About valaida

writer. thinker. listener. idea whisperer. traveler. mad word geek. absolute scrabble freak. drinker of life. da*n good friend. ridiculous foodie. imaginative dreamer. afflicted party planner. kind conqueror. okra lover. hillbilly w/ southern roots far-stretched global sights. author of book that reframes portraits of philanthropy. Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists | http://bit.ly/htLxQU

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.

PDX to ATL map

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.

ava wood

autumn leaves

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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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.

AAAM Conference Screenshot

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