Rolling Out

Spelman alumna and Coca-Cola exec A.P. Chaney explains what HBCUs need most

The director of creative strategy for Sparkling Flavors hosted a panel at the 2023 Essence Festival of Culture

A.P. Chaney is the director of creative strategy for Sparkling Flavors in North America for The Coca-Cola Company.

As a Spelman alumna, she hosted a panel called, Boundless Conversations: The HBCU Experience, at the 2023 Essence Festive of Culture Coca-Cola stage alongside, Dr. Robyn Merrick, school president Bobbie Knight, and fellow co-host Chef Alex Hill.

Chaney opened up about her own HBCU experience, what is needed for Black colleges and universities, and the Sprite Hip-Hop 50 campaign.

What are some high points HBCUs are currently showcasing?

I think one of the most positive and beautiful things about an HBCU is self-discovery. I come from Minnesota, which inherently is not very Brown and Black. That’s why I intentionally chose Spelman and so a lot of times my achievements define me as a kid varsity basketball homecoming queen. When I went to Spelman, I had to figure out who I was. I figured out that I was curious, I was creative, and sometimes funny, depending on who you ask. I think an HBCU drives home how to find your own identity in a very safe place with like-minded other individuals. An HBCU is one of the only times that I’ve been around that many goal-oriented, educated Black people. We all have the same goal, and I will never experience anything like that again. That’s why HBCUs are so incredibly important.

How is the 2023 Essence Festival of Culture shining a light on HBCU culture?

Essence at its core is highlighting Black women and Black girl magic by uplifting and supporting. Then also just having this HBCU panel and spend time in a moment here just to talk about these academic institutions. It’s incredibly important, and I applaud Essence, and I applaud the Coca-Cola Company for doing this year in and year out, and also making time for HBCU conversation.

As the director of creative strategy for Sparkling Flavors in North America, what was it like orchestrating this event?

I’m the creative director for Sparkling Flavors, which is Sprite, Fanta, and a host of other amazing brands. Even just working at the company and being invited down to represent the company, means so much. Right now for Sprite, we have a Hip-Hop 50 campaign starring Latto, GloRilla, Rakim, and Nas. It is so amazing to be here to celebrate hip-hop, Black women, a company that supports me, and a media entity that has been a part of watching it since I was a child. My mom used to get Essence magazines in the mail so to be here means so much.

What are some topics you touched on during the HBCU panel discussion?

HBCUs need more funding, just straight-up period, whether you’re a private or public institution. Infrastructure came up and needed money from alumni, the government, both federal and state. Making sure that HBCUs get the funding that they need, so we can provide great meals and infrastructure to those that need it.

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