Keep Cool

A week ago, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture hosted its 37th annual Jazzy Holiday Gala. Jazzy, the museum’s major fundraiser, is a holiday season tradition in Charlotte.

For the 7th time, I was the event consultant.

The gala is a delicious creative outlet and a meaningful endeavor for me because it helps raise dollars and the public profile of the Gantt Center. Originating as a luncheon,  Jazzy, after 39 years, transformed into an evening event in celebration of the Center’s 40th anniversary and remains a gala. Being a part of this event’s growth and evolution has been fulfilling. Plus, I am witness to and contribute to facets of Black philanthropy at its finest.

Each year, I come up with a new vision and organizing concept. Inspiration flows rather effortlessly on things that shape the event such as its colors and visual elements, key messages, music and featured forms of the arts. The Gantt Center staff and board members focus primarily on sponsorships, ticket sales and other fundraising strategies like art auctions and raffles. Annually, three recipients of the Spirit of the Center Award are selected and their award presentations are integrated into the event plan.

A record 800+ guests attended Jazzy 2017, which carried the theme Keep Cool. To make a gala of this scale a successful fundraiser and also a fun and entertaining event, collaboration with a host of vendors, performers and volunteers is essential. This encompasses about 250 people, performing services such as graphic design, printing, floral design, valet parking, sound and light production, set design, food and beverage preparation, security, coat check, entertainment, and more.

I’ve written about Jazzy over the years, like here and here and here and here. And below are links to recaps from over the years. All told during these years, Jazzy has honored over 21 people, hosted nearly 4,000 guests, and raised well over one million dollars. Now, how cool is that!

Imagine Anew | 2013

Storify-2013

Remember  | 2014

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BIG Night | 2015

Storify-2015

Art & Soul | 2016

Storify-2016

Keep Cool | 2017

Storify-2017

 

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Love, Leadership and Justice

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Atlanta exhibition opens on the cusp of yearlong commemorations of
MLK’s profound messages and legacy, 50 years after his death
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Happening Now >>> THE GIVING SEASON

Just for you! Thanksgiving food for thought, a fresh crop of photos, new film and an abundance of gratitude


The Atlanta exhibition of The Soul of Philanthropy opened November 1st with a burst of energy and excitement, further kindling powerful ideas and ushering infinite possibilities for the future of Black philanthropic leadership, propelled from the South.

The exhibit’s stories, themes and imagery are timely and resonant as Atlanta and the nation prepare to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s death and celebrate his enduring legacy throughout 2018.

Watch Love, Leadership and Justice from Atlanta’s VIP reception and exhibition ribbon-cutting. It’s our newest short film in a series from the Giving Back Project, featuring sights and sounds from exhibitions of The Soul of Philanthropy.

Come to see philanthropy differently.


“The future of philanthropy is not about generosity, it is about justice.​”     

— Darren Walker, president of Ford Foundation



Presented by Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, in partnership with Hammonds House Museum. Exhibited at Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture & History. November 1, 2017 – January 22, 2018

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southern  legacy  truth   vision   future

 

Watch >>> Fresh, New Film, released just in time for Thanksgiving. Enjoy!

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Film and photography about the exhibition by Sino Chum

Bring The Soul of Philanthropy to your city! Contact us today to learn more.

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Its Other Benefits

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“The New Testament informs the reader that it is more blessed to give than to receive. I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver. The size and substance of the gift should be important to the recipient, but not to the donor save that the best thing one can give is that which is appreciated. The giver is as enriched as is the recipient, and more important, that intangible but very real psychic force of good in the world is increased.”

From The Sweetness of Charity, an essay by Maya Angelou which is quoted in The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit.

Below are a few photos from the Atlanta opening of The Soul of Philanthropy, which is on display at Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History now thru January 2018. The exhibition is presented by Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta in partnership with Hammonds House Museum. Learn more about the exhibition in Atlanta.

Photo credit: Sino Chum

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Atlanta To Open ‘The Soul of Philanthropy’

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The Soul of Philanthropy Atlanta will open November 1 and run through January 22, 2018 at Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History. Robust civic engagement with community conversations will launch with the exhibition, working further to ignite a movement of conscious giving for social change.

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The exhibition is presented by the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, in partnership with Hammonds House Museum.

Sponsors and Community Partners include:

  • African American Development Officers (AADO)
  • Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Atlanta Celebrates Photography
  • Atlanta Fulton Public Library System
  • CommunityBuild Ventures
  • StateFarm
  • Southeastern Council of Foundations
  • WAOK 1380 Radio
  • Wells Fargo

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Tale of Two Cities

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Atlanta panel discussion during Black Philanthropy Month, leading up to the exhibit’s opening

You’d be hard pressed to find two American cities any more geographically and demographically disparate than Portland, Oregon and Atlanta, Georgia. And yet, one thing they have in common is their commitment to to host the comprehensive, multimedia version of The Soul of Philanthropy. Following the IMLS grant-funded exhibit tour, managed by Johnson C. Smith University during 2015 and 2016, these cities are the first in the country to mount exhibitions and lead civic engagement aimed at reframing philanthropy for greater inclusiveness and lasting impact.

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The road from Portland to Atlanta opens a world of possibilities

Vibrant big cities, both Portland and Atlanta benefit from prominent philanthropic families, businesses and foundations. Perhaps then it’s unsurprising that groups in each city would be intrigued by The Soul of Philanthropy, which invites people to see philanthropy differently. That is, come to know that philanthropy is deeper than your pockets.

The Portland exhibition, presented by MRG Foundation at Concordia University, opened at the start of this year and ended late March. The Atlanta exhibition, presented by Hammonds House Museum, is sponsored by the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and several other groups and individual donors. The exhibition will open at Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History in November 2017. Above is a photo from an early program in Atlanta; below is a photo collage from the Portland exhibition.

 

 

Since the inception of the Giving Back Project in 2007, I, along with Charles Thomas, aimed to create a body of work that would transcend race and place. Charlotte, North Carolina has been the epicenter of the project because that’s where our giving circle is based and where we each live and have formed relationships over the majority of our lives. Even so, we aspired to craft stories and release photography, so soulful and true, they’d resonate broadly and tap deeply at the core of people any and everywhere. I used to say, “I want people in Phoenix to see themselves and people they know in these stories and images.”

Ten years into this project and six years after the first printing of Giving Back, seeing sustained interest in the book nationwide and overseas, too, has been gratifying. Proving relevant and timeless, the book continues to sell steadily and, having again sold out, is presently being printed for the fourth time; over 200 books are now on backorder. It’s truly the book that keeps giving!

When the exhibit was announced in 2014 and opened at Johnson C. Smith University, it also began attracting attention and inquiries from coast to coast, including at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Leaders in Portland and Atlanta were among the first to express interest in the exhibit.

Three thousand miles stretch between Portland and Atlanta. The distance between their histories and demographics is wide as well, yet hosting The Soul of Philanthropy bridges these communities. It has provided space for uncommon collaborations, honest conversations and new insights, offering lasting benefit to both places.

Situated in the Pacific Northwest, Portland boasts a hipster reputation as a progressive, socially conscious city, which belies its racist history. Oregon enacted a shameful ban of Black people during periods of the 19th and 20th centuries. Generations later, Portland consequently stands labeled “the Whitest City in America,” because 78 percent of its population identifies racially as White. At seven percent, Black residents comprise a small fraction of the community.

Conversely, Atlanta is a cultural and commercial center of the Atlantic Southeast. A majority of its residents are African American, earning it the reputation of a “Black mecca”. While Oregon forbade Blacks from moving to the state until the 1920s, clear across the country, Georgia depended on the enslavement and exploitation of Black people well into the 20th century. At opposite corners of the U.S., both cities have legacies that can, at times, thwart or even pervert philanthropic efforts today.

The Soul of Philanthropy is a vehicle for communities to explore and celebrate multiple giving traditions, to learn about an array of philanthropic tools and strategies, and to break through barriers to inclusiveness. Even with vast differences in history and population, philanthropic leaders in Portland and in Atlanta have found value in engaging in vital community building through the exhibit. Whether Black, White, Latino, American Indian, Asian American, Middle Easterner, Pacific Islander, or any cultural roots, the stories, photography and themes of The Soul of Philanthropy hold relevance. After a decade, Charles and I have seen firsthand the ways our work persists and sustains significance and resonance in a complicated field and often misunderstood topic.

First Portland and soon Atlanta are reframing portraits of philanthropy and coming to see philanthropy differently. If America’s “Whitest city” and “Black mecca” have found value in this crucial work, there is ample room for cities in between to do the same.

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Here Again

Time again for lamentation.

Even though today and into next week, temperatures in Charlotte will near 90 ºF, I am not fooled. Absence of sunlight when I’ve awoken this week is a dreaded reminder: Today fall slouched in. So I’m re-posting the piece, titled equinox.
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equinox

fading daylight hints its approaching
the rustling cues my lament and loathing.
hustled, leaves surrender verdant hues
a pall befalls every branch in view.
its cooled breath, a cause to brood
déjà vu dreading of a bluest mood.
never ushered, seemingly flung in
the season liked least of them
alas, here again: autumn.

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Wednesday and Every Day

Carnegie Wednesday Wisdom

I uttered the words “Philanthropy is deeper than your pockets” in short film about the Giving Back Project last month. I say it often. Somehow the folks at Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy stumbled upon those words and then posted a #WisdomWednesday tweet. Sweet!

The Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy is bestowed each year, since 2001, by the Carnegie family of institutions. The award recognizes outstanding philanthropists who reflect the values of the legendary Scottish-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie and his philosophy of giving. More quotable wisdom and words of inspiration for me are the late Mr. Carnegie’s words: Do real and permanent good in this world.

Oh Snap!

During our Washington, DC exhibition at the 2017 National Conference of the Association of African American Museums, an intrigued hotel attendant would stroll by regularly and gaze over at our installation. His preoccupation persisted the first few days. Eventually, he ventured into our exhibit space to inquire about the topic and to explore close up and more deeply the displays of photos, stories and interactive elements of The Soul of Philanthropy. And then he shared his story.

Years prior in his native Somalia, he had been on a boat that capsized and sank. While dozens of passengers perished, he was one of only nine survivors rescued by a passing ship. Since that day he said he’s been thankful and always gives back because he was helped once and was saved.

Later, without any our prompting, Nasir wrote his story on the exhibit’s blackboard.

Giving Voice

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Introducing the Black Philanthropy Month 2017 Poster

For the first time, a Black Philanthropy Month poster was commissioned to help inspire Black giving and advance our movement to shape 21st century philanthropy.

This inaugural piece was designed by artist Marcus Kiser and is available here free for downloads. The art poster conveys the BPM 2017 theme: Giving Voice to Fuel Change.

 

To Cap It All

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A recent visit to our capital city served to cap off the 10-year milestone of the Giving Back Project, which produced the book Giving Back and The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit.

The 2017 National Conference of the Association of African American Museums, hosted by the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, took place last week in Washington, DC. And the conference opening coincided with the start of Black Philanthropy Month.  I’m still recovering from the road trip, digesting the experience, and following up with the wonderful historians, artists, writers, curators, researchers and educators I met from across the U.S. and Caribbean.

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Stimulating every sense and emotion, the AAAM conference is an experience I will always remember, feel grateful for, and share more about later. In the meantime, below are some photos and a public expression of gratitude to Diatra Fullwood, Vonda Kaye and Sino Chum—their presence, power and persistence in DC embodied The Soul of Philanthropy.

Photos by Sino Chum.

 

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