‘Windows of My Soul’

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One of the messages composing the chandelier of The Soul of Philanthropy.

Take heed and make this a great week! 

— VF

VF: C’est moi

visionary farsightedness
voraciously fascinated
vibrant force
values family
vehement friend
voluminous friendships
vocalized free-spiritedness
voluptuous feelings
vivaciously fanciful
voyaging fanatic
vanity foibles
vivid fails
various faults
violence free
very faithful
vast freedom
verbal finessing
veritable foodie
vintage fullwood
valaida forever
 A birthday ode to me from me.

Wondrous Women

I paid tribute to the women of my family tree who sprouted me and help keep me rooted, nourished and strong. I cherish and love them everyday!

Excellent Example

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Meka Sales honors her mother’s philanthropic legacy

“What are you doing to serve?”

In celebration of Women’s History Month, a tiny question with huge implications is shared from Giving Back. The question is from a story by Meka Sales in memory of her mother Shirley Oliver Nelson—an excellent example of generousness.

Read Meka’s full story: “An Excellent Example,” Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists (pp. 148-149).

Birth Month

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Sweet March has landed.
Winter is MIA and
spring is on the way!

— ava wood

(I know National Poetry Month arrives in April but can’t help myself. Spring excites me.)

Wonder Woman

Happy Women’s History Month! 

To celebrate, women from Giving Back, from my giving circle and from my life will feature here throughout March. The month’s first post is excerpted from Giving Back and spotlights my cousin Britt and my great aunt Annie. Read it below.

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Britt Brewer Loudd and her grandmother Annie. Photograph by Charles W. Thomas

ANNIE BREWER  |  W o n d e r   W o m a n

Growing up I honestly believed my grandmother was a superhero. She has long been known both for model good looks and model goodness and she is more wondrous than ever well into her eighties.

Granny’s house was just doors from ours during my childhood so I saw her every day. Awestruck by her ability to handle just about everything, I was her shadow and saw up close how she was always going and doing for others. The little things she did are what I remember most. So many times I watched curiously as she reached into her bottomless basket of greeting cards when somebody needed lifting up and for folks to know they were not forgotten.

My fondest memories are of how she would cook and bake for everyone. Since Granny didn’t drive, Papa would load up the car with pots and dishes and then my grandparents with me in tow would deliver food to people who were sick or going through something. Even through a child’s eyes, I could see the impact of her generosity in each person’s face. Though she was not a wealthy woman in terms of finances, Granny was doing what she knew to do best. Fixing a home-cooked meal or whipping up a cake was my grandmother’s way of sharing her riches.

I still walk in her shadow today. Sometimes between picking up kids at school, assembling prizes for the youth choir raffle, hauling Girl Scout cookies across town and organizing my precinct meeting I pause and think, just like Annie Brewer, and a little smile comes over my face.

BRITT BREWER LOUDD   Connection: Granddaughter • Channel: Member, Greenville Memorial AME Zion Church • Cause: Social justice

Coming To See Philanthropy Differently in Portland

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“Drawing with light” is both a literal and metaphorical description of photography. The Soul of Philanthropy draws inspiration from that definition as well as from the root meaning of philanthropy: love of what it means to be human. Each a potent concept on its own, combined, these ideas have fueled the design and programming for our exhibition. This exhibit illuminates the human impulse to show compassion, to improve, to progress, to connect and to love. We have composed an experience where the images glow, the stories enlighten and passions are set afire. In reframing portraits of philanthropy, we want viewers to embrace and act on the fact that we each have the capacity to give more and wiser.

From the Artist Statement for the exhibit “Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited”

Photography from the exhibition opening on January 20, 2017, at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. And brought to the community by MRG Foundation.

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On Opening in Oregon

— dimeji onafuwa (@casajulie) January 7, 2017

Friday night, The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit opens in Portland, Oregon!

Joy swells and overwhelms me when I think about evolution of an idea I had 10 years ago: to reframe portraits of philanthropy with love.

MRG Foundation is bringing the exhibition to Portland and mounting it at Concordia University. My friend Dimeji Onafuwa, the book designer for Giving Back and graphic designer for The Soul of Philanthropy, now lives in Portland and is this exhibition’s designer. Photos below show Dimeji and his team installing pieces in the library’s gallery space at Concordia. 

I’m grateful to all of MRG Foundation’s community supporters, which include: Concordia University, The Collins Foundation, Grantmakers of Oregon and SW Washington, KBOO Community Radio, Meyer Memorial Trust, Moda Health, Multnomah County Cultural Coaltion, The Oregonian Media Group, Spirit Mountain Community Fund, Street Roots and Willamette Valley Development Officers.

For MRG Foundation, presenting The Soul of Philanthropy is an opportunity to share its story publicly and welcome new supporters, donors and friends into its work. MRG believes that “giving is an act of social justice” and recognizes that throughout history communities whose needs are not being met by traditional sources eventually come together and build their own systems.

An aim of bringing the exhibition to Portland is making connections with individuals and groups who are rethinking philanthropy and building the structures and support they need outside of conventional means.

— VF

Roses For The Living

 

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My sister Diatra and me miraculously still standing and smiling after 72 hours of nonstop event prep, heavy lifting and rose wall creation for the Gantt Center’s 2016 Jazzy Holiday Gala.

This year the Jazzy Holiday Gala was organized around the idea of art & soul, conveying the unique and vital role the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture plays in Charlotte’s artistic and cultural scene and in the lives of youth, artists, educators, families and others, in communities near and far. Together at The Center was the evening’s mantra.

Jazzy is an elegant black-tie gala and major fundraiser of the Gantt Center. After three decades, it’s become a holiday tradition in Charlotte. For the past five years, I’ve been the creative strategist/event consultant for Jazzy. Photos from past events can be seen here and here and here. As with each year, I approached the event as a large-scale art project, beginning with an organizing concept through which an important narrative from the Gantt Center can be told. Then I built out the concept from the color palette to visual design to key messages and scripting to art forms and media to the presenters to the flow of the evening.

This year, art & soul emerged as perfect because the Gantt Center is a state-of-the-art building located in the heart of Charlotte, and it carries a mission to preserve African American culture and to present art in all its forms. Its location holds particular significance because it stands in what was once the thriving, predominately Black neighborhood of Brooklyn. In innumerable ways, the Gantt Center embodies Charlotte’s heart, art and soul.

On Saturday, December 3, more than 700 guests gathered at the Charlotte Convention Center and helped raise $300,000 to advance the Gantt Center’s mission, which keeps art & soul alive and thriving in Charlotte. The event’s Presenting Sponsor was Bank of America. Gala Co-Chairs were Dr. Tiffani Jones & Thaddeus Jones and Allison & Tim Atwell, who led a Host Committee that included: Ned Austin, Victor Fields, Joan Higginbotham, Charles Horton, Michelle Horton, Jerri Irby, Alene Paraison, Yandrick Paraison and Natalie Pittman.

2016 Spirit of the Center Award recipients were: PNC (corporate citizenship and partnership); Richard J. Powell, Ph.D. of Duke University (art and culture); and Mrs. Sarah Stevenson, a founding board member of the Gantt Center (philanthropy and community).

The gala opened at 6:00 pm with an hour-long cocktail reception and was followed by dinner, award presentations, art & soul impact stories, an appeal for membership, music by Al Jasper & Friends and dancing. Membership was the focus of the evening’s fundraising appeal. Throughout the evening, gala attendees were urged to becoming a new member,  renew a membership, upgrade a membership and “gift” membership for others. The aim was for every guest to purchase a membership.

A live rose wall served as the event’s focal centerpiece. Guests posed in front of a backdrop of 1,000s of red rose blossoms as photographer Jon Strayhorn took beautiful portraits (see some of Jon’s photos below). A wall of windows outside the ballroom were transformed into a photography exhibition with artful images by Ortega Gaines. A sleek program booklet comprised colorful photographs, indicative of the Gantt Center’s art & soul.

But one glorious night, Jazzy celebrates what the Gantt Center carries out nearly 365 days a year, why it has garnered community support for 42 years, and how it works to shape the future by engaging generation after generation. Whether it’s art and soul, young and old, global and local, or black, white and brown, we come together at The Center.

View the photo slideshow by clicking an image.