news breaks

hearts break

bubbles break

necks break

levees break

spirits break

voices break

promises break

chains break

windows break

poses break

facades break

silence breaks

fevers break

habits break

barriers break

spells break

molds break

cycles break

fires break

clouds break

waves break

dawn breaks

— ava wood


Morning in Charlotte

The feeling reminds me of the morning following a huge snow or ice storm.

Grogginess lingering after a late, late night of watching news reports, assessing the “forecasts,” tracking accounts of heightening treacherousness via social media, and peeking from windows to see whether “it” has arrived in your area yet. Businesses closed. Events canceled. Continuous conference calls since everyone is working from home. Cooped inside. Eating peanut butter. Clutching hot drinks. And wondering if the worst has ended.

The snow meant for them


“Life is a glorious banquet a limitless and a delicious buffet.” — Maya Angelou

Every sense was fed at Friday’s ‪#‎CultureFeast‬, a long-table, family-style dinner with 200 lovers of art, culture and food in the center of South Tryon Street. An idea cooked up and served by Charlotte’s Arts & Science Council, it was quite a delicious evening that I’ll savor for some time.

My sister captured this fantastic photo of the night’s color and vibrance.

Diatra pic of culture feast

The Act of Adapting

OnQ Adaptation

ad·ap·ta·tion | adapˈtāSH(ə)n/

a movie, television drama, or stage play that has been adapted from a written work, typically a novel. the act of adapting.

Adaptation is the theme for Season 7 of On Q Performing Arts, Inc., which opens this month!

OnQ SpunkThe three main shows of the season were adapted from literature. Opening the season is Spunk, based on three stories by the incomparable Zora Neale Hurston adapted by George C. Wolfe. Wolfe won a 1989 Obie award for best off-Broadway director for Spunk.

Other productions during Season 7 include The Children of Children Keep Coming, Soulful Noel and The Bluest Eye.

Save by subscribing to the entire season of OnQ productions for only $75. Click here to buy your tickets!


The Honorable Daniel Clodfelter, Mayor of Charlotte, has proclaimed August 2014 as Black Philanthropy Month!

At Tuesday’s BPM 2014 :: Forum For Civic Leadership, City Councilman David Howard opened the event by reading the City of Charlotte’s proclamation. And I’m proud to share it with you. If the version below proves illegible, you can also access it via this link: City of Charlotte BPM Proclamation.

Though not a public official, I’ll seize the occasion to call upon ALL public officials; givers of the luminary and everyday variety; professionals and volunteers from the philanthropic and nonprofit realm; faith-based congregants; the young and the forever young-hearted; and all the people of Charlotte and beyond:

  • To observe this month,
  • To celebrate the cultural richness and philanthropic spirit of our community, and
  • To recognize the vital role generosity plays in ensuring a healthy, safe and prosperous community in which to live, work and flourish.

BPM 2014 Proclamation

Black Philanthropy Month. August…and giving augustly, year-round! 

Come to BPM 2014 :: Forum For Civic Leadership


BPM 2014 Forum For Civic Leadership_invite

Go Far and Together

Charles W. Thomas Jr., photographer

Charles W. Thomas Jr., photographer

Giving circles are growing in popularity, as indicated by this story in The New York Times…and this one from The Foundation Center…and this one from The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

That’s why I’m energized about the upcoming panel discussion that my giving circle and the Gantt Center are co-hosting on National Philanthropy Day (November 15). It’s free and open to the public, so if you’re in the Charlotte or would like to swing through, I encourage you to come. But first, R.S.V.P.

Eric Frazier, writer for The Charlotte Observer and The Chronicle of Philanthropy, is moderator for this week’s panel discussion on giving circles and collective giving, which is part of a Black Philanthropy series. The panelists are friends and fellow members of Community Investment NetworkLinsey Mills and Michelle Serrano Mills of Next Generation of African American Philanthropists; Barron J. Damon of A Legacy of Tradition; and Diatra FullwoodRenee Bradford and Ed Franklin of New Generation of African American Philanthropists.

Learn more about the event on BGB and then come participate on November 15!

If you want to go fast, go alone. 
If you want to go far, go together.
African proverb

‘Of Dreams and Mountaintops’ Interview with Decker Ngongang

BPM LOGO (FINAL)BPM 2013 | Of Dreams and Mountaintops

In observance of Black Philanthropy Month, interviews in this series feature African Americans engaged in multiple facets of philanthropy and focus on interests and concerns, 50 years after Dr. King’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech.

Senior Associate, Black Male Achievement Fellowship Program, Echoing Green


HOMETOWN: Charlotte, NC

YEARS AS A CHARLOTTEAN: 1981 – 1999, then from 2003 – 2008

EDUCATION: NC State University, BA Law and Political Philosophy

PREVIOUS POSITIONS: Compliance and Operational Risk Manager, Corporate Investments, Bank of America; Executive Director, Generation Engage; VP of Programs,; Director of Community Engagement, Communities for Teaching Excellence (Project of the Gates Foundation); Senior Associate, Echoing Green

PHILANTHROPIC INVOLVEMENT: Currently I work for Echoing Green, which provides seed support to a diverse group of emerging social entrepreneurs every year. Specifically I manage the search, selection and support of the Black Male Achievement Fellowship Program.



What is your first memory of generosity?

My mothers family; with nine aunts and uncles I grew up knowing a communal family where everything was rooted in common benefit. I just remember whenever there was a problem it was like an episode of House where we all chipped in to think about a solution. As a kid, it’s not too fun but when you get older you appreciate how important this support is both emotionally and for your confidence.

How does that memory influence your philanthropy and your work in philanthropy?

I think about the changing nature of family life and the need to ensure there is a village of support for young people to be able to think and dream with confidence. I didn’t mind taking risks because I knew I had a support system to both protect me but also hold me accountable. I think about the role of philanthropy as risk capital to influence the innovation and creative thinking of solution makers to know they will be held accountable while also be supported in their work and life.

Tell us about Echoing Green—its history, mission and program of work.

Echoing Green (EG) is a nonprofit global social venture fund that identifies, invests in, and supports some of the world’s best emerging social entrepreneurs—society’s change agents.

Echoing Green invests deeply in these next generation change agents as well as works to create an ecosystem around them that supports and celebrates social innovation as a high-impact strategy for social change.

Since our founding in 1987 by General Atlantic, a leading private equity firm, Echoing Green has provided more than 520 emerging social entrepreneurs working in forty-nine countries with $31 million in start-up funding, customized technical and other support services, and access to our global network of champions.

What can you share about the emergence of the field of Black Male Achievement? And what’s your current work in the field?

I am proud to support the Open Society Black Male Achievement Fellowship at Echoing Green. Established in 2011, in partnership with the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement, the OSF Black Male Achievement Fellowship is the first fellowship of its kind targeting new and innovative organizations dedicated to improving the life outcomes of Black men and boys in the U.S.

The 18-month fellowship offers $70,000 in seed funding, mentoring and support from Echoing Green staff and experts, skills-building conferences and access to our global network of Fellows.  With Fellows participating in both Open Society Foundations and Echoing Green activities and convenings, they are solidifying their permanent place in the network as Fellows and eventually as alumni.

What aspects of the philanthropic realm or “third sector” drew you from your initial career in banking? And what keeps in this sector?

I was on the board of a non-profit in Charlotte when I realized my personality and skills were suited for the types of organizations I interacted with during my civic involvement and at 25 years old, I feared never having an opportunity to see if I could be impactful in this sector.

In 2007 when I left I immediately missed the intangibles of working at a large corporation—the systems, processes, and access to a knowledge-sharing infrastructure. What people also don’t think about with corporate spaces is the level of inclusive meritocracy. In philanthropy and non-profits so much is based on relationships and networks that it can be frustrating navigating the sector. In the six-plus years I have been in this sector, I see some of this changing with the increased dialogue about impact but it is still a challenge.

A share of your work has focused on Millennials and your generation’s philanthropy and civic engagement. What have you experienced and learned that could benefit other Millennials as well as other generations?

Don’t disqualify your potential role in solution making but also don’t assume your age makes you smarter. We went very quickly from saying young people are dumb and naïve to all the sudden referencing Facebook and assuming young people have all the answers. Like with many things in life, the answer is in the middle. Millennials have unique skills and perspective due to their proximity and relationship with new technologies but there is also vital context and knowledge that comes with experience and scenario testing. All of this poses new challenges but also opportunities that will require we are intentional about building the necessary nuance into the public conversations being convened by people like foundations and corporations.

What are some of your thoughts on where America stands 50 years after Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech?

I feel like we should stop calling it a speech but reference it as a strategic plan. I like to think of it that way because it provided a pretty clear framework for how we should order society and how we should hold our democracy accountable—many tactics we have ignored (many of them here in NC).

When it comes to society or our community, what is your “dream” or aspiration?

I think about my family and how we don’t always get along and we don’t always solve everyone’s problems but there is a prevailing sense of togetherness. It doesn’t get rid of drama or get rid of hurt feelings but there is a deep and almost innate sense of “we are all in this together” and we hold ourselves accountable to that. It isn’t a political philosophy but more something that seems natural in that it allows our senses to work on as blank a canvas as possible. I aspire to provide for “my sense of community” as blank a canvas as possible. When I started out in non-profits, I worked on Central Piedmont Community College’s campus where so many young people took extra time out of their day and found ways to push through the challenges and distractions in their lives to come talk about how to get involved in their community. I imagine how many of these young people couldn’t participate because of things out of their control that were in the way. I aspire to live in a society that sees our role as getting as much out of the way of these young, brilliant community members as possible.

In terms of your philanthropic endeavors, what’s your “mountaintop” or highest achievement to date?

Seeing some of the first students I worked with at Central Piedmont Community College doing amazing things and paying it forward. They are so smart, thoughtful and driven and will do so much more than I could dream of—because they have lived it.

Name a book that has shaped your philanthropy?

Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James W. Loewen (2007)

How can readers with an interest in Black Male Achievement help advance this expanding field of work?

Visit the Open Society Foundation, Campaign for Black Male Achievement site: and the Echoing Green Black Male Achievement Fellowship page:

Please leave us with a favorite quote that characterizes an aspect of your philanthropy.

Some (insert young, marginalized, etc) people suffer not from a lack of interest but from a lack of access. — Decker Ngongang (It’s a mantra I used when I worked in Charlotte.)


BPM SPACE 1Nearly a dozen interviews compose the series “Of Dreams and Mountaintops” and are slated for multiple media outlets including: Charlotte Viewpoint,Collective InfluenceMosaic Magazine,, The Charlotte Post (print version) and To get connected and involved in BPM 2013 during August and beyond, visit and follow the hashtag #BPM2013 on social media. 

About Valaida Fullwood

Described an “idea whisperer,” Valaida brings unbridled imagination and a gift for harnessing wild ideas to her work as a writer and project strategist. She is author ofGiving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists. Follow at, @ValaidaF and @BlkGivesBackCLT.

Revving Up Entrepreneurial Engines in Uptown Charlotte

Chas Thomas_Pride mag

The May-June 2013 issue of Pride Magazine focuses on business and includes a guest column by Charles Thomas, photographer of Giving Back. In addition to being a professional photog, Charles is executive director of Queen City Forward (QCF).

Packard Place, located in uptown Charlotte, houses QCF and other groups that support the creation of fast-growth businesses. I wrote a piece about Packard Place, including an interview with Director Adam Hill as well as with Manoj Kesavan and Charles who are tenants. Packard Place was once a showroom for the iconic luxury car and is now a bustling hot spot for a community of innovators, creators and entrepreneurs.

Residents of the Charlotte area can pick up the latest issue of Pride to learn more about Packard Place, Manoj, Charles and their contributions to create a healthy ecosystem of thriving start-up business and social enterprises in our city. The issue also includes my mini-column about TEDxCharlotte and the roles that businesses and other entities can take on to help spread great ideas.

guest blog post // Vessels From The Heart

To prepare an award nomination, Anne Lambert recently interviewed the artist Charles Farrar. The discussion covered Farrar’s contributions to his artistic tradition and impact in North Carolina. Below is the written piece that Anne compiled. 

WhiteHouseCollectionThere are two Charles Farrars—the first, a retiree enjoying his leisure time after a 25-year corporate career, and the second, a world-class North Carolina artisan and teacher whose finely crafted bowls and vases are spectacular examples of the art of woodturning, prized by museums and private collectors.

Charles Farrar Artist Statement:

My fascination with the many properties of wood began when I was a child growing up in Southern Virginia. I am happiest when creating from found woods that feature irregular grain patterns, knots, burls or voids, such that the finished work provokes a different commentary. I work using a custom built Nichols lathe and tools for the different stages of turning; shaping, hollowing, etc. Ecological sensibility prevents my harvesting living trees solely for the purpose of turning vessels. Some of my vessels are classical forms with finely finished surfaces. Others have hand carved, textured or pigmented surfaces. I’m reminded of my ancestors when I embellish the surface of a piece. While Sub-Saharan Africans were master carvers, it was the Egyptians in North Africa who gave to the world the process of turning wood using a lathe as early as the time of the great pyramids.

Since 1997, Farrar’s artwork has shown in major U.S. cities including Albuquerque, Charlotte, St. Paul, Richmond, Atlanta and New York. Work has been on permanent loan with the State Department at the United States Embassy in Madagascar. His recent exhibit schedule includes The Mary Martin Gallery, Charleston, SC; Old Courthouse Galleries, Concord, NC; Whitespace Gallery, Winston-Salem, NC; The American Association of Woodturners Invitational Exhibit, Albuquerque, NM; The Gregg Museum at NCSU School of Art and Design, Raleigh, NC; and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, Charlotte, NC. Among corporate commissions/purchasers are Bank of America, First Citizens Bank & Trust Company, and The David Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles.

Work is in the permanent collection of the Danville Museum of Fine Art, John & Vivian Hewitt Collection (at the Harvey B. Gantt Center in Charlotte), The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia, Essence Magazine editor, Susan Taylor; actress, Debbie Allen; author and poet laureate, Dr. Maya Angelou; Former US Solicitor General, Walter Dellinger; Artist/Art Historian, David C. Driskell; The White House Collection, and The Archbishop of Canterbury.

Farrar’s studio is in Concord, NC. This is where he lives and creates his beautiful works of art. Farrar moved to the Charlotte area in 1974 when he began his career working for Southern Bell (now AT&T). He describes how he became interested in woodturning:

In about the twentieth year of my corporate career in Charlotte, North Carolina, I purchased a turned wood vessel from artist David Goines during the SpringFest street arts festival. I liked the Camphor wood vessel so much that the next year—maybe 1991—I went back to the festival hoping to find the same artist. I did and said to him, “I’m going to buy another vessel, but I wish I knew how you did this.” He understood my fascination with his vessels, and he said, “Come up the mountain next Saturday and I’ll show you everything I know about woodturning.” He was my first mentor. For half a year I would take the best examples of my work from the previous two-month period for him to critique. He was very direct in his criticisms; he drove home the point that wood art is collected for its line and form more than wood color. Goines always left me inspired and wanting to improve my skills. Turning wood was just a hobby for me at that point. A few years later I took an early retirement from my corporate job and had the time to immerse myself fully in my hobby. Within two years of my retirement, a very fine gallery in downtown Charlotte saw my work and offered me a solo exhibition. It is then that I began to think of myself as an artist.

The ‘very fine gallery’ in downtown Charlotte was owned by B.E. Noel, who first encouraged Farrar to sell his works. When B.E. told him she wanted to represent him, Farrar laughs, “I asked her ‘What does that mean?’” Within a year, Noel Gallery had sponsored a major exhibition of his work and he began displaying at art shows and festivals. B.E. Noel moved her gallery to New York in the mid 2000s, but continues her exclusive representation of Farrar to this day, although his work is also shown in galleries across the US, including Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta and Charlotte Fine Art Gallery.

Farrar describes the ancient threads and meticulous techniques that provide inspiration for his work:

I am drawn to hollow turned vessels, usually with walls about 3/16″ thick, where the inside wood chips have to be evacuated through the small opening at the top center. The challenge of hollowing large vessels through small openings is addictive. I am very much moved by shapes of ancient ceremonial and utilitarian vessels from the Motherland, if you will, and I am especially partial to the perennial egg shape, which works, no matter whether the pointed end is fashioned as top or bottom.

Not everyone knows that historians now agree that the woodturning device, the lathe, was given to the world by the Egyptians some 4,500 years ago, about the time of the Fourth Dynasty or the period of the great pyramids. When I teach the woodturning process at craft schools—i.e., Arrowmont or John C. Campbell—I also show hand-carved bowls that demonstrate how sub-Saharan Africans created beautifully formed and adorned vessels, using solely their skills as master carvers. In my collection is a large hand carved Senegalese bowl from a Fromager tree, perfectly round, except for delicate hand tool marks.

As a woodturner, I hope to create vessels that speak to people who have a love of this very ubiquitous and tactile medium. I hope that my audience will appreciate and enjoy my sometimes use of color and other enhancements on turned and/or carved vessels. I believe that wood happens to be my canvas, and that I have license and freedom to be as creative as the imagination allows. If line and form (design), surface texturing or carving is appropriately executed, then the work will appeal to the greatest number of admirers.

When asked about how he turns a piece of wood into a work of art, Farrar speaks with passion about his process:

It simply boggles the mind sometimes! Whenever I see a blank of wood and I put it in my lathe, soon, within a few hours or a day, the shape of the art begins to reveal itself. [After all these years] I am pretty much able to see the shape inside the wood before I start the process. Sometimes I will spend half a day just seeing the wood, rolling it around in my hand, seeing the grain pattern, or the knots or the void, seeing how I might be able to feature that knot or that void. I [often] go in the opposite direction of a museum quality piece of wood. I prefer those blanks with a flaw, because the flaw is where the character is and where the story is. The story can be as valuable as the piece itself.

Just as David Goines mentored him, Farrar feels compelled to teach others. He has taught at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC and at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN. “When the schools invite you,” Farrar says modestly, “it’s something of a comfort that your work is being recognized, and that they welcome your ability to share your art and your craft.”

Farrar is especially motivated to inspire young African-American artists. “There are so few blacks [who are practicing traditional crafts], yet we were the folks who first made our lives easier by creating and fashioning things that we could use that were also beautiful. But we didn’t carry it forward as we should have.” Farrar recalls attending a national conference for traditional craft making. “Out of 1,500 attendees, fewer than 10 looked like me [were African American], and that was an increase from five a few years before.”  Farrar also recognizes that few public high schools still offer shop and industrial arts programs, where students might have previously learned these specialized skills. As a result, Farrar feels obligated to “go back and give back…to excite these young folks” by exposing them to traditional crafts and wood turning. The first project he often gives high school students is to make a pen. “We make a pen, a usable, workable pen – and these students get so excited, their faces light up and they get a gleam in their eyes, they can’t believe that they have made something so beautiful and useful. They don’t want to stop creating art. I owe it to them to help them.”

Farrar was honored in 2010 when Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx presented President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama with a gift of one of his works, a turned hemlock vessel with a lid adorned by a filial. The work (featured in the photo above) is now part of the White House collection. Farrar’s work was also featured at an exhibition at the Harvey B. Gantt Center—Romancing the Eye: Louis Delsarte, Charles Farrar and Larry Lebby—from June 25 through September 3, 2010. A video of some of Farrar’s works from that exhibit can be found here. More information about Charles Farrar and his portfolio can be found here.


Anne Lamberttoday’s guest blogger, is an accomplished non-profit professional with more than 20 years of experience in fundraising, project planning and arts management. She has worked as a fundraiser, grant writer and development consultant for a variety of organizations, including Harvey B. Gantt Center, Carolina Raptor Center, North Carolina Dance Theatre, UNC Charlotte, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, Charlotte Country Day School and Foundation For The Carolinas. Anne also is an actor, director and producer and two-time Metrolina Theatre Award acting award winner. She has produced plays, theatrical events and fringe theater festivals in Charlotte, Atlanta and Philadelphia.