McDonald’s USA, through its Black & Positively Golden movement, surprised its Future 22 leaders with $10,000 each, totaling $220,000, during a celebratory event in their honor at the ESSENCE Festival of Culture presented by Coca-Cola.

Keke Palmer partnered with McDonald's USA to surprise 22 young, Black leaders with a total of $220,000
Keke Palmer partnered with McDonald's USA to surprise 22 young, Black leaders with a total of $220,000

These grants were awarded to help further the community-driven causes of these 22 change leaders, introduced earlier this year. Award-winning actress, singer & entertainer, Keke Palmer, took part in the surprise announcement as the Future 22 spokesperson.

From a STEM educator who is leveling the playing field for Black and brown children in computer science to a financial literacy champion who is bridging the financial gap in inner cities, these visionaries are shattering ceilings and breaking barriers to create meaningful change in communities across the country. Since February, their stories have been told through an integrated marketing campaign that includes videos on Instagram at @wearegolden and McDonald’s YouTube channel, as well as TV and radio spots voiced over by Keke, and more.

“It’s an honor to join McDonald’s to recognize and celebrate these awesome leaders, while also supporting their work and mission,” said Keke. “They are creating bright futures for themselves and the next generation – and, really, all of us – and the excitement on their faces during the McDonald’s surprise gave me joy.”

During the celebratory event held at Essence Fest last weekend in New Orleans, which McDonald’s sponsored for the 22nd year, Keke and Marissa Fisher, a second-generation McDonald’s Owner/Operator in New Orleans, participated in a fireside chat moderated by McDonald’s Senior Director of Cultural Engagement, Elizabeth Campbell, to inspire Future 22 leaders and provide tips on staying true to one’s mission, finding balance while changing the world and paving the way for others, among other topics.

“This year’s Essence Fest theme was Black Joy, and we couldn’t wait to celebrate all 22 leaders and bring them to New Orleans, in honor of their accomplishments,” said Campbell. “We certainly could’ve surprised them virtually but making them a part of our Essence Fest moment meant unlocking the additional community of supporters who are McDonald’s Owner/Operators and the Essence Fest family, to further celebrate them and demonstrate our belief in their work. It was more special than imagined, representing our commitment to feeding and fostering the communities we serve.”

McDonald’s has sponsored Essence Fest for more than 20 years to help shine a positive light on the Black community, culture and youth. All weekend, the Golden Arches celebrated and brought to life “Black Joy.” This included impactful booth experiences like show-stopping performances from R&B singer Jacquees, and award-winning gospel artists Sir the Baptist and Jekalyn Carr who previewed the 16th annual Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour that kicks off (in person) this fall. Booth guest were also treated to a star-studded celebrity meet and greet lineup featuring Toya Johnson, Reginae Carter, Uptown Angela and actor and musician Jacob Latimore.

McDonald’s also reaffirmed its commitment to supporting Black media and communities of color by convening some of the leading voices in marketing, media, business, and tech for panels that offered tips and resources for opportunity creation and breaking barriers.

McDonald’s Future 22 and the Essence Fest partnership are two of the many company initiatives that celebrate Black excellence. For more than 65 years, McDonald’s and its Owner/Operators have awarded scholarships to HBCU students, created impactful partnerships with community organizations like the National Urban League, NAACP, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and more. And this year, McDonald’s is proud to congratulate the National Black McDonald’s Operators Association for 50 years of entrepreneurial and community excellence.

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