For much of her time working at National Geographic, Aneka Hylton-Donelson was faced with a particularly discerning audience: children! Creating programming for both the Nat Geo Kids Block and the Kids YouTube Channel, Aneka led a team in developing and producing creative and innovative short-form content that inspires and educates kids and families about our world.
More recently, Aneka moved over to the Development department, where she develops new talent, series concepts, and content programming for National Geographic Channel and Disney+. She also has been working on her “very personal passion project,” a one-hour documentary special “The March on Washington: Keepers of the Dream,” in partnership with ESPN’s The Undefeated, that traces the civil rights movement from the 1963 March on Washington to the summer of 2020.
No stranger to television production, Aneka previously worked at Discovery Communications for eight years and served as a Post-Production Services Manager, leading a team who oversaw the post-production workflow for 14 domestic networks.
1. You are a co-chair of NOIR DC, one of National Geographic’s Business Employee Resource Groups. What has been a highlight of this experience for you?
Being part of the NOIR leadership has been extremely rewarding for me. As a group, we provide community, mentorship, and other opportunities to drive cultural awareness and acknowledgement of the value of Black employees at our company. It is empowering to help support real change.
The greatest highlight was a “Brave Conversation” we hosted in June 2020, following the murder of George Floyd. Many of our Black colleagues spoke frankly about racial and social injustice and how it has personally impacted them. Speaking at the event was a very cathartic and a special moment for me. I allowed myself to be completely vulnerable and shared how mentally and emotionally traumatizing these experiences have been.
2. On February 18, 2021, National Geographic will premiere one of your projects, “The March on Washington: Keepers of the Dream.” What has it meant to you to produce this documentary?
I am grateful to play a part in bringing this powerful story to life, as it speaks to so many Black Americans. By continually advocating for social change, I feel like my entire life has been a protest. I was born to Jamaican immigrants who came to this country with a dream of a better life for themselves and their children. But in America, we are saddled with the legacy of slavery.
This is why it was so important to me to tell the story of the civil rights movement and give a voice to the history of oppression and violence against Black people in America. I believe that the more we share stories like these and accept our dark truths, the less we, as a country, will be stuck in a cycle of hurt and fear, and we can instead move into a more hopeful and inclusive future.
3. You are a proud alumna of Howard University (Go Bison!). Looking back on your college experience, what is your favorite memory of attending Howard?
“HU You Know!” If we Howard alumni weren’t obnoxious before, we definitely are now with our nation’s first Black female Vice President, Kamala Harris! It brings me such pride and makes me think of one of my favorite moments at Howard, when I performed in “Jelly’s Last Jam” at Ira Aldridge Theater. Believe it or not, I was a Musical Theater major! It was an amazing production and I was proud to be among a cast and crew who found their calling, like Kamilah Forbes, who is now the Executive Director of The Apollo Theater, singer and songwriter Eric Roberson, actor and playwright Chadwick Boseman, and so many others.
4. Working in Development, you help originate all of National Geographic’s programming for both linear and streaming. When you’re reviewing content, what makes something stand out and catch your eye?
I am most attracted to talent and content that is authentic. I am drawn to human stories that share diverse experiences, are dripping in truth, and cause me to feel and connect.
5. After working from home for the past 10 months due to the pandemic, what has been the silver lining for you?
I enjoy that I get to see my husband, Chico, more frequently during the day, taking walks with our dog, and I can run daily, depending on the weather. This gives me peace and helps to keep me grounded.