‘Philanthropy is the soul revealed’

Photography by Charles W. Thomas Jr.

Photography by Charles W. Thomas Jr.

“Although I’ve previously browsed through your book, I now have a copy and began to read through each page. I am still only at the beginning, but I have to tell you that it is so very moving and inspiring.

You ask how we define philanthropy? I think philanthropy is the soul revealed—and that’s what makes your book so powerful. And, you have such a beautiful way of writing. So, I just had to tell you this and to thank you for your beautiful book.” 

— Pat

 

#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 Gift That Keeps Giving

Photo by Valaida Fullwood

Photo by Valaida Fullwood

A perfect gift book, Giving Back offers wells of inspiration for generous souls and lovers of photography, culture, and humanity. Every book purchased keeps giving, since proceeds benefit the philanthropic causes of NGAAP-Charlotte—and since the stories themselves inspire readers to give.

You can buy it here.

Five Things

Below are five things you can do to help us publicize Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists, the 400-page hardcover book that reframes portraits of philanthropy.

  1. Post a book review on Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble
  2. Follow us on Twitter @valaidaf and @sankofaphotog
  3. Ask a local library or bookstore to carry Giving Back (ISBN: 978-0-89587-564-8)
  4. Tell a friend about Giving Back
  5. Give the book as a gift to children, friends and family…particularly with Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon

Giving Back aims to ignite a movement of conscientious philanthropy by empowering a generation to recognize their power and responsibility to give back.

Every book purchased keeps giving, since proceeds benefit philanthropic causes—and since the stories inspire readers to give.

Thank you!

Watch [Philanthropy Reframed]

Charles W. Thomas Jr., photographer

New voices. New vibe. New video. New view on philanthropy.

Watch our new 2.5-minute video trailer for the Giving Back Project and its centerpiece publication, Giving Back. The project is a civic engagement campaign comprising artful stories and photography that reframe portraits of philanthropy.

For too long, philanthropy has been narrowly defined by great wealth and large monetary gifts. Prevailing stories about giving often exclude generous everyday people and feed false notions about who can give and make a difference. Changing the world requires us to rethink and reframe philanthropy.

The Giving Back Project brings new content and fresh approaches to include a wider slice of society in philanthropy. Through our publications, multimedia presentations and interactive community forums, we lift up inspiring stories of everyday givers.

  • Literary arts
  • Photography
  • Spoken-word poetry
  • Oral history
  • Music
  • Digital media
  • Social networking

No matter the medium, our stories promote the belief that we all can and should give back, no matter our age or our circumstances. We celebrate generous gifts of time, talent and treasure and venture to reclaim the root meaning of philanthropy, love of humanity.

The Giving Back Project aims to ignite a movement of conscientious philanthropy by empowering a generation to recognize its power and responsibility to give back.

Join us…and get your give on!

Soul. Oh!

Portrait from "Giving Back" | Charles W. Thomas Jr., photographer

Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.” ― Marsha Norman

Through the book Giving Back, we venture to dream a bigger dream and to ignite a movement of conscientious philanthropy by empowering a generation of Americans to recognize their power and responsibility to give back. ― VF

Sold Out.

Yep. Due to steady public demand, we’ve sold out the first printing of Giving Back and a second printing is underway. This fact thrills me almost as much as releasing the book in October 2011. (Note: If you want a copy before June, there are still a limited number available at bookstores, online and for specific events.)

Back in December, we realized our supply would run out quicker than anticipated since we were distributing 100 books a week on average. So at the start of 2012, we put brakes on marketing and promoting Giving Back while we scrambled to devise a plan to print at least another 1500 books.

I find it ironic that reaching sold-out status in just months is largely attributed to our not selling out the original vision for the book. It should be noted that the term sellout—as in a betrayal of principles—is one I generally choose to steer clear of. I don’t indulge in second-guessing the motives behind somebody else’s artistic decisions, but I will refer to the term here while reflecting on my own creative experience.

Without benefit of a famous author or a celebrity foreword contributor or well-known faces  in portrait or rich-people stories or a corporate marketing machine or even a commercial publishing deal, Giving Back has nonetheless stirred interest among readers and sold out quickly.

Remarkable sums up what we’ve accomplished. The collective “we” in this instance comprises Charles Thomas and me, members of NGAAP-Charlotte, Casajulie, Buppy Hipster PR and our sponsoring partners, project participants, donors, family, friends and, of course, book buyers. I credit the book’s promising start to an uncompromising stance on compiling stories we knew were worth telling and a dogged pursuit of our vision.

During my 1621-day push to produce Giving Back, every day seemed to hand deliver a temptation to narrow my scope, drop expectations, clip corners…or to just cut myself some slack. Those options certainly looked the easiest and less painful. Actually quitting appeared the sanest choice of all. Despite the pressure, existential struggle and odds, I chose, or better still, surrendered to that which my soul seemed intent to seek.

Gifts that come at inopportune times are still gifts. The mixed fortune of conceiving Giving Back carried an obligation to see it through without underestimating its value. The experience, though brutal as it was at times, showed me how humility, hard work and the hand of a higher source can transform the ethereal into the real. At first sight of the final, hardcover version, my soul sighed and smiled in satisfaction. Giving Back is the perfect manifestation of a beautiful idea gifted to me years prior and stands as a tangible affirmation of my and others’ stewardship.

Truths revealed on the pages of Giving Back are key to it becoming sold out. I gave my best to usher the content into the spotlight and, once there, humanity undeniably shone through the portraits and stories. I cannot sell the idea that publishing a book and pursuing your passions are easy. From the start, my plan lay clear but the path was not. My circumstances while navigating the book’s development swung between circus and chaos. Tight-wire walker, trapeze flyer, lion tamer, fire-eater, juggler and ringmaster, I took on an endless stream of roles for nearly five years to get this book done and eventually did it.

The experience has left me unwilling to judge others who choose a smoother path. I will, however, attest to the joy of being a grateful receiver of gifts, of not selling yourself short and of putting your soul out there to satisfy its search. I found that when I dropped giving up from the options, my gifts—those given and those received—multiplied.  VF

On Doing Good Work

“…there is much more to doing good work than ‘making a difference.’ There is the principle of first do no harm. There is the idea that those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them.” — Teju Cole, author, photographer and art historian

Charles W. Thomas Jr., photographer

As a friend noted today, there’s a lot to unpack in Teju Cole’s article titled “The White Savior Industrial Complex” and featured in The Atlantic. That’s an understatement, particularly when you begin comparing and contrasting the layered stereotypes, indignities and pain characterizing both the Kony 2012 campaign and the Trayvon Martin shooting. Cole’s incisive commentary stirs questions about where we choose to see injustice and why, when and how we take action in struggles for justice.

What Cole observes about the bleaching of our civic discourse, how certain voices are pushed to the margins and others amplified and the perils of failing to “think constellationally” are at the core of my current interests in philanthropy. My struggle with such issues led me to pen Giving Back. The book brings to the forefront seldom-heard voices, with authenticity and respect, to reveal important perspectives at the nexus of justice, philanthropy and progress. Through Giving Back, I aspire to enliven and deepen public discourse on these matters. I believe that community-led strategies strengthened by philanthropy that is inclusive, responsive and respectful are central to “good work.”

— VF

‘Stunning example of populist philanthropy’


Photograph from "Giving Bsck" |Charles W. Thomas Jr., photographer

“African American philanthropy is a stunning example of ‘populist philanthropy.’ We as a people have been able to demonstrate how philanthropy is a form of relationship with others that everyone can practice. Children to seniors in our community have a long history of giving selflessly to those we know intimately as well as to total strangers. I am very proud of our cultural history as philanthropists!”

 Jennifer Henderson, a kind contributor of narratives for Giving Back

The Indie Book that Could…and DID for Good!

Alternately astonished, agog, giddy, daunted, delighted and more, my mind has been an emotional carousel since the release of my book Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists. News that book critic Kam Williams recently listed Giving Back among the 10 Best Black Books of 2011 set my head spinning deliriously and it hasn’t slowed yet.

The fact that a homemade (i.e., independently published) book by novices merited ranking among those of seasoned authors and publishing house giants is remarkable, to say the least. While I set my sights sky high from the outset and then joined with others to pour my soul into producing a compelling book, uncertainty loomed over whether Giving Back would garner extensive national attention, however well done or worthy.

Three months after the book’s release, wide praisemedia buzz, brisk sales and coast-to-coast readers have pushed aside prior concerns. Making a top-ten list further affirms our work and casts a spotlight that few indie books capture.

Giving Back is presently a contender for a 43rd NAACP Image Award nomination for Literature. The Hollywood Bureau organizes the awards program, which is “the nation’s premier event celebrating the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts as well as those individuals or groups who promote social justice through their creative endeavors.” There are 53 award categories, spanning television, motion picture, recording and literature. Giving Back is vying for one of five nominations in the Outstanding Literary Work – Non-fiction category.

Receiving a nomination would brighten the spotlight on Black philanthropy and usher in exciting opportunities. I don’t know what our chances are for a nomination, but I do know that Giving Back has already overcome formidable odds, which leaves me optimistic. Without benefit of a publishing industry “machine” to promote the nomination, Charles, NGAAP-Charlotte and I are relying largely on friends, family and grassroots publicity to get the word out. Goodness knows, It’s worked wonders so far.

Here are things you can do to help Giving Back secure a nomination:

If Giving Back actually secures a nomination in January, then dues-paying NAACP members can vote (online, I think) for Giving Back. More on this later. First things first.

Oh . . . and if you missed it, here’s the list:

  1. Sister Citizen by Melissa V. Harris-Perry
  2. Fatal Invention by Dorothy Roberts
  3. Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? by Touré
  4. Muzzled by Juan Williams
  5. A Reason to Believe by Governor Deval Patrick
  6. Ashamed to Die by Andrew J. Skerritt
  7. Super Rich by Russell Simmons
  8. Giving Back by Valaida Fullwood
  9. Fail Up by Tavis Smiley
  10. High on the Hog by Jessica B. Harris

Whatever the outcome with the NAACP Image Awards, I’m thrilled and honored to share the stories, images and cultural legacy of Giving Back. — VF