‘Write On’

Write on.

That was part of the message Amiri Baraka, a famously prolific writer, inscribed to me in a book of his poetry, after I gave him a copy of Giving Back during his visit to Charlotte last fall. I love having a steady flow of writing assignments and feeling compelled to reach for my laptop to capture an idea or an observation.

Lately, I’ve been writing up a storm. In addition to the recent guest blogpost for the Lake Institute, below are links to a few of my pieces from the past six weeks as a contributing blogger for BlackGivesBack.com.

Lots of fun events and fascinating people (as depicted below) helped make writing these blogposts a delight. — VF

Lou Bellany, Annetta Foard and Quentin Talley, at "Lou, Q and You at e2" in April  |  Gena J Photography

Lou Bellany, Annetta Foard and Quentin Talley, at “Lou, Q and You at e2″ in April | Gena J Photography

Blog. Blog. Blog.

blog2-1“The image of the hands captivated me—aged, weathered and furrowed with wrinkles, strong yet gentle, one hand cupped in the other. I couldn’t help but think of my own mother’s hands.”

— Dan Schipp, The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University

At the end of 2012, I felt tremendous gratification when three bloggers decided to write about me and my book. Here are links to their blog posts. Check them out!

Loop21.com Interview: Generosity in Black Communities

Charles W. Thomas Jr., photographer

I just returned from an amazing weekend on St. Helena Island where the CIN Leadership Summit took place (more on that experience later). While participating in the Summit, I had a phone interview with Joi-Marie McKenzie of Loop21.com about my new book Giving Back.

New Book Celebrates Generations of African Americans Giving Back, author interview by Joi-Marie McKenzie, Loop21.com

More interviews, book reviews and commentary on Giving Back can be found here, here and here.

Author Q&A on QCityMetro: Spotlight on ‘Giving Back’

An interview about Giving Back posted on QCityMetro.com today. It’s my interview with Michaela Duckett, who frequently profiles authors on what is one of Charlotte’s most popular blogs. Among other things, Michaela reveals five things about me. Most of them were probably little-known facts and trivia…that is, until today.

AUTHOR’S SPOTLIGHT: Q&A with Valaida Fullwood

by Michaela L. Duckett, 28 September 2011

 

Book critic Kam Williams: ‘An uplifting opus…a touching tribute’

Valaida Fullwood (author), Charles W. Thomas Jr. (photographer) and Casajulie (book designer)

Book review by acclaimed book and film critic Kam Williams, excerpted from his blog.

“’To whom much is given, much is expected.’

This Biblical passage from the Gospel of Luke conveys a belief that I and many of my African American family and friends hold dear… We are acutely aware of what others have given up to pave the way and contribute to our successes. As a result, we share a sense of responsibility about honoring and sustaining that legacy…

While this cultural legacy of giving back prevails today, it is often overlooked by mainstream society and rarely celebrated within the African American community… Media coverage and reports of prominent philanthropic leaders and institutions advance a false view which places African Americans only on the demand side, not the supply side of philanthropy.

The truth of the matter: African Americans give 8.6% of their discretionary income to charity—more than any other racial group in America.” — Excerpted from the Preface (pgs. xviii-xix)

Cultivated by ancestors in Africa for ages, black folks’ spirit of philanthropy was ingrained way before their arrival on these shores. During the slave days, it was evident in the altruism of fugitive Harriet Tubman who risked recapture to help others in chains find their way to freedom via the Underground Railroad.

Such behavior has basically been the rule, rather than the exception, for a people whose very survival has often depended on selfless displays of compassion towards the least of our brethren. For, as mentor Michael Sales points out, “What’s most remarkable is that even as we help those who are at risk, we ourselves are often at risk at the same time.”

This attitude persists despite the still precarious position of those African-Americans living above the subsistence level who have managed to extricate themselves from poverty. Giving Back is an uplifting opus celebrating the generosity of charitably-inclined blacks, a touching tribute told in portraits, proverbs, anecdotes and micro-biographies.

The book is the brainchild of idea whisperer Valaida Fullwood who collaborated with award-winning photographer Charles W. Thomas, Jr. to create a visually-captivating, coffee table book chock full of intimate homages to unsung heroes as well as inspirational sayings like the sage notion courtesy of Frederick Douglass that “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

An overdue salute to an underappreciated segment of African-American society.

The Sly Fox Film Reviews publishes the content of film critic Kam Williams. Voted Most Outstanding Journalist of the Decade by the Disilgold Soul Literary Review in 2008, Kam Williams is a syndicated film and book critic who writes for 100+ publications around the U.S., Europe, Asia, Africa, Canada and the Caribbean. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Online, the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee and Rotten Tomatoes. More at: www.kamwilliams.com

Advance commentary on Giving Back can be found here.

Over the Moon

Over the past week, I’ve begun receiving “advance commentary” on Giving Back. Selected readers of prominence, from across the country, have been more than generous with praise of the book’s stories and photography, and their affirmation means the world to me.

For more than four years, I was burrowed deeply in a writer’s hole and afflicted with a brutal case of tunnel vision in order to make this book happen. Making it happen meant not only generating the book’s content but also raising considerable funds and navigating the publishing industry, all of which were foreign to me.

Nevertheless, nothing could keep me from where my sights were cast. With remarkable clarity from the start, my mind’s eye held tight a vision that only sharpened over time. Though the vision was clear, the path was uncertain…really uncertain and seemingly treacherous at times. Trusting a gut sense while feeling my way through the dark and benefiting from gracious gestures made by Charles, family, friends and giving circle members helped move the book project forward.

After following a path that has tested every ounce of my soul and being, I’m sent higher than the sky to find that Giving Back can withstand the brightness outside the burrow and, in fact, shows best in the light of the wider world. When readers tell me they’ve seen, felt, thought and learned the things I long hoped someone…anyone…would, then it seems the years, the sacrifices and the times being misunderstood have been worth it.

Here’s one of the submissions from an advance reader that sent me flying over the moon:

“Astonishing . . . so beautiful, so deep and yet so inviting.

Giving Back belongs in every American home, not just every home of Americans of African descent. Each page connects the readers and the children they love to generosity that God, the Declaration of Independence and our awe-inspiring Black forebears taught us all.  A visual triumph. A story that has not been told!”

Dr. Claire Gaudiani, author of The Greater Good, Generosity Unbound and Daughters of the Democracy