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

Come Chill at Jazzy

keep cool screenshot

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’

JAZZ GALA_2016_235

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

VF hands and laptop

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.

ava wood

 Poem, Day 25

Can’t Wait

Anticipation

Bated-breath high, gift, curse, fate.

I see and can’t wait.

ava wood

Dee sunset

Sunrise by Diatra

Poem, Day 13

How We See Ourselves

“I really didn’t see myself as being a philanthropist but now I really do, I feel like I am philanthropist, it is really sweet. I think it is future-looking to bring this exhibit and share it with the community.” — ROMAINE HARRIS, visitor to The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited

A story and another story, plus photos from MRG Foundation’s Portland exhibition, which closed on March 31. The next city scheduled to host the comprehensive exhibit is Atlanta!

https://www.mrgfoundation.org/conversation-giving-back-romaine-harris-stephan-herrera/