One America Voices: Whitney Parnell

The One America Movement is excited to launch a new initiative called One America Voices. Twice a week, we will publish short interviews with Americans from all walks of life. By hearing each other’s stories, we can begin to reduce the divisiveness and polarization in our society. Enjoy – share with your networks and on social media using the hashtag: #1AmericaVoices

Whitney Parnell

Washington, D.C.

Co-Founder & CEO: Service Never Sleeps

1. Tell us about a place you lived in while growing up…

A: I’m a Foreign Service Brat, so I didn’t live in the United States until college. My family moved every two-to-three years, so I spent my childhood between Latin America and West Africa. The lifestyle was wonderful, and every country had its own beautiful and rich culture that I was blessed to experience. Accra, Ghana stands out for truly feeling like home to me. Being African-American, and not knowing my roots, I felt a special connection to the people and culture there. “Akwaaba” is recognized as “Welcome” all over the country, and that is exactly how I felt during my entire time there—embraced into the community with such warmth and energy. That spirit, combined with the vibrant culture and beautiful heritage, made my three years living there one of the most memorable and formative periods of my life. I will never have enough great things to say about my time in Ghana, and I hope to return someday.

2. You founded an organization called Service Never Sleeps. Tell us more!

A: Service Never Sleeps’ (SNS) mission is to mobilize communities to exercise “Allyship”—an active way of life that utilizes bridge-building to ensure equality, opportunity, and inclusion for everyone. We do this through a three-pronged program approach: (1) A signature Fellowship year of part-time service for young professionals that builds leading allies, (2) a Corporate Citizenship program that partners with companies to coordinate skills-based service projects for employees, (3) and a half-day workshop that teaches individuals how to be effective allies for marginalized communities in areas where they hold privilege by actively influencing others. Our vision is to ultimately foster a community of concerned citizens who refuse to stop serving for as long as social injustice exists.

My upbringing as a Foreign Service Brat was a lot of my inspiration for founding SNS! It was such a wonderful lifestyle, but it also exposed me to the realities of social injustice on local and global scales, from both the lenses of my privilege and my marginalization. By college, I had developed the concept of the “Eight-Hour Dream:” If I went to bed right now, and a good fraction of the privileged society did something little to make a difference, I would wake up after a full night’s sleep (eight hours), and see huge social change.” While execution of this in reality is much more complicated, the idea of communities mobilizing for civic engagement seemed like the clear breakthrough for social change.  So now here we are, celebrating two years in October, going full-speed ahead trying to create a movement that inspires, equips, and empowers people to exercise Allyship, with the ultimate goal of shared humanity—a society where diversity is celebrated, where we can all be embraced for who we are, and where we can all thrive to reach our highest potential.

3. Best thing on television right now is?

A: Well, I am a huge fan of reality singing competitions, so you will always find me watching (and voting for) all of those! Separately, I am really loving This Is Us. I think it is a beautifully executed show that is able to tie in so many themes. Overall, I think that it just artfully and masterfully demonstrates the experience of love, joy, pain, and everything in between. That’s life! I think the show touches so many people on such an emotional level because it feels so relatable to everyday people who are just trying to navigate each day, to identify and achieve their purpose, and to just love and be loved. I love that show!

To learn more about the One America Movement, Click Here. 

To invest in our work to fight back against polarization, division and hate, Click Here. 

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