‘A Long Overdue Spotlight’

It’s been one month since the release of Giving Back and we continue to receive gratifying commentary on the book from leaders within the field of philanthropy. Below is a generous statement from Judy Belk.

Giving Back shines a long overdue spotlight on the legacy of giving which is so much a part of the African American community’s DNA and spirit. Writer Valaida Fullwood and photographer Charles Thomas Jr. have beautifully captured both in words and pictures untold stories of generosity which move and inspire. Giving Back should be positioned in a place of honor on the bookshelf and coffee table of every black family in America.”
— Judy Belk, senior vice president, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

‘The most powerful representation of philanthropy that I have seen…’

I reach but cannot grasp words to plumb the depth of my gratification and overwhelming joy when previewers of Giving Back share their reactions to its stories and photography. A long hope has been that the book would move readers and perchance enlighten and deepen their thinking and giving, for good. This is commentary received last night . . .

“This is the most powerful representation of philanthropy that I have seen in more than a decade in this field. The stories, the quotes, the voices and the photographs are uniformly vivid and extraordinary….A reminder that, in its roots, philanthropy should be felt, not thought.”

— Robert K. Ross, M.D., president and CEO, The California Endowment

Speechless…again.

When Quiet Hopes Come

Charles W. Thomas Jr., photographer

Selected advance readers of Giving Back have begun sharing their commentary on the book over the last week. With an easy willingness, both strangers and acquaintances known widely for intense work and demanding itineraries have, one by one, agreed to read my 400-page manuscript. That astounds me. And then, after reading the work, one responds with these words . . .

“Through a rich tapestry of voices and images, including inspirational interviews, stunning photographs, thoughtful commentary, and wide-ranging quotations, Giving Back captures the essence and generosity of African American donors as never before.  No one—including the leaders of non-profit organizations—could fail to be moved and enlightened by these vivid reminders of the potential of African American philanthropy.

“The book is beautiful and so inspirational, I now know what I will be getting everyone as a Christmas present!”

Michele Minter, Vice President for Development, The College Board

Still over the moon.

— VF

Over the Moon

Over the past week, I’ve begun receiving “advance commentary” on Giving Back. Selected readers of prominence, from across the country, have been more than generous with praise of the book’s stories and photography, and their affirmation means the world to me.

For more than four years, I was burrowed deeply in a writer’s hole and afflicted with a brutal case of tunnel vision in order to make this book happen. Making it happen meant not only generating the book’s content but also raising considerable funds and navigating the publishing industry, all of which were foreign to me.

Nevertheless, nothing could keep me from where my sights were cast. With remarkable clarity from the start, my mind’s eye held tight a vision that only sharpened over time. Though the vision was clear, the path was uncertain…really uncertain and seemingly treacherous at times. Trusting a gut sense while feeling my way through the dark and benefiting from gracious gestures made by Charles, family, friends and giving circle members helped move the book project forward.

After following a path that has tested every ounce of my soul and being, I’m sent higher than the sky to find that Giving Back can withstand the brightness outside the burrow and, in fact, shows best in the light of the wider world. When readers tell me they’ve seen, felt, thought and learned the things I long hoped someone…anyone…would, then it seems the years, the sacrifices and the times being misunderstood have been worth it.

Here’s one of the submissions from an advance reader that sent me flying over the moon:

“Astonishing . . . so beautiful, so deep and yet so inviting.

Giving Back belongs in every American home, not just every home of Americans of African descent. Each page connects the readers and the children they love to generosity that God, the Declaration of Independence and our awe-inspiring Black forebears taught us all.  A visual triumph. A story that has not been told!”

Dr. Claire Gaudiani, author of The Greater Good, Generosity Unbound and Daughters of the Democracy