Oh Snap!

During our Washington, DC exhibition at the 2017 National Conference of the Association of African American Museums, an intrigued hotel attendant would stroll by regularly and gaze over at our installation. His preoccupation persisted the first few days. Eventually, he ventured into our exhibit space to inquire about the topic and to explore close up and more deeply the displays of photos, stories and interactive elements of The Soul of Philanthropy. And then he shared his story.

Years prior in his native Somalia, he had been on a boat that capsized and sank. While dozens of passengers perished, he was one of only nine survivors rescued by a passing ship. Since that day he said he’s been thankful and always gives back because he was helped once and was saved.

Later, without any our prompting, Nasir wrote his story on the exhibit’s blackboard.

guest blog post // ‘Bravo to On Q’

Russell L. Goings, author of The Children of Children Keep Coming

Renaissance Man Russell L. Goings, Author of The Children of Children Keep Coming

Following a recent performance of Russell L. Goings’ The Children of Children Keep Coming by On Q Performing Arts, Inc, Irene Blair Honeycutt wrote the piece below. On Q, a nonprofit theater company that presents performance works reflecting the Black experience, opened its fifth season with a staged reading of The Children of Children. The production took place October 3-5 at Duke Energy Theater in Charlotte. 

The theater was almost filled, and among the audience sat Russell L. Goings himself. Sitting in a row nearby, I could hear Goings’ occasional deep-throated “uh-huh,” “yes,” “amen,” and see him shake his head in approval and sometimes wipe tears from his cheeks. Quentin Talley, artistic director, and his talented cast had clearly captured the power of this Griot song. The theater itself seemed to rattle as if a train were coming around the corner bearing the likes of Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.

This locomotive style was pronounced throughout the performance with knee- and hip-slapping by the performers who read, sang and danced their way through the trials of slavery up to and through  the modern Jackie Robinson, the clang of integration, while killings, beatings, and the KKK still threatened blacks to stay in their places—separate water fountains, back seats on the bus (if any seat at all!)—stepping aside to let whites pass on sidewalks. The voices of Rosa Parks, Marian Anderson and Mahalia Jackson; the blues and jazz of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis…these were conjured and many heard and others—all threaded throughout this moving poetic narrative.

On Q performance of The Children of Children Keep Coming by Russell L. Goings, 3 Oct 2013 | Photo by Gena J.

On Q performance of The Children of Children Keep Coming by Russell L. Goings, 3 Oct 2013 | Photo by Gena J.

The Children of Children Keep Coming ultimately reflects Goings’ belief in a universal god and in a humanity that reaches beyond bitterness toward universal healing. Goings has said of his work that it “is the attempt to synthesize the notion of a griot (West African storyteller/musician/oral historian) with the blues, jazz, gospel, ragtime, Dixieland.“ In 90 minutes with no intermission, On Q melds Goings’ themes of cultural change without missing a beat.

On Q performance of The Children of Children, 3 Oct 2013

On Q performance of The Children of Children, 3 Oct 2013

I came away elated, with a renewed sense of how far we have come and how the children keep coming on many levels, that freedom awaits all who endure, and that hope and inspiration transcend indignities and bitterness. This production will surely find its way to the next level! Bravo to On Q for such a cohesive, energetic, awe-inspiring performance!


Irene Blair Honeycutt is author of four books and teaches creative writing. She is founding director of the Spring Literary Festival at Central Piedmont Community College and served as a member of the College’s faculty and staff  for nearly four decades.

Truth Be Told

Today during An August of Dreams and Mountaintops and amid Black Philanthropy Month celebrations, I’m sharing for the first time on film my original piece, Truth Be Told, which opens Giving Back. It also appears here on BlackGivesBack.com. Enjoy!

Mr. and Mrs. Jones

“Light glorifies everything. It transforms and ennobles the most commonplace and ordinary subjects.” — Leonard Misonne, photographer

One of the stories featured in Giving Back pays tribute to Carlotta and Johnnie Jones—ordinary people with an extraordinary philanthropic spirit. Faith and long family traditions provide light for their path of generous giving. The Jones’s firm beliefs and lifelong example inspired their daughter Melandee to share her story for the book.

Their enlightened family legacy lives on. Melandee serves on the boards of Arts For Life, BDPA and Citizen Schools. She also is member of New Generation of African American Philanthropists, a giving circle that gives back. — VF

MISTER JONES | Charles W. Thomas Jr., photographer

Revealing Meaning

“Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.”  — Hannah Arendt

Charles W. Thomas Jr., photographer

Giving Back: A Tribute to Generation of African American Philanthropistsreframing portraits of philanthropy by telling our stories.

Author Q&A on QCityMetro: Spotlight on ‘Giving Back’

An interview about Giving Back posted on QCityMetro.com today. It’s my interview with Michaela Duckett, who frequently profiles authors on what is one of Charlotte’s most popular blogs. Among other things, Michaela reveals five things about me. Most of them were probably little-known facts and trivia…that is, until today.

AUTHOR’S SPOTLIGHT: Q&A with Valaida Fullwood

by Michaela L. Duckett, 28 September 2011


The Potency in An Array of Stories

“The Danger of A Single Story,” the TED Talk by the writer Chimamanda Adichie, is an enlightening presentation. Chimamanda conveys the power of stories and reaffirms, for me, why Giving Back and its vast array of counter-narratives about African Americans and philanthropy are important.

Please watch.

UPenn Scholar Marybeth Gasman: ‘Beautiful book that masterfully demonstrates the power of African American giving’

Our most recent advance commentary comes from Dr. Marybeth Gasman, professor, University of Pennsylvania and author of Uplifting a People: African American Philanthropy and Education and thirteen other books.

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.”

(I sense a new word cloud forming. Check in tomorrow.)

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

After orchids

After orchids, the rose is my favorite flower. Its unmatchable beauty and famous symbolism have inspired my “Stop and Smell the Roses” parties over the years. Roses forever stir the poet and lover and philosopher in me.

Home in April (Valaida's iphone)

A stalky rosebush grows at the edge of my driveway, just where I pull up and park every day. I imagine it could be nearly as old as my 75-year-old house. Constant and kind, my tall rose greets me upon arriving home and bids adieu when leaving. Just seeing it makes me happy. And it makes me think, too. Sitting in the car, before turning off the engine or driving away, I often take a moment to breathe in its metaphorical messages. Day to day, season to season, it seems to have something new and important to say.

Reaching (Valaida's iphone)

Bare of blooms and thorny, sometimes draped in ice or laced with snow in winter, its stems and its leaves stay green throughout. Budding feverishly at the hint of spring, it bodes a host of hopes yet to come. Bowed with bursts of blossoms before summer, it beckons boldness with humbleness. Sometimes, I am tempted to oblige with a quick curtsy for its gracious and welcoming bow. The weeks pink petals litter the pathway, I’m convinced it has strewn them just to make my day.

The other day I came home to find my rosebush lying prone across the driveway. It had fallen over from the weight of wild new growth and from the neglect of an admiring but challenged gardener. Roots intact and still vibrant, it just needed pruning and a secure fastening to its trellis. Yet another message. A reminder of life’s delicate balancing act. Stretching, growing, climbing, reaching can its toll. This I know. While I have taken time to do some pruning and can show scratches for proof, struggles in keeping my own balance have kept me from re-anchoring it. So, it still blocks my driveway.

Yesterday as I drove up, a surprise. There, in the spindly, thorny mass that has sprawled the drive for days, perhaps weeks now, a single blossom. One rose eked out by my fatigued floral friend. A tiny gift. And a monumental message. Even when weary from this world’s weight, keep doing your thing. — VF

What's that? (Valaida's iphone)

A tiny gift (Valaida's iphone)