What does it mean for someone to make a difference in their community? While the first thought may be community service and fundraising, in the age of social media, the phrase means so much more. It means using their influence and voice.
Dwight Allen O’Neal is the first person that comes to mind as I write this. Influencer, writer and producer are the words he uses to describe himself. He is known as @onealappeal on Instagram and reaches his 10.4k followers through his posts and hosting a weekly live show on the new social media app Bigo Live. His first novel, “Shoulda! Coulda! Woulda!” was published in 2020 followed by his second in 2021, “Collar Confessions: Sharing the Man of God” which he helped develop into a series for Here TV. He also directed the award-winning documentary “Being Black in Porn” released in 2021. Most recently, O’Neal produced the show “Go Go” for Here TV.
He is also a man who believes we can create our own greatness. “I was put on this earth to love and help others.” He does this by volunteering with the Impulse Group and mentoring LGBTQ+ youth. After serving on the board of directors of the Impulse Group in New York City, O’Neal is now an alumni member who assists the global founder by offering mentorship support to the Dallas chapter. He ultimately creates work that will influence the community in a positive way. “Making a difference in the world is something I am passionate about within my journey of life.”
Originally from Arkansas, O’Neal moved to New York City in 2003 for college. He currently lives in Dallas, TX and although the state’s politics differ from those of New York, he says he feels the predominantly red political beliefs of the state have made him more creative.
“It allows me to challenge the norm and push the envelope to make some change,” he said.
O’Neal believes it’s important to look at life from a place of thriving and not just surviving. After coming out, his parents worried because they felt he had a double target on his back.
“Not only am I Black, but I’m gay as well,” said O’Neal. “They just wanted me to be able to survive.”
This didn’t stop O’Neal from living his truth though.
“If I can help anyone get on a journey of living authentically and to thrive then I’m doing my job.” He also wants members of the LGBTQ+ community to know that it’s OK to start over. “Life’s a book and if one page doesn’t work out, rip that page out and start another one.”
O’Neal believes social media has definitely helped change the world of creativity for artists of color by allowing them to live authentically and to conduct business for themselves quickly. However, he also believes that it’s hindered the way we communicate with each other. His approach to using social media to make a difference in your community and giving a voice to others? Just be authentic.
“I feel like I can do anything,” O’Neal tells me this when I ask him what it means for him to be a Black queer artist right now. It also means to be unapologetic to him. He also has some advice for those who want to make a difference in their community but fear their voice won’t be heard: “It sounds cliche, but just do it,” said O’Neal. “Quality over quantity is what is of importance and if one person hears you, you’re making change already. Do it because it’s the right thing to do.”
Dwight has made it his mission to entertain, educate and inspire. Although he has been through a few life experiences that left him feeling “empty,” he views those as lessons, not losses, and wants to continue spreading his light and using his voice to love and support others.
Mathew Dominguez is the Content Marketing Specialist of Dallas Voice.
This series is made possible by Comcast Corporation.