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

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.

 

Philanthropy on Exhibit

Charles Thomas and me signing books at a recent exhibition of The Soul of Philanthropy at Duke University, which is Charles’ alma mater.

Six years ago, Charles and I began exploring the idea of an museum exhibition on philanthropy, based on the yet released stories and photography of Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists. While it took four years more, before we—in collaboration with NGAAP-Charlotte and Johnson C. Smith University—realized that vision with The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited, we’ll claim releasing seeds of this idea into the ethosphere.

Fast forward to a year ago, just after #GivingTuesday, I was reading this story in The Chronicle of Philanthropy about Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and David Rubenstein funding an endowed curatorship at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History (NMAH) to create a series of exhibitions on the history and future of American philanthropy.

Since the article referenced only billionaire white men (and a few women in the context of being their wives), I wondered whether the NMAH exhibitions would be narrowly framed to present only conventional and predictable pictures of “American philanthropy”. Would traditions of philanthropy in communities of color be told? Would the generosity and impact of people of modest means get included? Would stories of philanthropic women and giving circles be shared?

Quick to climb on my bandwagon, I reached out to learn more about NMAH’s “The Philanthropy Initiative” and to ask questions to ensure a vivid and inclusive and soulful account of philanthropy in America was an aim. Thanks to a network of kind connectors—A’Lelia Bundles, Aviva Kempner and Fath Ruffins—I made some gains.

So on this #GivingTuesday (and hopefully many more to come), I’m traveling to Washington, DC for “The Power of Giving: Philanthropy’s Impact on American Life”—an invitation-only symposium with philanthropists, environmentalists, thought leaders and social innovators to discuss the past, present, and future of American giving. Such programs are slated, annually, for decades to come and the focus this year is “Sustainability and The Environment”. Tuesday’s schedule launches with the opening of the Smithsonian’s first-ever, long-term exhibition GIVING IN AMERICA. We’re in the room, and there’s more to come.

“All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” — Victor Hugo

Below are more photos are from the exhibition of The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed (abridged edition) at Duke University’s Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture. Coincidently, the Duke University exhibition was made possible by support from financier David Rubinstein, who chairs Duke’s Board of Trustees and also is one of the funders of the NMAH exhibition.

Philanthro-Tee

Today’s Black Friday and with Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday coming up soon, take a look at these HEARTWORK t-shirts, modeled by the lovely Dr. Angela Logan.

You can give a gift with a message that helps give rise to a new generation of conscious givers. Inspired by The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit, HEARTWORK carries socially conscious messages, eco-friendly organic fabrics and artfully designed products.

Angela is the first person to purchase and then post photos of her HEARTWORK apparel via social media. She sported not one but two of my favorite t-shirts—the Giving Back tee and the Truth Be Told tee. Her tweets and pics from an ARNOVA conference in DC were right on time!

#getyourgiveon

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Socially Conscious Messages • Eco-Friendly Organic Fabrics • Artfully Designed Products

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Watch Hands Up

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Watch, hands up!

Darkest midnight descends

upon my kin and each American.

This pall befalls all our brethren.

An unprecedented presidency ends,

while a bigoted braggart divides and ascends.

A momentous new and proud museum,

yet streets exhibit dead Black men.

Some feign unknowing of the pilgrims’ sin

then deign to say our unforgetting offends.

Lies tease. Justice teeters. Truth dawns and upends.

Stand your moral ground trusting how the arc bends. 

— ava wood

the second one

Pretend unknowing

of the original sin

is the second one.

ava wood

The other day I visited one of the few slave-era cemeteries of African-descent people in Charlotte. Known as the McCoy Slave Cemetery, the site has about 25 plots that date back to the 1840s.

I, like that morning, was still and reverent in that place. This haiku came home with me that day.

So Grand

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Pictured on the left is my maternal grandmother Lucille Geneva, who would have turned 99 years old today (November 2). She’s seated with sister Pauline on the lawn of family home in Randolph County, North Carolina. Below is a photo her husband, my grandfather James who would have celebrated his 94th birthday on October 29.

During my time with them both, we shared grand times and a wonderfully grand love. Missing you two!

Granddaddy

Experience The Hip-Hop Fellow

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9th Wonder, Grammy Award-Winning Producer, DJ and Record Exec

Mark you calendar for Thursday, November 17 for the next Heritage & History program!

Film. Talk. Beats. Featuring Grammy Award-Winning Producer, DJ and Record Executive 9th Wonder at The Underground at the AvidXchange Music Factory, Charlotte, NC. Buy tickets here.

6-9 pm

Film. Documentary film screening of The Hip-Hop Fellow

Talk. Discussion and Q&A by 9th Wonder and Dr. Mark Anthony Neal

9-11 pm

Beats. Gantt After Dark experience with music, mixing and moves featuring DJ Chela

North Carolina native, 9th Wonder is the subject of the 2014 documentary The Hip-Hop Fellow, which will be screened as part of this three-part Heritage & History program. The film traces his 2012-15 tenure as a Fellow at Du Bois Institute at Harvard University where he taught and explored hip-hop’s role in academia. Currently, 9th Wonder is a Lecturer in African American Studies at Duke University.

In 1998 along with Phonte and Big Pooh, 9th Wonder formed the critically acclaimed hip-hop trio Little Brother. His first major label placement as a producer was the song “Threat” on Jay-Z’s Black Album, and since then he worked such artists as Erykah Badu, Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige.

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Mark Anthony Neal, Ph.D.

Joining the program is Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, Duke University Professor of African & African American Studies and English, who co-teaches The History of Hip-Hop with 9th Wonder. Dr. Neal is the author of numerous books, including New Black Man, and is host of Left of Black, a video webcast produced with the John Hope Franklin Center.

“Given the demographics of Charlotte and pockets of segregation and poverty at the heart of the recent protests, this discussion of The Hip-Hop Fellow provides a unique opportunity for community folks seeking solutions to consider the possibilities for social change via hip-hop arts. Reflecting on 9th Wonder’s career is to bear witness to a young Black kid that grew up working class in North Carolina who finds himself as a fellow at Harvard University. It is crucial to understand that hip-hop allowed him and countless other Black youth to imagine a future for themselves.” — Mark Anthony Neal

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DJ Chela

Culminating the event is a Gantt After Dark experience with DJ Chela. DJ Chela got her start in North Carolina—her home state—making her mark in parties, live shows, college radio, DJ battles, and her mixtapes that were known for showcasing local hip-hop talent. One of her first opportunities was a 20-minute slot on 9th Wonder’s radio show on WXDU. She became one of the first, only and most widely recognized female DJs in North Carolina, gigging internationally, and rocking countless shows with national acts.

Now based in New York, Chela has been making her imprint in clubs, radio, mixtapes, live shows and battles for over 10 years. Her live sets are a dynamic mixture of world rhythms, Latin, Hip Hop, rock, reggae, funk, soul, disco, house and more mixed with a turntablist sensibility.

The Heritage & History program series features nationally noted artists and scholars who are preserving Black culture through an array of disciplines and media. In hosting each culture keeper, the Gantt Center invites public participation in special events and experiences that illuminate important stories and engage audiences. It has been a joy to be a part of designing the series and organizing this program and this one and this one.

Presenting Sponsor | Headquartered in Charlotte, Duke Energy is the largest electric power holding company in the United States. Its regulated utility operations serve approximately 7.4 million electric customers located in six states in the Southeast and Midwest.

Host Cultural Institution  | The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture celebrates the contributions of Africans and African-Americans to American culture and serves as an epicenter for music, dance, theater, visual art, film, arts education, literature, history and civic engagement. Follow the Gantt Center on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter @HBGanttCenter.

You can purchase tickets here.

equinox

That time of the year is blowing in again.

valaida

Today marks the vernal equinox and first day of spring—a beloved time of year. Perhaps because my birthday comes along with the season, the arrival of springtime happenings (greenness, jonquils, morning bird songs, warmer weather, budding trees, brighter days) is a source of supreme delight. Conversely, fall is my least favorite season. This is evidenced in the poem below, written exactly six months ago on the autumnal 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

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My Heart’s In It

Socially Conscious Messages  Eco-Friendly Organic Fabrics • Artfully Designed Products

web-banner-galloree-01Last week saw the launch of HEARTWORK—inspired by the touring museum exhibit The Soul of Philanthropy, and I’m overjoyed!

HEARTWORK features original designs and apparel for all ages to give rise to a new generation of philanthropists and a movement of conscious giving for social change.

SHOP HEARTWORK! Select an item for yourself or to give as a gift!what-gives-onesie-screenshot

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SHOP HEARTWORK!

CLT: Our Lives, Our Giving, Our Futures Matter

Black philanthropy demonstrates “the vitality of Black communities, our value of Black lives, and our commitment to Black futures.” — from Keysha Walker’s 31 August Days message

Giving Augustly Year-Round

The shooting deaths of Keith L. Scott and Justin Carr have intensified questions of race, power and justice in Charlotte.

As engaged citizens, conscious givers, philanthropic leaders and change agents in the Charlotte region and beyond, members of New Generation of African American Philanthropists have an opportunity and responsibility to participate and help shape what happens next in the wake of recent tragedies and civic crisis.

Faces of members and friends of NGAAP-Charlotte compose this collage (right) from August celebrations of Black Philanthropy Month (BPM 2016). For one month, our giving circle engaged in a daily social media messaging campaign titled 31 August Days. The campaign served as a declaration of members’ beliefs and an affirmation that Black lives matter and Black giving matters. The entire series of messages can be found on our website and Facebook page.

Little did we know in August that one month later we would need to rely so heavily on our shared values and collective strength to nurture hope for what positive can come next. In fact, the 31 August Days messages prove prophetic in insight as Charlotte makes its way forward.

The spirit of unity that flowed from coast to coast during Black Philanthropy Month filled a reservoir that we are now able to draw from deeply. In retrospect, we are extraordinarily thankful for the 31 days of concerted, nationwide celebrations of culture, community, philanthropy and unadulterated love that BPM 2016 gifted our circle. We welcome continued connections, ideas and support from our allies in the growing Black Philanthropy Movement.

MEKA QUOTE

RASHAD QUOTE

Read More At The Source; Click Here: CLT: Our Lives, Our Giving, Our Futures Matter