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

Amplifying Our Stories…New Lines of Sight, New Voices

Here’s yesterday’s interview with Charles, me and host Frank Stasio on WUNC’s public radio program “The State of Things.” Please listen.

Photo credit: Charles W. Thomas, Jr.

Loop21.com Interview: Generosity in Black Communities

Charles W. Thomas Jr., photographer

I just returned from an amazing weekend on St. Helena Island where the CIN Leadership Summit took place (more on that experience later). While participating in the Summit, I had a phone interview with Joi-Marie McKenzie of Loop21.com about my new book Giving Back.

New Book Celebrates Generations of African Americans Giving Back, author interview by Joi-Marie McKenzie, Loop21.com

More interviews, book reviews and commentary on Giving Back can be found here, here and here.

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 Links: Threading Together Our Communities with Philanthropy

Charles W. Thomas Jr, photographer

Giving Back illuminates traditions of giving within African American communities and highlights numerous historic organizations that exemplify Black philanthropy. One such organization is The Links, Incorporated. Links members Dr. Ruth Greene (The Crown Jewels Chapter) and Carlenia Ivory (The Charlotte Chapter) are featured in the book.

National President of The Links Margot James Copeland recently contributed this commentary on Giving Back and on her organization’s powerful legacy of giving back.

“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

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.

Love’s Labor Finds Favor

Along with the rain, wonderful news continued pouring in over Labor Day weekend. In addition to Giving Back being featured on the blog PHILANTHROPY 2173, I learned the book may be released two weeks earlier than expected (!) and got to see a final printout of the book jacket. My long labor of love is finally taking full form.

And if that weren’t enough, Nelson Bowman—a fundraising expert, author on HBCU alumni giving and collaborator with Dr. Marybeth Gasman—provided this advance praise for Giving Back:

“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

My gratitude grows daily, and I can barely wait until the book’s public release. VF

A Gem Indeed

While previewing the manuscript for Giving Back, Ruby Bright, a foundation executive, told me, “I turn each page being filled with pride, hope, joy and love for my people.” That statement was compliment enough, then she sent the extended commentary below, which left me speechless.

Charles W. Thomas, Jr., photographer

“Never again will I frame my conversation on how African Americans give under the guises 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 conversation 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 directorWomen’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis

51 months and counting

51 months in the making

392 manuscript pages

8000 social media connections…and growing

76 wise and revealing quotes from the ages

200 narratives on what it means to give back

180 portraits of everyday Black philanthropists

4 centuries of an American legacy rooted in Africa

33 photo shoot locations

999,999 reasons to give

1 book to reframe portraits of philanthropy

It’s been a long journey, covering a lot ground. But it wasn’t traveled alone…and it ain’t over yet. Every day on the way to the October release of Giving Back presents a rugged trail of things to do—marked by steep learning curves, nerve-wracking ledges, inevitable road blocks and surprise mountaintop highs.

Stretches traveled with companions bring welcomed relief. Joining my sometimes lonesome walk are my family and friends and unexpected folks who brighten my spirits and share the load. Encounters with kind encouragers replenish my often-dry canteen with optimism. “Seizing the day” the other night with Michelle, Kathryn and Katie…and Emeril…did just that!

Pushing through the longest hauls, like now for instance, are a little less daunting when I recognize I’m not alone. It’s a comfort knowing at arm’s reach are circle members from New Generation of African American Philanthropists, the project’s photographer Charles Thomas and Dimeji Onafuwa and India Simpson of Casajulie. Without them, this trekker would have headed home 40-some months ago.

— VF

A Thousand Words Spoken

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” — Henry Ward Beecher

Today is the birthday of Charles W. Thomas, Jr., the photographer for Giving Back. I’m taking the occasion to publicly thank Charles for collaborating with me on this project. Our dispositions and skill-sets proved a good match; however, it was a shared pride in our cultural heritage and love of our community’s stories that defined our work together. (Though, my loyalties as a Tarheel might rightfully be questioned for working so well with a Duke grad! Sorry about that.)

Still an amazingly vivid memory, my initial conversation with Charles happened almost four years ago. We had crossed paths professionally, but neither of us truly knew the other or had never even had a one-on-one conversation. Months earlier, I had conceived of and mapped out the book project and was now in search of a photographer.

I wanted to find someone who would approach the project with an artist’s eye and could capture the striking beauty of our people and our stories. Knowing of his affiliation with The Light Factory Contemporary Museum of Photography and Film, Charles had been on my list of prospective photographers, and several people in Charlotte’s arts community also had suggested I meet with him.

During our meeting, I unfolded my vision of the book and shared notes from a concept paper. Charles held an amused look as I rambled on about what I envisioned and the timeline and the resources and the logistics for making it happen. He expressed his past desire to pursue a similar concept. As we talked further, there was clear alignment of our values and artistic aspirations.

A crucial move, choosing Charles as my photography partner on the project was no doubt divinely inspired. His collaboration has been a God-sent steadying force—from his initial blind faith in my vision to his level-headedness, patience, professionalism and generosity. During the photo shoots, he established a trusting rapport with each person and thus captured telling images. He also was easy about the unexpected twists and turns of the project and the constant stream of ideas coming from me.

You will soon see, in each of the 180 photographs featured in Giving Back, a thousand words spoken not only about every subject but also about the wide soul and genius nature of Charles Thomas.

Thank you and have a happy birthday Charles!

— VF