Excellent Example

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Meka Sales honors her mother’s philanthropic legacy

“What are you doing to serve?”

In celebration of Women’s History Month, a tiny question with huge implications is shared from Giving Back. The question is from a story by Meka Sales in memory of her mother Shirley Oliver Nelson—an excellent example of generousness.

Read Meka’s full story: “An Excellent Example,” Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists (pp. 148-149).

So Grand

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Pictured on the left is my maternal grandmother Lucille Geneva, who would have turned 99 years old today (November 2). She’s seated with sister Pauline on the lawn of the family home in Randolph County, North Carolina. Below is a photo her husband, my grandfather James who would have celebrated his 94th birthday on October 29.

During my time with them both, we shared grand times and a wonderfully grand love. Missing you two!

Granddaddy

my heart’s in the write place

“You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page. Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.” — Annie Proulx

Book talk photo

Me…talking about the things I write about

We’re coming up on four years since Giving Back was first published and released in October 2011. Before that, it took four and a half years to write the stories and capture the photography for the book. Over the past eight-plus years, if I’ve learned nothing else, I know within me is the heart, mind and soul of a writer. It’s not just what I do, it’s who I am. The scarcity of time to write about all that I’d like to haunts me.

Write or wrong—my frustration is fueling ideas about how to hoard some time to nestle into and write to my heart’s content.

— VF

Seven Generations and One Hundred, Ten Years Ago

Christian and Riley McGimpsey with family and friends, 1903

Christian and Riley McGimpsey with family and friends, 1903

This is a story about Riley R. McGimpsey (28 Mar 1845 – 20 Apr 1934), my great-great-grandfather, as told to me by my elder cousin Nettie McGimpsey McIntosh for my book Giving Back:

Despite common perceptions, Black men have long been industrious. And evidently my grandfather Riley was as hardworking as men of any race come. I call him a Black entrepreneur, but back then industrious is the word people used.

I archive and keep our family’s history. I have scoured over family artifacts and Census data. Some time in the mid-1800s on the McGimpsey farm in Burke County, North Carolina, a slave named Clarissa gave birth to a son she named Riley. While born into slavery, Riley eventually became a sharecropper who sold his part of the produce—corn, wheat, molasses and such. Documents I have come across show his products sold as far away as Mullins, South Carolina, which was hundreds of miles from the farmland of Fonta Flora. He even owned one of the county’s few reaper-binders and loaned it out to others.

Fondly remembered and respected by people all over the county, my grandfather prospered in farming and with various small enterprises. He grew well known for giving away fresh produce and all kinds of things to community people, regardless of color. Riley was born a slave, but died an entrepreneur and philanthropist. Don’t let a meager start or scant resources limit what you do in life.

The portrait above is on display at the History Museum of Burke County. Riley is seated on the far right and his wife Christian V. Moore McGimpsey is seated next to him. Their daughter Mary Maldonia, who is my great-grandmother is seated on the far left.

Fast forward one hundred and ten years: There will be a family reunion this summer, kicking off at the History Museum of Burke County, with five more generations—the far-flung descendants of Maldonia McGimpsey and the man she would later marry John Wesley Fullwood. Cannot wait!

— VF

What They Prize Most

“Children must early learn the beauty of generosity. They are taught to give what they prize most that they may taste the happiness of giving.” — Ohiyesa, Native American physician, writer and change agent

Photograph, from the 1980s, of my late grandmother and her sisters featured in the Morganton New Herald

Photograph, from the 1980s, of my late grandmother and her sisters featured in a Morganton News Herald story on giving.

My cousin Britt recently shared this photo as our family prepares for a reunion this summer. The original photograph was taken in May 1983 at my great-aunt Annie’s wedding anniversary party. It features my grandmother and four of her sisters: (l-r) Annie, Esther, Laura, Goldie and Evelyn, known to me at Nanny Evelyn.

In 2007, the Morganton News Herald ran an article in its Faith and Values section about the Fullwood sisters’ “old-fashioned kindness of yesteryear.” At the time this piece ran, they all had passed on except Aunt Annie, who is still with us and is profiled through portraiture and storytelling in Giving Back. The article laments how “communities are losing a generation of good citizens.”

Referencing my great-grandparents, the writer observes:

“John and Maldonia Fullwood aspired to teach their children the goodness of serving and sharing with others. Having parents that believed in family and putting into practice the old mission of being good to and helping your fellowman was just natural.”

I am a fortunate heir to a prized legacy of giving. And I believe that a spirit of generosity prevails in my generation and in younger ones. Generosity does, however, need nurturing in children, and oftentimes adults too, through example, expectation and opportunity. The book Giving Back stands as a centerpiece of the Giving Back Project, which ventures to ignite a movement of conscientious philanthropy by empowering a generation of Americans to recognize their power and responsibility to give back. Along with others igniting this movement, I want to fan the flames—with my writing, my public speaking, my creative and artistic endeavors, my social media interactions, my giving and my life.

So grateful that Fullwood family members, generation after generation, showed me their values and told me clearly through their deeds, girl #getyourgiveon

— VF

Our TEDx Talk on Identity, Epiphany and Philanthropy

This piece and this piece tell the story behind the speech about the stories behind the stories of Giving Back (yes, very meta).

You can finally see it for yourself as I am delighTED to share this TEDx video with you today! Oh and…you can read further about A Picture Reframed, my co-presentation at TEDxCharlotte 2013, here and here. Enjoy!

 

Generations of Generosity

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People talk a lot about “finding your purpose.” I generally don’t think about life or my pursuits in exactly those terms. Yet, when I see or hear from people whom I’ve never met, living in distant places clutching or glowing about Giving Back, I think I might have found mine.

Above is a photo of Neosha who won Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists as a giveaway during the recent Friends of Ebonie event, “Defining Young Black Philanthropy,” in Washington, DC.

The panel discussion and networking event, organized by Ebonie Cooper Johnson, was featured in The Washington Post and The Huffington Post. HuffPo asked, Will Black Millennials be the next wave of philanthropists? noting that “the days of old, rich men dominating the philanthropy space are long gone.”

I’m thrilled that attention is heightening and the frame is indeed widening around philanthropy and Black donors, across every generation—Millennial, Gen Y, Gen-X, Boomer and Greatest.

#getyourgiveon

Quick Biopic ‘On Writing and Giving Back’

In November 2011, right after the release of Giving Back and during filming for the book’s trailer [ philanthropy reframed ], we created this 3-minute piece….I call it my micro biopic.

After a year, we finally carved out time to complete this short film and just posted it to YouTube yesterday. Watch. Enjoy. Share.

GBP video snapshot