Praise for Giving Back

Buy the book

P R A I S E

“This is the most powerful representation of philanthropy that I have seen in more than a decade in this field. The stories, the quotes, the voices and the photographs are uniformly vivid and extraordinary….A reminder that, in its roots, philanthropy should be felt, not thought.”

— Robert K. Ross, M.D., president and CEO, The California Endowment

“Giving Back shines a long overdue spotlight on the legacy of giving which is so much a part of the African American community’s DNA and spirit. Writer Valaida Fullwood and photographer Charles Thomas Jr. have beautifully captured both in words and pictures untold stories of generosity which move and inspire. Giving Back should be positioned in a place of honor on the bookshelf and coffee table of every black family in America.”
— Judy Belk, senior vice president, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

“Through a rich tapestry of voices and images, including inspirational interviews, stunning photographs, thoughtful commentary, and wide-ranging quotations, Giving Back captures the essence and generosity of African American donors as never before.  No one—including the leaders of non-profit organizations—could fail to be moved and enlightened by these vivid reminders of the potential of African American philanthropy.

“The book is beautiful and so inspirational, I now know what I will be getting everyone as a Christmas present!”

Michele Minter, vice president for development, The College Board

“Astonishing . . . so beautiful, so deep and yet so inviting.

Giving Back belongs in every American home, not just every home of Americans of African descent. Each page connects the readers and the children they love to generosity that God, the Declaration of Independence and our awe-inspiring Black forebears taught us all.

“A visual triumph. A story that has not been told!”

Claire Gaudiani, Ph.D., author of The Greater Good, Generosity Unbound and Daughters of the Democracy  

“Indescribably powerful presentation in images and words of philanthropists who understood their actions of ‘just trying to lend a hand.’ Engagingly spiritual which will energize readers yet unborn.

“A must have.”

The Reverend Clifford A. Jones, Sr., senior pastor, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church

“Weaving photographs, testimonials and personal stories of Black people from all walks of life, Valaida Fullwood has created a work of art that reveals the essence of philanthropy—which is giving. For centuries, Black women, men and children have been giving in ways that defy traditional definitions of philanthropy.

“Giving Back is a revelation. Readers will be astounded by the breadth and depth of Black philanthropy.”

Deborah Holmes, vice president for communications, Global Fund for Women

Philanthropy. Does that word make you think of some 19th century captain-of-industry sitting in his office, doling out bits of his fortune? This marvelous book will give you a fresh perspective. ‘Giving back’ is rooted deep in African American history. And it’s often done with a community approach, rather than by a lone individual. Charles Thomas’s artful photographs and the inspiring words by Valaida Fullwood and her community of collaborators carry a powerful message:  Philanthropy is something that we all can do.”

Tom Hanchett, Ph.D., staff historian, Levine Museum of the New South and author of Sorting Out The New South

“It’s difficult to capture into words all the emotions I felt as I read through this book.

“Giving Back is simply beautiful. Beautiful through its stories. Beautiful through its photography. Beautiful through the real narratives of generosity and philanthropy. Beautiful through spirituality. Beautiful because of the hope it inspires from our past, for our present and the future.”

Eugene Cho, co-founder and executive director, One Day’s Wages

“You just never know what will generate the spark that transforms a life, a community or a people.  It might be that kind, encouraging word; or maybe ‘a couple of bucks to help you get by;’ how about the time that you spent with me sharing the secrets to your success; or, the scholarship that you gave privately so I could attend summer camp.  You just never know what little thing (or great thing) will provide that inspiration for another to soar to higher heights.

“That message is loud and clear within Giving Back.  It leaps out at you when you read the individual profiles that are provided by sons, daughters, mentees and admirers.  It is prevalent in the responses to the book’s probing questions. Giving Back will be a great read for anyone who has an interest in making a difference!”

Richard “Stick” Williams, president, Duke Energy Foundation

“This book shares the stories of men and women whose philanthropy, big or small, is an indelible part of American history. Through their individual and collective generosity, children were educated, families were strengthened, communities were built and their legacy is a bridge for the next generation. On each page, I recognized—if not by name—the spirit of someone I know and respect. These lessons on the ‘love of humankind’ are universal.”

Deborah J. Richardson, executive vice president, National Center for Civil and Human Rights

Giving Back is a must have book for all!  It brings to life African American giving and highlights philanthropic acts that many of us perform daily without naming it ‘philanthropy.’ The combination of photographs and narrative effectively reframes the dialogue on philanthropy, particularly among the unsung heroes and heroines contributing to daily growth and prosperity in our communities.

“A must have book of our history and a great teaching toolkit!”

Ivye L. Allen, Ph.D., president and CEO, Foundation for the Mid South

“Never again will I frame my conversation on how African Americans give under the guise of ‘Black people give differently—our philanthropy is different because we primarily see giving through our faith.’ We give holistically!

“Valaida Fullwood’s Giving Back captivated me from the cover photo where I connected with the hands—memories of my grandmother’s skin—lined with dreams deferred and the promise of aspirations and achievement. Giving Back is indeed a form of personal engagement as well as deep conversational sharing. It is undeniably the missing formula to the roots of African American philanthropy. Simply stated: Giving Back, through stories of everyday people aided with photography of the moment, is poignant and more of a revelation than any article or research publication on the topic of African American giving.

“Since reading Giving Back, from now on, I will tell my philanthropy story with pride and without excuses or apologies.”

Ruby Bright, executive director, Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis

“Giving Back looks poignantly at the notion of giving. The meticulously edited narrative enlightens us about the idea of caring and sharing communities. From this book, one sees through Thomas’s photographs relationships marked by respect and honor. The text and photographs inform the reader about strength, in multiple perspectives.

“Through the rich photographs—which are full of spirit and beauty both enhanced by the framing of the subjects—we see Thomas’s respectful eye. The book simply tells us that Black people care which is evidenced in the photographs and the narratives. This book is useful for anyone who is interested in philanthropy but also will be appreciated by people who have a love for portrait photography.

“Giving Back is a valuable resource and, in my view, will encourage others to reconsider what it means to give. 

It is a welcomed addition to books promoting this field. I found the idea of the book stimulating, as it is a much overlooked discussion. Fullwood and Thomas assembled a remarkable book that informs and honors. It enables us to imagine through the quotes, as the photographs illuminate and engage us about the pleasure of giving.”

Deborah Willis, Ph.D., NYU professor, author, historian, photographer and 

2000 MacArthur genius award recipient

“Beautiful. Powerful. Poignant. Giving Back is more than a book: It is a gift to each of us given the opportunity to walk this journey through each page, each voice, each story and each photograph. Philanthropy is practiced in many different ways around the world. Giving Back teaches us that philanthropy is practiced in many different ways right here at home—in our history, our present and our future.”

Steve Gunderson, former president and CEO, Council on Foundations

“This book is a must read for all who want a truer and deeper understanding of American philanthropy in particular philanthropy in the Black community. Historical analysis and rich personal stories…it’s all here.”

 Wenda Weekes Moore, trustee, W.K. Kellogg Foundation

“In 2011, The Links, Incorporated celebrates 65 years of giving back to communities across the nation. Our founders believed that as educated and successful African American women, we should do whatever is necessary to serve those of African descent and assist in closing gaps in education and providing support for the underserved. We do this still today, through philanthropic as well as humanitarian services. As authors Fullwood and Thomas expressed in Giving Back, philanthropy has been the thread that held and continues to hold our communities together. The Links, Incorporated strives to become an even greater force, known everywhere for our philanthropic support. Our hope is by giving back, we will play an intricate role in enabling and influencing a positive future for an infinite number of generations.
”

— Margot James Copeland
, National President
, The Links, Incorporated
 and The Links Foundation, Incorporated

Giving Back is a beautiful book that masterfully demonstrates the power of African American giving.  Through riveting photography and engaging vignettes, Valaida Fullwood tells the story of philanthropy at its purest.  Giving Back showcases the diversity in giving that has taken place for centuries and continues to thrive in Black communities.  Anyone interested in philanthropy, Black giving, and African American history and culture will enjoy reading this wonderful new book.”

— Marybeth Gasman, Ph.D., professor, University of Pennsylvania and author of Uplifting a People: African American Philanthropy and Education

“Valaida Fullwood’s Giving Back provides full exposure to the philanthropic treasures we as African Americans have always shared but are rarely credited with in discussions of African American philanthropy. This photographic masterpiece, which certainly tells a story, gives viewers an opportunity to develop their own story as well. What a way to learn!”

— Nelson Bowman, III, director of development, Prairie View A&M University

“Individual giving, organized giving and planned giving are important conversations that need to be elevated in the African-American community like never before and Giving Back is a powerful and beautiful conversation starter.”

— Pat Macdonald, executive director, Black Community Fund, Kansas City, MO

 Buy the book 

Wordle.net

Recent Posts

The Thing About Philanthropy

IMG_1877

From an exhibition of The Soul of Philanthropy, a text vinyl on gallery window that overlooks a neighborhood streetscape. Photo credit: Valaida Fullwood

Reframing portraits of philanthropy. Surprising to many, seemingly heretical to some, this idea fuels my imagination and writing. Over a decade ago, I began exploring multiple facets of philanthropy, particularly traditions of giving among African Americans. Struck by what seemed a whitewashing of mainstream philanthropy, which too often centers on financial wealth and whiteness, I was compelled to write about and lift up the unsung generosity of people of color as well as folks of modest means and all socioeconomic levels. This requires a modern reclamation of philanthropy—in meaning, in imagery and in practice.

Examining the root meaning of a word unlocks understanding. Greek in origin, philanthropy translates as “love of humanity.” Over centuries, the word has evolved in connotation and, today, is applied to activity ranging from individual and family practices to institutional grant-making to corporate social responsibility to global impact investing. Philanthropy, when interpreted broadly, can encompass a wide scope of beliefs and take many forms. Even so, most Americans point to only a sliver of this activity, largely because the quantity of dollars has come to eclipse the love of humanity as a defining feature of philanthropy.

The decades around the turn of the 20th century saw the rise of industrial magnates such as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller, whose exploits and enterprises amassed great fortunes. Their extraordinary financial donations to myriad causes and institutions contributed to the whittling down of ideas about philanthropy. Today, for many, philanthropy is synonymous with immense financial wealth. While but one facet, philanthropy centered on an abundance of money distorts the full picture.

Writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has a much-viewed TED Talk about “the danger of a single story” and the destructive nature of stereotypes when only one story is told and re-told. Troubling to me is philanthropy’s single story, patterned from wealthy white men of a bygone era. It is the story that has dominated the field for over a century and one that too often places Black people solely on the demand side of communal assistance—as only beneficiaries and “those in need.”

And that’s the thing about philanthropy. A far richer picture exists. In fact, studies reveal a striking irony. Black Americans give the highest percentage of discretionary income to philanthropic causes when compared to other racial groups, as reported by W.K. Kellogg Foundation and research of the Urban Institute. Stunningly, Blacks not only fail to receive due recognition, we also are frequently cut from conventional depictions of philanthropists. To add insult to injury, the script is flipped and dishonestly says, “Blacks don’t give” and “they’re looking for handouts.”

This knowledge gave birth to the Giving Back Project, which aims to tell a broader range of American philanthropy stories to restore “love” as the defining force in philanthropy. Expounding on an MLK quote, Bishop Michael Curry said in this now-famous royal wedding sermon: There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize it. There’s power, power in love.

Sharing this belief, I choose to frame philanthropy around the human factor and the powerful force of love, instead of money alone. In deconstructing the Greek translation, my re-interpretation is “love of what it means to be human.” Broad and inclusive, this frame applies to the writing and photography of the Giving Back Project, which includes my book Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists and the multimedia exhibit The Soul of Philanthropy.

Reclaiming the root meaning increases the breadth of philanthropic possibilities and expands whose stories can be told, celebrated and praised as exemplary. It’s a matter of training our eyes on the humanity of the beneficiary and the benefactor, too. To imply dollars are unimportant is not the point. This mind shift instead relegates the gift (whether money, time or talent) in elevation of the human spirit and human impulse to love.

Re-centering love reveals the essence of philanthropy. Without genuine concern, deep understanding and profound empathy for people, what’s in a check alone? In telling stories of African American philanthropy, this lens is particularly incisive. That’s because many of our philanthropic traditions were forged during times of scarcity and our motivations borne of oppression. The atrocity of slavery and unjust vestiges, like an endemic wealth gap, have failed to diminish our instinct to give. It is instead enlivened. Our stories of philanthropy remind all Americans that philanthropy is deeper than your pockets.

Black giving matters. Counter-narratives to American philanthropy’s single story are crucial for several reasons. First, it’s hard to be what you can’t see, as Marian Wright Edelman puts it. Without authentic representation and abounding stories of Black philanthropists in mainstream media and the public sphere, younger generations are susceptible to stale narratives. They may never come to know the proud traditions that have shaped our communities and country. Second, because the humanity of Black people is routinely challenged—in media portrayals, daily interactions and episodes throughout history—when reframed, philanthropy affirms it. A final point: For Black people, nurturing and strengthening philanthropy, for us and by us, is an imperative because our liberation cannot rest merely on the philanthropy of others. Emboldened by the single story, generosity flowing from unchecked bias, misguided ideas and momentary interest wields little power to affect meaningful social change.

To say the American philanthropy scene has a racial diversity problem is to assert a fact so conspicuous it would seem a waste of breath to voice it. Despite studies, diversity and inclusion initiatives and more studies, too many charitable institutions cling to the values and imagery of the single story. This at a time when the country is growing visibly more racially and ethnically diverse. The resistance to change results in a string of unsurprising headlines. Below are but a few recent ones.

Cropping out a wide spectrum of donors, volunteers and leaders because they don’t fit a narrow narrative is, indeed, dangerous and also telling. Curious, that a sector built on ideals of “love of humanity” struggles to acknowledge the value and humanity of people of color.

Blacks are the most philanthropic racial group in America, and yet most leaders and institutions in the field find the inclusion and engagement of Black people optional or, sadly, debatable. Contemporary issues and communities are too complex to dismiss swaths of givers, seasoned activists and prospective allies. Re-imagining American philanthropy and bringing about change in today’s world requires shifts in perspective, motivation and approach. To fail to do so is to squander an opportunity to bridge historical gaps and transform lives and communities for the duration of the 21st century.

In the same vein as the Movement for Black Lives, Black Philanthropy Month is an assertion that Black giving matters amid a preponderance of messages attempting, and too often succeeding, to convince us otherwise. A campaign established in 2011 and observed every August, Black Philanthropy Month promotes “informing, inspiring, involving and investing in Black philanthropic leadership.”

Disrupting philanthropy’s single story extends beyond August. Global in scope, a movement is underway to acknowledge, study, celebrate and strengthen African-descent giving in all its forms. In addition to the Giving Back Project and Black Philanthropy Month, a myriad of start-up and long-running organizations and initiatives are advancing the movement. These include the newly launched Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy at Indiana University, Young Black and Giving Back Institute, African Diaspora Philanthropy Advisor Network, Pan African Women’s Philanthropy Network, ABFE, blogs and social media platforms like the groundbreaking BlackGivesBack.com, and scores of Black giving circles and collective giving groups.

While slow on matters of race, American philanthropy has begun to reflect some insight on the plurality of giving cultures, as recognized with Jewish philanthropy and women’s philanthropy. The Black philanthropy movement is pressing for accelerated progress from inside and outside mainstream structures. My aspiration in this work is specifically to illuminate the vastness of beliefs, values, histories and mindsets that shape how and why people give. Consciously, re-centering philanthropy on love provides space for all of our stories and inspiration for everyone.

No matter your background or race, take a deep look at what motivates your giving. August observances of Black Philanthropy Month offer opportunities to learn, connect and engage with a cross-section of people. Seeing your community with fresh eyes, and then contributing to it with new understanding and in ways centered on love is work you can actually initiate at any time.

Come to see philanthropy differently. That’s the tagline for The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit, and it precisely expresses the thing I hope for you.

— VF


Described an “idea whisperer,” Valaida Fullwood brings unbridled imagination and a gift for harnessing wild ideas to her work as a writer and project strategist. She is a founding member of Charlotte’s New Generation of African American Philanthropists giving circle, author of Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists and innovator for The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit, which is traveling the country. You can follow her writing and pursuits via @ValaidaF and valaida.com.

 

  1. Black Philanthropy Month 2018 | ‘For The Culture, For The Future’ Leave a reply
  2. Seeing Differently Leave a reply
  3. Y’all Betta Go Leave a reply
  4. ‘Commendable but…’ Leave a reply
  5. Listen! Listen! Leave a reply
  6. REFRAMED Leave a reply
  7. From City to City Leave a reply
  8. Love, Soul, Legacy and Responsibility Leave a reply
  9. Keep Cool Leave a reply