Book critic Kam Williams: ‘An uplifting opus…a touching tribute’

Valaida Fullwood (author), Charles W. Thomas Jr. (photographer) and Casajulie (book designer)

Book review by acclaimed book and film critic Kam Williams, excerpted from his blog.

“’To whom much is given, much is expected.’

This Biblical passage from the Gospel of Luke conveys a belief that I and many of my African American family and friends hold dear… We are acutely aware of what others have given up to pave the way and contribute to our successes. As a result, we share a sense of responsibility about honoring and sustaining that legacy…

While this cultural legacy of giving back prevails today, it is often overlooked by mainstream society and rarely celebrated within the African American community… Media coverage and reports of prominent philanthropic leaders and institutions advance a false view which places African Americans only on the demand side, not the supply side of philanthropy.

The truth of the matter: African Americans give 8.6% of their discretionary income to charity—more than any other racial group in America.” — Excerpted from the Preface (pgs. xviii-xix)

Cultivated by ancestors in Africa for ages, black folks’ spirit of philanthropy was ingrained way before their arrival on these shores. During the slave days, it was evident in the altruism of fugitive Harriet Tubman who risked recapture to help others in chains find their way to freedom via the Underground Railroad.

Such behavior has basically been the rule, rather than the exception, for a people whose very survival has often depended on selfless displays of compassion towards the least of our brethren. For, as mentor Michael Sales points out, “What’s most remarkable is that even as we help those who are at risk, we ourselves are often at risk at the same time.”

This attitude persists despite the still precarious position of those African-Americans living above the subsistence level who have managed to extricate themselves from poverty. Giving Back is an uplifting opus celebrating the generosity of charitably-inclined blacks, a touching tribute told in portraits, proverbs, anecdotes and micro-biographies.

The book is the brainchild of idea whisperer Valaida Fullwood who collaborated with award-winning photographer Charles W. Thomas, Jr. to create a visually-captivating, coffee table book chock full of intimate homages to unsung heroes as well as inspirational sayings like the sage notion courtesy of Frederick Douglass that “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

An overdue salute to an underappreciated segment of African-American society.

The Sly Fox Film Reviews publishes the content of film critic Kam Williams. Voted Most Outstanding Journalist of the Decade by the Disilgold Soul Literary Review in 2008, Kam Williams is a syndicated film and book critic who writes for 100+ publications around the U.S., Europe, Asia, Africa, Canada and the Caribbean. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Online, the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee and Rotten Tomatoes. More at: www.kamwilliams.com

Advance commentary on Giving Back can be found here.

‘The most powerful representation of philanthropy that I have seen…’

I reach but cannot grasp words to plumb the depth of my gratification and overwhelming joy when previewers of Giving Back share their reactions to its stories and photography. A long hope has been that the book would move readers and perchance enlighten and deepen their thinking and giving, for good. This is commentary received last night . . .

“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

Speechless…again.

Books for Back-to-School Reading from Philanthropy 2173

Lucy Bernholz reviews Giving Back on her blog PHILANTHROPY 2173:

“Another resource is Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists by Valaida Fullwood. This beautiful book—that reminds us of the power of photographs and the truly human element of philanthropy—is one result of many years of giving circle work supported by The Ford Foundation, Knight Foundation, Foundation for the Carolinas and dozens of individual and other institutional funders. This is the kind of book I will go back to time and again. The people profiled are as generous in sharing their stories as they are in sharing the time and treasure. Collectively, the stories remind us of the role that mutual support and community play in philanthropy, the importance of faith traditions, and the pure joy that philanthropy can bring. Like Giving 2.o, Giving Back refocuses our attention onto the hundreds of millions of givers who are the real engines of philanthropy.”

Researcher and blogger Lucy Bernholz is a “philanthropy wonk” who analyzes the industry and philanthropic strategy. PHILANTHROPY 2173: The Business of Giving was named a Fast Company magazine “Best Blog” and a Huffington Post “Philanthropy Game Changer.”