Knowledge of Philanthropy Is Power

Not too long ago, a member of New Generation of African American Philanthropists visited KIPP Charlotte—the Knowledge Is Power Program—a free, open-enrollment, college preparatory school, serving students from 5th to 8th grade. Along a hallway wall, large yellow sheets charted students’ thoughts on philanthropy. In awe of the questions and the written responses of students, she snapped these photographs.

The co-founders of KIPP Charlotte, Tiffany Washington and Keith Burnam, are featured through stories and photography in Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists. Here’s more about their school from its website:

“Ninety-three (93) percent of KIPP Charlotte students are African American, 4 percent Latino/Hispanic, 2 percent Multiracial, and 1 percent Caucasian. Over 70 percent qualify for the free and reduced meal program. KIPP Charlotte serves communities that are traditionally underserved and marginalized in education.

“The mission of KIPP Charlotte is to prepare all of our students to excel in the nation’s finest high schools and colleges by cultivating the habits of mind, character skills, and knowledge necessary for their success. We provide an education that will enable our students to lead full lives and empower our graduates to be the future leaders of Charlotte and agents of change in the world beyond.”

With KIPPsters in the world, our future looks to be in excellent hands.

— VF


Seven Generations and One Hundred, Ten Years Ago

Christian and Riley McGimpsey with family and friends, 1903

Christian and Riley McGimpsey with family and friends, 1903

This is a story about Riley R. McGimpsey (28 Mar 1845 – 20 Apr 1934), my great-great-grandfather, as told to me by my elder cousin Nettie McGimpsey McIntosh for my book Giving Back:

Despite common perceptions, Black men have long been industrious. And evidently my grandfather Riley was as hardworking as men of any race come. I call him a Black entrepreneur, but back then industrious is the word people used.

I archive and keep our family’s history. I have scoured over family artifacts and Census data. Some time in the mid-1800s on the McGimpsey farm in Burke County, North Carolina, a slave named Clarissa gave birth to a son she named Riley. While born into slavery, Riley eventually became a sharecropper who sold his part of the produce—corn, wheat, molasses and such. Documents I have come across show his products sold as far away as Mullins, South Carolina, which was hundreds of miles from the farmland of Fonta Flora. He even owned one of the county’s few reaper-binders and loaned it out to others.

Fondly remembered and respected by people all over the county, my grandfather prospered in farming and with various small enterprises. He grew well known for giving away fresh produce and all kinds of things to community people, regardless of color. Riley was born a slave, but died an entrepreneur and philanthropist. Don’t let a meager start or scant resources limit what you do in life.

The portrait above is on display at the History Museum of Burke County. Riley is seated on the far right and his wife Christian V. Moore McGimpsey is seated next to him. Their daughter Mary Maldonia, who is my great-grandmother is seated on the far left.

Fast forward one hundred and ten years: There will be a family reunion this summer, kicking off at the History Museum of Burke County, with five more generations—the far-flung descendants of Maldonia McGimpsey and the man she would later marry John Wesley Fullwood. Cannot wait!

— VF

Generations of Generosity

giving back giveaway winner_Neosha

People talk a lot about “finding your purpose.” I generally don’t think about life or my pursuits in exactly those terms. Yet, when I see or hear from people whom I’ve never met, living in distant places clutching or glowing about Giving Back, I think I might have found mine.

Above is a photo of Neosha who won Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists as a giveaway during the recent Friends of Ebonie event, “Defining Young Black Philanthropy,” in Washington, DC.

The panel discussion and networking event, organized by Ebonie Cooper Johnson, was featured in The Washington Post and The Huffington Post. HuffPo asked, Will Black Millennials be the next wave of philanthropists? noting that “the days of old, rich men dominating the philanthropy space are long gone.”

I’m thrilled that attention is heightening and the frame is indeed widening around philanthropy and Black donors, across every generation—Millennial, Gen Y, Gen-X, Boomer and Greatest.


Multi-Generational Stories Unfolded

Charles W. Thomas, Jr. photographer

One surprising aspect of Giving Back that emerged during its development was the telling of multi-generational stories. At the project’s conception, I envisioned a predominance of stories featuring unsung community elders and longtime, yet little-known philanthropists.

Charles W. Thomas, Jr., photographer

I presumed my peers and others would choose retirees, older mentors and family members from earlier generations to honor with a story in Giving Back. While many people chose such honorees, a surprising number instead shared a story about their contemporaries, up-and-coming givers and youth. Some told stories about a spouse, an admired friend, a youthful mentee or a group of young professionals forming a giving circle. Others contributed stories on how their children and concern for younger generations shaped their philanthropy. Even more unexpected, several teenagers and younger children became story contributors.

This refreshing twist in the book’s content added new dimensions and deepened the meaning of its subtitle, “A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists.” Here are a few of the teenagers profiled in Giving Back:

  • Jelani (16 y.o.), a participant of The Males Place, is demonstrating philanthropic leadership through his engagement with peers, volunteerism in the community and giving spirit.
  • Olivia (17 y.o.) founded PEN Pals Book Club and Support Group for children with incarcerated parents.
  • Bailand (17 y.o.), senior class president at Parkland High School, shared how his grandmother encourages his community service through the Boy Scouts and at church and school.

Their stories instill hope for future generations and embody the enduring legacy of Black philanthropy. — VF

“Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, and fulfill it or betray it.” — Frantz Fanon

Charles W. Thomas, Jr., photographer