#GetYourGiveOn

Here’s your invitation!

You're invited!

We’re Bringing ‘Giving Back’ at Poor Richard’s Book Shoppe is a free and family-friendly gathering, centered on Black Philanthropy. The evening of the 23rd will include:

Poor Richard’s, a family-operated business in uptown Charlotte, is a full-service, independent bookstore and multi-cultural venue.

New Generation of African American Philanthropists (NGAAP-Charlotte), a CIN giving circle, comprises member-donors who pursue a mission “to promote philanthropy—the giving of time, talent and treasure—among African Americans in the Charlotte region, with the goal of enhancing the quality of life within our communities.”

We’re aiming to do for philanthropy what Justin does for sexy. Well…we’re certainly trying.

— VF

‘A way of feeling, of touching, of loving…’

Charles W. Thomas Jr, photographer

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything” — Aaron Siskind, photographer

We’ve begun scheduling book events to share Giving Back—our newly published book that reframes portraits of philanthropy. Our next one is a book signing at The Light Factory Contemporary Museum of Photography and Film on Thursday, October 27 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.

You’re invited! Here’s your invitation via Paperless Post, along with an R.S.V.P. card.

Let us know if you plan to come by. The Bookmark will be selling books…and we would like to ensure enough books on site for you and others to purchase.

Hope to see you at The Light Factory! — VF

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.

Heavyweight in Philanthropy Weighs In

Charles and I, along with members of New Generation of African American Philanthropists, have invited a cross-section of thought leaders to preview Giving Back and provide advance commentary on the book.

Giving Back straddles the intersection of arts, cultural heritage and philanthropy, so it has garnered praise from a mix of scholars, authors, photographers, foundation presidents, nonprofit executives, fundraisers, social innovators and clergy from various faith communities. Each commentator has leant a fresh perspective based on his or her field of work and expertise. Their generous praise for the book continues to gratify and encourage us, as shared here, herehere and here.

Here’s the most recent submission, from Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of Council on Foundations, who after this month heads off in pursuit of the next stop on his journey of life.  

“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

Steve Gunderson, Council on Foundations and Emmett Carson, Ph.D., Silicon Valley Community Foundation (Photo credit: Charles W. Thomas, Jr.)

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

Phresh. Philosophical. Photogenic. Philanthropic.

Fab Five!

Charles W. Thomas Jr., photographer

“The Philanthropic Five” featured here are friends and donor-members of the giving circle New Generation of African American Philanthropists (one of my fav photos!):

Five among an expansive circle of givers. Grateful for their inspiring stories and portraits in Giving Back.

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

Reframing portraits of philanthropy