Love, Leadership and Justice

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Atlanta exhibition opens on the cusp of yearlong commemorations of
MLK’s profound messages and legacy, 50 years after his death
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Happening Now >>> THE GIVING SEASON

Just for you! Thanksgiving food for thought, a fresh crop of photos, new film and an abundance of gratitude


The Atlanta exhibition of The Soul of Philanthropy opened November 1st with a burst of energy and excitement, further kindling powerful ideas and ushering infinite possibilities for the future of Black philanthropic leadership, propelled from the South.

The exhibit’s stories, themes and imagery are timely and resonant as Atlanta and the nation prepare to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s death and celebrate his enduring legacy throughout 2018.

Watch Love, Leadership and Justice from Atlanta’s VIP reception and exhibition ribbon-cutting. It’s our newest short film in a series from the Giving Back Project, featuring sights and sounds from exhibitions of The Soul of Philanthropy.

Come to see philanthropy differently.


“The future of philanthropy is not about generosity, it is about justice.​”     

— Darren Walker, president of Ford Foundation



Presented by Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, in partnership with Hammonds House Museum. Exhibited at Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture & History. November 1, 2017 – January 22, 2018

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southern  legacy  truth   vision   future

 

Watch >>> Fresh, New Film, released just in time for Thanksgiving. Enjoy!

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Film and photography about the exhibition by Sino Chum

Bring The Soul of Philanthropy to your city! Contact us today to learn more.

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Its Other Benefits

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“The New Testament informs the reader that it is more blessed to give than to receive. I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver. The size and substance of the gift should be important to the recipient, but not to the donor save that the best thing one can give is that which is appreciated. The giver is as enriched as is the recipient, and more important, that intangible but very real psychic force of good in the world is increased.”

From The Sweetness of Charity, an essay by Maya Angelou which is quoted in The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit.

Below are a few photos from the Atlanta opening of The Soul of Philanthropy, which is on display at Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History now thru January 2018. The exhibition is presented by Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta in partnership with Hammonds House Museum. Learn more about the exhibition in Atlanta.

Photo credit: Sino Chum

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Atlanta To Open ‘The Soul of Philanthropy’

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The Soul of Philanthropy Atlanta will open November 1 and run through January 22, 2018 at Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History. Robust civic engagement with community conversations will launch with the exhibition, working further to ignite a movement of conscious giving for social change.

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The exhibition is presented by the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, in partnership with Hammonds House Museum.

Sponsors and Community Partners include:

  • African American Development Officers (AADO)
  • Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Atlanta Celebrates Photography
  • Atlanta Fulton Public Library System
  • CommunityBuild Ventures
  • StateFarm
  • Southeastern Council of Foundations
  • WAOK 1380 Radio
  • Wells Fargo

Come to see philanthropy differently.TSOP_logo

Oh Snap!

During our Washington, DC exhibition at the 2017 National Conference of the Association of African American Museums, an intrigued hotel attendant would stroll by regularly and gaze over at our installation. His preoccupation persisted the first few days. Eventually, he ventured into our exhibit space to inquire about the topic and to explore close up and more deeply the displays of photos, stories and interactive elements of The Soul of Philanthropy. And then he shared his story.

Years prior in his native Somalia, he had been on a boat that capsized and sank. While dozens of passengers perished, he was one of only nine survivors rescued by a passing ship. Since that day he said he’s been thankful and always gives back because he was helped once and was saved.

Later, without any our prompting, Nasir wrote his story on the exhibit’s blackboard.

Giving Voice

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Introducing the Black Philanthropy Month 2017 Poster

For the first time, a Black Philanthropy Month poster was commissioned to help inspire Black giving and advance our movement to shape 21st century philanthropy.

This inaugural piece was designed by artist Marcus Kiser and is available here free for downloads. The art poster conveys the BPM 2017 theme: Giving Voice to Fuel Change.

 

Something’s Gotta Give

Mounting pressure triggers thoughts like, “something’s gotta give”. That is, a sense kicks in that something needs to shift—recognition that a tipping point is imminent. Intensified moments such as this converged on me too many times to count over the last 10 years, leaving me anxious and wondering, “what next?”

VF hands and laptopTen years ago, on April 27, 2007, while attending a Women’s Funding Network conference in Seattle, an idea came to me with astounding clarity. That moment marked the beginning of the Giving Back Project. Below are  excerpted notes from a decade ago about evocative imagery of the human hand that illustrate the specificity of my initial thoughts.

“The fragrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose.”

“Hands — both the image and the words — are rich with symbolism, particularly in the context of giving. Hand out. Hand up. Hand-me-down. Give a helping hand. Hand in hand. These are just a few of the many common expressions containing the word “hand” that connote philanthropic concepts and stir a broad range of sentiments.

“Images of human hands will feature prominently on the cover and will be a point of detail in the portraits of honorees. Evocative images include: Strong, leathered hands of the aged (envisioned for cover), hand on cane, a handshake, hands serving food, hands knitting, hand holding a photo, hand pressing a Bible, hand writing a check and hands tending to a child.”

After its conception, the book Giving Back took 1621 days to complete and publish. Even with crystal clear vision, a litany of unexpected and sometimes brutal challenges blocked my path—the 2008 economic implosion, fundraising woes, skeptics, critics, distractions—which often left me saying, something’s gotta give. Despite nearing boiling points, I resisted temptations to escape the heat by compromising my vision. The experience was an assault on every front, and yet somehow I pushed through. If something had to give, it wasn’t going to be me. After enduring the breaking points of the 1621 days, I believed I was, at last, free. I was wrong. 

After 10 years, the struggle endures, but I’m now essentially heat resistant. The early years of the project rendered me unbreakable. Like pottery, the fire has continuously strengthened me to carry a God-gifted vision. The Giving Back Project still teaches me daily about faith and purpose, patience and persistence, grace and philanthropy, because  something has got to give, indeed. #getyourgiveon

Below are photos from the past decade. Enjoy! 

— VF

3,650 Days

“If there is a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” — Toni Morrison

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Yesterday, April 27, marked the 10th anniversary of the birth of The Giving Back Project, which was sparked the night the idea came to me for Giving Back. To commemorate the conception of my now decade-long labor of love, below is the excerpted Author’s Notes section (p. 338) from the book.

Grace is a gift always welcome. And I was showered with grace while developing Giving Back. When I first conceived of the idea, zeal and naivety blinded me to its magnitude. I thought it would take a year to develop the book; instead it led me on a four-and-a-half-year odyssey that proved torturous and joyous.

At times, doubts would swarm with stinging questions about whether the vision was attainable. I questioned whether I was up to the sacrifices and risks that seeing it through seemed to require of me. People I spoke with believed in the project; they saw the significance of documenting our stories and producing a socially relevant book. This helped fend off some my fears. Even with dispiriting episodes, I could never suppress for long the call of these stories.

Interviewing people was a privilege and extraordinarily gratifying; yet the gravity of the undertaking weighed heavily on me too. Each set of interview notes seemed so delicate. I gained deeper recognition of how precious each story was and how potent it could become if I possessed the wherewithal to craft a compelling body of work and get it in front of readers.

I felt like a surrogate entrusted to carry not one but scores of seeds, each exceptional, fragile and bundling possibilities. Humbled and often daunted I knew I had to take care in crafting each story with due reverence. Demanding equal finesse was clearing an uncertain path to bring the book’s narrative and photographic content out of the obscurity of our families, our communities and my laptop into the light of the wider world. Guidance, often from unexpected people and places, came at each crossroad.

Always brightening the journey were the hopes and confidence expressed by family, friends and giving circle members. I remember the excitement of Ohmar, Renee and Rashad when they first heard my idea while on a road trip to a Black philanthropy conference. I think about Aunt Dora’s smile upon learning she inspired the book. I recall early conversations with Charles about my vision and the alignment of our artistic aspirations. Collaboration with Charles has been a God-sent steadying force, from his initial blind faith in the project to his ease, professionalism and quiet generosity.

The most beautiful gift while writing this book was being immersed in its content. I couldn’t help but become re-inspired when each day required me to delve into literally hundreds of narratives and photographs meant to inspire and motivate. Gratitude bubbles over when I look back on the gracious acts that brought Giving Back into being. Without a doubt God’s grace is greatest, but grace granted by the people around me was wonderfully sweet too. — VF

Additional photos and posts, reflecting on my experiences and learning, will follow over the next few days.

 

‘The Face That Launched a Thousand Days’

On the last day of Women’s History Month, it’s fitting to pay tribute here to the magnanimous muse of Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists, my great aunt Dora—now 96 years old and as vibrant as ever. The piece below, The Face That Launched a Thousand Days, is about Aunt Dora and was first published by Indiana University the year I was named “Lake Distinguished Visitor.”

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25,000 words

392 manuscript pages

76 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

999,999 reasons to give

1 book that reframes portraits of philanthropy

Dors Atlas

Great aunt Dora (maternal)

Muse seems a fitting description for Aunt Dora. Hers is the face that launched a thousand-day odyssey and twenty-five thousand words. The generosity of my 92-year-old great-aunt inspired me to embark on developing the book Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists. Giving Back is a 400-page hardcover publication filled with revealing stories and artful photography about traditions of giving within Black communities. In prose, poetry and portraiture, my great-aunt’s philanthropy and that of 199 other benefactors of African descent fill every page.

When the idea for the book took hold of me, little did I know that seeing it through and publishing it would require a high-wire walk of faith, spanning four-and-half years or one thousand days—well, 1621 days to be exact. With each day that passed, the vision for Giving Back grew so clear it haunted me. The pathway, however, grew obscured by episodes of frustration and weariness from setbacks.

On those clouded, dark days, brightening my steps like bursts of light from a beacon were the narratives and biographies of the people I was chronicling. In a twist, the volume of stories that I was inspired to start writing had come to speak volumes to me and thus supplied inspiration to complete the book. Being immersed in accounts of “lovers of humankind”—their aspirations, motivations and tribulations—compelled me to push on.

Fittingly, the story of my original source of inspiration and great-aunt, Rev. Dora Atlas, opens Giving Back. After reading “Rich Aunt,” indeed, you will see that she is a great aunt in deed. The book’s collection of stories and photographs forever altered my thinking and my work in philanthropy, and I expect it could have the same effect on you.

Shared here is a TEDx video of my faith-fueled story of philanthropy, identity and epiphany that produced Giving Back.

VIDEO: A Picture Reframed | http://youtu.be/CZ9k18BzDV8

Philanthropy on Exhibit

Charles Thomas and me signing books at a recent exhibition of The Soul of Philanthropy at Duke University, which is Charles’ alma mater.

Six years ago, Charles and I began exploring the idea of an museum exhibition on philanthropy, based on the yet released stories and photography of Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists. While it took four years more, before we—in collaboration with NGAAP-Charlotte and Johnson C. Smith University—realized that vision with The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited, we’ll claim releasing seeds of this idea into the ethosphere.

Fast forward to a year ago, just after #GivingTuesday, I was reading this story in The Chronicle of Philanthropy about Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and David Rubenstein funding an endowed curatorship at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History (NMAH) to create a series of exhibitions on the history and future of American philanthropy.

Since the article referenced only billionaire white men (and a few women in the context of being their wives), I wondered whether the NMAH exhibitions would be narrowly framed to present only conventional and predictable pictures of “American philanthropy”. Would traditions of philanthropy in communities of color be told? Would the generosity and impact of people of modest means get included? Would stories of philanthropic women and giving circles be shared?

Quick to climb on my bandwagon, I reached out to learn more about NMAH’s “The Philanthropy Initiative” and to ask questions to ensure a vivid and inclusive and soulful account of philanthropy in America was an aim. Thanks to a network of kind connectors—A’Lelia Bundles, Aviva Kempner and Fath Ruffins—I made some gains.

So on this #GivingTuesday (and hopefully many more to come), I’m traveling to Washington, DC for “The Power of Giving: Philanthropy’s Impact on American Life”—an invitation-only symposium with philanthropists, environmentalists, thought leaders and social innovators to discuss the past, present, and future of American giving. Such programs are slated, annually, for decades to come and the focus this year is “Sustainability and The Environment”. Tuesday’s schedule launches with the opening of the Smithsonian’s first-ever, long-term exhibition GIVING IN AMERICA. We’re in the room, and there’s more to come.

“All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” — Victor Hugo

Below are more photos are from the exhibition of The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed (abridged edition) at Duke University’s Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture. Coincidently, the Duke University exhibition was made possible by support from financier David Rubenstein, who chairs Duke’s Board of Trustees and also is one of the funders of the NMAH exhibition.

 

 

Philanthro-Tee

Today’s Black Friday and with Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday coming up soon, take a look at these HEARTWORK t-shirts, modeled by the lovely Dr. Angela Logan.

You can give a gift with a message that helps give rise to a new generation of conscious givers. Inspired by The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit, HEARTWORK carries socially conscious messages, eco-friendly organic fabrics and artfully designed products.

Angela is the first person to purchase and then post photos of her HEARTWORK apparel via social media. She sported not one but two of my favorite t-shirts—the Giving Back tee and the Truth Be Told tee. Her tweets and pics from an ARNOVA conference in DC were right on time!

#getyourgiveon

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Socially Conscious Messages • Eco-Friendly Organic Fabrics • Artfully Designed Products

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