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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Full Circle Magic In Ten Summers

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“Invest in the human soul. Who knows. It might be a diamond in the rough.”  Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and philanthropist

2017, the tenth summer

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has invited The Soul of Philanthropy to be the featured exhibition and Cultural Resource Sponsor when it hosts the 2017 National Conference of the Association of African American Museums (AAAM) in Washington, DC, July 31 – August 4.

NMAAHC Founding Director Lonnie Bunch is honorary chair of this year’s AAAM conference, where the theme, PRESENCE, POWER, PERSISTENCE, focuses on Black social change movements. It’s a one-of-a-kind conference that, in 2017, is expected to bring together 600-800 attendees from over 200 museums, libraries, HBCUs, historic sites and cultural centers in the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America.

To mount this special exhibition of The Soul of Philanthropy, a small team and I are headed to DC later this month. We’ll install the exhibit at The Capital Hilton, where conference attendees will be immersed in the exhibit’s themes and imagery of radical generosity and conscious giving for social change. This exhibition will also help kick off Black Philanthropy Month 2017.

 During the inaugural year of the high-profile NMAAHC, this exhibition at the AAAM conference is a notable milestone in the 10-year history of The Giving Back Project. At the outset in 2007, we had high aspirations for the project, as shown in this excerpt from an early document:

An artistic expression of our cultural heritage, the Giving Back Project is a vehicle for sharing our collective stories and promoting inclusive and responsive philanthropy. We want it to become a springboard for deeper conversations and more mindful giving.

The ever-evolving project now comprises the civic engagement work of New Generation of African American Philanthropists, the book Giving Back, both the comprehensive and the pop-up edition of “The Soul of Philanthropy,” and anchor involvement in annual Black Philanthropy Month celebrations.

The AAAM conference brings an uncommon opportunity to reach beyond the usual audiences of institutional philanthropy and into the expansive world of cultural and educational institutions, where a broad cross-section people can come to see philanthropy differently.

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2013, the fourth summer

Coincidentally, it was during Black Philanthropy Month, August 2013, at the AAAM conference in Charlotte that Charles Thomas and I, along with Darryl Lester, served on a panel about African American giving and first announced plans to create and launch a touring exhibition. Reimagining our book as a multimedia exhibit was a vision we’d held since before the book was published in 2011.

Participation on the AAAM pre-conference panel ushered in a slew opportunities by introducing us to museum professionals from around the country and to funders such as the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

We couldn’t have predicted that four fruitful summers later, we’d be circling back to the AAAM conference as a proud sponsor and with our long-envisioned exhibit realized—thanks to a major grant from IMLS and a partnership with Johnson C. Smith University.

2007, the first summer

On a roadtrip to Washington, DC to attend my first national conference on Black philanthropy, I revealed my concept for The Giving Back Project with three members of New Generation of African American Philanthropists in July 2007. Since April, when the idea for a book first came to me, I had held it tightly, disclosing it to no one. Renee Bradford, Rashad Davis and Ohmar Land were the first to hear my idea for Giving Back, and they were instantly enthusiastic and encouraging when I shared my plan. Laughter and animated chatter about wildest-dream possibilities for the yet-to-be-published (and still to be written) book fueled the drive and before we knew it the long drive from Charlotte to Washington, DC was too soon over.

Returning to our nation’s capital a decade later with both an award-winning book and a groundbreaking exhibit for the AAAM conference—hosted by NMAAHC, no less—feels marvelously perfect.

all the summers in between

The three summers shared here punctuate a decade of summers that felt more like hell than heaven. Hot days filled with tedium, sweat and hope. For folks who have a wild idea, passion project, labor of love or a seed for something big in your head or heart, know that your best hopes can come through, despite inevitable struggles and setbacks. My 10-year experience has been a sweaty, bloody, teary mix of anxiety and courage, patience and persistence, bewilderment and wonder, sorrow and satisfaction.

A full circle etched with an idea.

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To make a tax-deductible contribution in support of the special AAAM exhibition:
  • Go to: new-philanthropists.org/initiatives/ and click the phrase: Giving Back Project at SocialGood to donate via the project’s PayPal site
  • Or, mail a check to our fiscal agent: Social Good Fund, Attn: Giving Back Project, P.O. Box 5473, Richmond, CA 94805 (be sure to write on the memo line: Giving Back Project)
Financial gifts in any amount are welcome and needed. Every contributor will be acknowledged in print and online stories that we produce. Contributors donating $500 or more will be listed by name on a panel composing the DC exhibition.
If you have questions, feel free to call or email me. Thank you.

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Coming Up in August: BPM 2017

BPM 2017 BannerBlack Philanthropy Month is a multimedia campaign to inform, involve, inspire and invest in Black philanthropic leadership. This year’s focal concept is Giving Voice to Fuel Change.


FROM THE BPM 2017 MEDIA RELEASE

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Moderator at a BPM 2016 event in NYC

Entering its seventh year of observance, Black Philanthropy Month (BPM 2017) is an unprecedented campaign during August to strengthen African-descent giving in all its forms.

Dr. Jackie Copeland-Carson, founder of Black Philanthropy Month and Pan African Women’s Philanthropy Network (PAWPNet) offers a litany of unjust events around the world and contends, “Black people are at a crossroads.” She further asserts, “This year we’ll celebrate our giving past while reviving Black giving as a collective movement for social change. Look for opportunities to join PAWPNet and support high-impact projects that, with your support, can build a better future in this new period of injustice and struggle for our communities everywhere.  Black giving matters!”

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Host of a BPM 2016 event in NYC

Attacks on our nation’s progress in areas of voting rights, LGBTQ equality, women’s health, criminal justice, educational opportunity, economic power and more are emblematic of what’s occurring around the globe. These assaults demand we give voice to injustice and, collectively, dedicate resources to turn the tide and assert our rights, interests and humanity.

As a campaign, BPM 2017 comprises activities—online and in communities—to inspire people to advocate and to give in strategic ways that transform policies, systems and lives for the better. The public is encouraged to participate by hosting self-organized events, charitable fundraising activities and community conversations. To spark ideas on how you can participate, visit BlackPhilanthropyMonth.com.

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Presenter at exhibit opening in Portland

BPM 2017 happenings that promote philanthropic investments and conscious giving in our communities are planned in cities, coast to coast. Included among these are a special exhibition of The Soul of Philanthropy with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture at the 2017 Association of African American Museums conference in Washington, DC, plus a pop-up exhibition at the University of Kentucky. Slated to spotlight philanthropy across the African Diaspora are gatherings in such communities as New York City, the Bay Area, Chicago, Atlanta and Columbia, SC. These and other observances led by foundations, nonprofit agencies, cultural institutions, giving circles, media and individuals will be featured on BlackPhilanthropyMonth.com.

Tracey Webb, founder of Black Benefactors and an architect of the annual campaign, says, “This year’s Black Philanthropy Month will inspire givers to ignite change at the local level, in addition to supporting initiatives nationally and internationally. Powerful shifts happen with collective action, and BPM 2017 is set to fuel connections and amplify voices that will shape our future.”


BACKGROUND

Founded by Dr. Jackie Copeland-Carson of the Pan African Women’s Philanthropy Network and recognized by the United Nations and Congress in August 2011, Black Philanthropy Month was created as an annual, global celebration of African-descent giving in the United States and worldwide. Principal partners on the campaign are Jackie Copeland-Carson, Tracey Webb and Valaida Fullwood. For a full listing of sponsors, visit BlackPhilanthropyMonth.com.

To stay connected, like the BPM Facebook page and follow these hashtags on social media: #BPM2017 #givingvoice


 

 

Come Chill at Jazzy

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For 43 years, the Gantt Center has kept cool. 

Preserving and presenting facets of Blackness has remained central to its mission.

From the mystic coolness of West African civilizations,

to the emergence of cool jazz in the Forties,

to that elusive cool exuded in attitude, looks, strides, speech and ways of being . . .

Remarkably, the best of African American art and culture has come to characterize coolness. As designer Christian LaCroix astutely observed:

…the history of cool in America is the history of African American culture.

This sums up my organizing concept that will shape this year’s JAZZY HOLIDAY GALA. Six months from now at Jazzy 2017, the Gantt Center will celebrate the ineffable style and aesthetic known as Black Cool. 

An elegant black-tie gala, Jazzy 2017 will take place on Saturday, December 2 in the expansive Crown Ballroom of the Charlotte Convention Center. This is the 37th year of Jazzy, the Gantt Center’s signature fundraising event and Charlotte’s not-to-be-missed holiday tradition.

Jazzy 2017 is on track to become the Gantt Center’s largest gala ever, attracting as many as 1,000 guests. The gala generates crucial dollars to advance the Gantt Center’s mission, which keeps African American art, culture and history alive and thriving in Charlotte.

At 6:00 pm, Jazzy will kick off with a festive cocktail reception. Fun and fellowship continue with dinner and wine, award presentations, impact stories, opportunities to give, live entertainment and dancing. Individual seats are $250. A range of sponsorships and benefits is available to corporations, small businesses and individuals. Learn more at ganttcenter.org.

 2017 Spirit of the Center Award Recipients

Ferguson Chambers & Sumter | esteemed Charlotte-based law firm which has earned an international reputation for affirming civil rights

Charles Farrar | Charlotte’s world-class artisan who through woodturning produces finely crafted bowls and vases, prized by museums and art collectors

Philip Freelon | renowned architect of the Gantt Center and numerous cultural institutions, most recently the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture 

The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture presents, preserves and celebrates excellence in the art, history and culture of African-Americans and people of African descent. Come chill at Jazzy and invest in our collective future with your support of the Gantt Center. 

I’m excited, once again, to play a part in envisioning and organizing one of Charlotte’s most important, hot-ticket events. Take a look Jazzy last year and the year before last and the one before that and before that!

— VF

Charlotte’s ‘Art & Soul’

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Former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Bernard Gantt at Jazzy 2016

As the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts & Culture revs up for its major fundraiser, Jazzy Holiday Gala 2017—which, by the way, will be the COOLEST ever—here are some photos and the new sizzle reel from Jazzy 2016 (thanks to the most-talented Ben Premeaux!).  After such an awesomely rosy and red hot event last year, I can’t wait to share with you my ideas for Jazzy 2017!

Photos and a recap of past years can be found here and here and here.

Please watch and enjoy the sizzle reel! https://youtu.be/gcTtXhqN3rA

Something’s Gotta Give

Mounting pressure triggers thoughts like, “something’s gotta give”. That is, a sense kicks in that something needs to shift—recognition that a tipping point is imminent. Intensified moments such as this converged on me too many times to count over the last 10 years, leaving me anxious and wondering, “what next?”

VF hands and laptopTen years ago, on April 27, 2007, while attending a Women’s Funding Network conference in Seattle, an idea came to me with astounding clarity. That moment marked the beginning of the Giving Back Project. Below are  excerpted notes from a decade ago about evocative imagery of the human hand that illustrate the specificity of my initial thoughts.

“The fragrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose.”

“Hands — both the image and the words — are rich with symbolism, particularly in the context of giving. Hand out. Hand up. Hand-me-down. Give a helping hand. Hand in hand. These are just a few of the many common expressions containing the word “hand” that connote philanthropic concepts and stir a broad range of sentiments.

“Images of human hands will feature prominently on the cover and will be a point of detail in the portraits of honorees. Evocative images include: Strong, leathered hands of the aged (envisioned for cover), hand on cane, a handshake, hands serving food, hands knitting, hand holding a photo, hand pressing a Bible, hand writing a check and hands tending to a child.”

After its conception, the book Giving Back took 1621 days to complete and publish. Even with crystal clear vision, a litany of unexpected and sometimes brutal challenges blocked my path—the 2008 economic implosion, fundraising woes, skeptics, critics, distractions—which often left me saying, something’s gotta give. Despite nearing boiling points, I resisted temptations to escape the heat by compromising my vision. The experience was an assault on every front, and yet somehow I pushed through. If something had to give, it wasn’t going to be me. After enduring the breaking points of the 1621 days, I believed I was, at last, free. I was wrong. 

After 10 years, the struggle endures, but I’m now essentially heat resistant. The early years of the project rendered me unbreakable. Like pottery, the fire has continuously strengthened me to carry a God-gifted vision. The Giving Back Project still teaches me daily about faith and purpose, patience and persistence, grace and philanthropy, because  something has got to give, indeed. #getyourgiveon

Below are photos from the past decade. Enjoy! 

— VF

3,650 Days

“If there is a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” — Toni Morrison

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Yesterday, April 27, marked the 10th anniversary of the birth of The Giving Back Project, which was sparked the night the idea came to me for Giving Back. To commemorate the conception of my now decade-long labor of love, below is the excerpted Author’s Notes section (p. 338) from the book.

Grace is a gift always welcome. And I was showered with grace while developing Giving Back. When I first conceived of the idea, zeal and naivety blinded me to its magnitude. I thought it would take a year to develop the book; instead it led me on a four-and-a-half-year odyssey that proved torturous and joyous.

At times, doubts would swarm with stinging questions about whether the vision was attainable. I questioned whether I was up to the sacrifices and risks that seeing it through seemed to require of me. People I spoke with believed in the project; they saw the significance of documenting our stories and producing a socially relevant book. This helped fend off some my fears. Even with dispiriting episodes, I could never suppress for long the call of these stories.

Interviewing people was a privilege and extraordinarily gratifying; yet the gravity of the undertaking weighed heavily on me too. Each set of interview notes seemed so delicate. I gained deeper recognition of how precious each story was and how potent it could become if I possessed the wherewithal to craft a compelling body of work and get it in front of readers.

I felt like a surrogate entrusted to carry not one but scores of seeds, each exceptional, fragile and bundling possibilities. Humbled and often daunted I knew I had to take care in crafting each story with due reverence. Demanding equal finesse was clearing an uncertain path to bring the book’s narrative and photographic content out of the obscurity of our families, our communities and my laptop into the light of the wider world. Guidance, often from unexpected people and places, came at each crossroad.

Always brightening the journey were the hopes and confidence expressed by family, friends and giving circle members. I remember the excitement of Ohmar, Renee and Rashad when they first heard my idea while on a road trip to a Black philanthropy conference. I think about Aunt Dora’s smile upon learning she inspired the book. I recall early conversations with Charles about my vision and the alignment of our artistic aspirations. Collaboration with Charles has been a God-sent steadying force, from his initial blind faith in the project to his ease, professionalism and quiet generosity.

The most beautiful gift while writing this book was being immersed in its content. I couldn’t help but become re-inspired when each day required me to delve into literally hundreds of narratives and photographs meant to inspire and motivate. Gratitude bubbles over when I look back on the gracious acts that brought Giving Back into being. Without a doubt God’s grace is greatest, but grace granted by the people around me was wonderfully sweet too. — VF

Additional photos and posts, reflecting on my experiences and learning, will follow over the next few days.

 

Long Enough

Hold me long enough

to melt this encrusted shell;

hard’s no state for hearts.

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 Poem, Day 25