said.
Leonard, who was born in Jacksonville, Florida before moving to Mobile during his youth, has been involved with many different Central Florida organizations in recent years to help individuals and businesses achieve their goals. Among them was helping bring a Smithsonian Regional Council, located in 10 cities across the U.S., to Orlando. Regional council members strengthen the Smithsonian’s presence regionally, connect volunteers more effectively nationally, and inspire increased support for the institution. Members work to bring the Smithsonian to their communities by hosting programs and supporting fundraising priorities.
Being Honored by the Magic: Extremely appreciative to be recognized by the Magic and Head Coach Steve Clifford, Leonard is impressed by the organization’s unrelenting commitment to making Central Florida a more diverse place to live and grow a business.
“It is awesome that coach Clifford and the organization are using their platform and brand to amplify the work that community leaders are doing,” he said. “To give them a platform where others can see their work and hopefully engage in supporting the entire community (is great). When we can all come together, business, government and community leaders, that’s where we can address the big issues and create meaningful solutions to our problems. I’m just appreciative and honored to be recognized by the Magic and coach Clifford.”
It’s incredibly important in Leonard’s eyes for people of high notoriety such as Clifford, the Magic’s players and others in and around professional sports to step out into their communities and lend a helping hand. It’s this kind of allyship and commitment that makes a major difference when it comes to reversing some of the critical social justice issues that our country is facing today.
“Growing up in Mobile, there are sports heroes like Billy Williams (and) Hank Aaron, who were very instrumental for me. I watched what they did to overcome the many obstacles that were in their path, and also speak out on issues,” Leonard said. “Muhammad Ali, spoke out on injustice and was persecuted, but in the end, the stance he took was right and it helped him move people and move ideas. So, when you see athletes of today – with their resources, their platforms – they can do things that can really help progress issues.”
About the Program: As part of the Magic and Clifford’s continuing efforts toward social justice reform, he created the Social Justice Game Changer program to honor one local leader who has made a difference in the realm of social justice issues. A cause close to his heart, Clifford is extremely active in programs that support equality and justice for all people in the Central Florida community.
Through this program, Clifford looks to put the spotlight on those continuously doing the hard work, day in and day out, fighting for sustainable change. As part of his program, one person is selected and honored each game. The honorees are given tickets, provided by Clifford, to the game and featured in-arena on the Magic Vision screen at center court.
“The purpose is to honor and to celebrate so many of the people in the Orlando community who are fighting for change and who commit their lives to making Orlando a better place,” Clifford said. “It’s just a way to celebrate them, what they stand for, and what they do for our community.”