Roses For The Living

 

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My sister Diatra and me miraculously still standing and smiling after 72 hours of nonstop event prep, heavy lifting and rose wall creation for the Gantt Center’s 2016 Jazzy Holiday Gala.

This year the Jazzy Holiday Gala was organized around the idea of art & soul, conveying the unique and vital role the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture plays in Charlotte’s artistic and cultural scene and in the lives of youth, artists, educators, families and others, in communities near and far. Together at The Center was the evening’s mantra.

Jazzy is an elegant black-tie gala and major fundraiser of the Gantt Center. After three decades, it’s become a holiday tradition in Charlotte. For the past five years, I’ve been the creative strategist/event consultant for Jazzy. Photos from past events can be seen here and here and here. As with each year, I approached the event as a large-scale art project, beginning with an organizing concept through which an important narrative from the Gantt Center can be told. Then I built out the concept from the color palette to visual design to key messages and scripting to art forms and media to the presenters to the flow of the evening.

This year, art & soul emerged as perfect because the Gantt Center is a state-of-the-art building located in the heart of Charlotte, and it carries a mission to preserve African American culture and to present art in all its forms. Its location holds particular significance because it stands in what was once the thriving, predominately Black neighborhood of Brooklyn. In innumerable ways, the Gantt Center embodies Charlotte’s heart, art and soul.

On Saturday, December 3, more than 700 guests gathered at the Charlotte Convention Center and helped raise $300,000 to advance the Gantt Center’s mission, which keeps art & soul alive and thriving in Charlotte. The event’s Presenting Sponsor was Bank of America. Gala Co-Chairs were Dr. Tiffani Jones & Thaddeus Jones and Allison & Tim Atwell, who led a Host Committee that included: Ned Austin, Victor Fields, Joan Higginbotham, Charles Horton, Michelle Horton, Jerri Irby, Alene Paraison, Yandrick Paraison and Natalie Pittman.

2016 Spirit of the Center Award recipients were: PNC (corporate citizenship and partnership); Richard J. Powell, Ph.D. of Duke University (art and culture); and Mrs. Sarah Stevenson, a founding board member of the Gantt Center (philanthropy and community).

The gala opened at 6:00 pm with an hour-long cocktail reception and was followed by dinner, award presentations, art & soul impact stories, an appeal for membership, music by Al Jasper & Friends and dancing. Membership was the focus of the evening’s fundraising appeal. Throughout the evening, gala attendees were urged to becoming a new member,  renew a membership, upgrade a membership and “gift” membership for others. The aim was for every guest to purchase a membership.

A live rose wall served as the event’s focal centerpiece. Guests posed in front of a backdrop of 1,000s of red rose blossoms as photographer Jon Strayhorn took beautiful portraits (see some of Jon’s photos below). A wall of windows outside the ballroom were transformed into a photography exhibition with artful images by Ortega Gaines. A sleek program booklet comprised colorful photographs, indicative of the Gantt Center’s art & soul.

But one glorious night, Jazzy celebrates what the Gantt Center carries out nearly 365 days a year, why it has garnered community support for 42 years, and how it works to shape the future by engaging generation after generation. Whether it’s art and soul, young and old, global and local, or black, white and brown, we come together at The Center.

View the photo slideshow by clicking an image.

 

The Family Collage

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Next in the Heritage & History series is “The Family Collage,” which is an assembling of stories about kinship and friendship featuring Journalist and Madam CJ Walker descendant A’LELIA BUNDLES. It is one of several programs I’ve had the joy of creating and working on as project manager with the Gantt Center. Stories on past programs in the series can be found here and here.

A’Lelia is a writer, public speaker and entrepreneur, and she was the guest speaker at the inaugural opening of my exhibit The Soul of Philanthropy. “The Family Collage” is inspired, in part, by recent commemorations of the 105th birthday of Charlotte-born artist Romare Bearden. Bundles interviewed Bearden in the 1980s and their maternal ancestors were close friends. President of the Madam Walker and A’Lelia Walker Family Archives, A’Lelia will share fascinating stories of both the Walker and Bearden families.

A’Lelia has written extensively about her illustrious family—from the biography of her iconic great-great-grandmother, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker, to stories about her great-grandmother A’Lelia Walker, known as “The Joy Goddess,” whose parties, friendships, global travel and arts patronage made her a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance.

Come gain new insights on these high-profile Black American families and bold American history-makers. You’ll also take away ideas for collecting your own family history and keeping your family’s roots alive.

You can buy your ticket here: The Family Collage

The Heritage & History series features nationally noted artists and scholars who are preserving Black culture through an array of disciplines and media. In hosting each culture keeper, the Gantt Center invites public participation in special events and experiences that illuminate important stories and engage audiences.

The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture celebrates the contributions of Africans and African-Americans to American culture and serves as a community epicenter for music, dance, theater, visual art, film, arts education programs, literature and community outreach. The Gantt Center partners with Duke Energy in presenting the Heritage & History series.

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‘Strong and Able To Fight’

“… I prayed to God to make me strong and able to fight, and that’s what I’ve always prayed for ever since.”  — Harriet Tubman, 1865

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Last night’s performance of Harriet’s Return, a one-woman play about Harriet Tubman written by and starring Karen Jones Meadows, sold out! And Karen received a spontaneous and resounding standing ovation from the audience of over 400 people.

The play kicked off the “Heritage & History” programming series that I collaborated with the Gantt Center to create this year and that Duke Energy is generously sponsoring. The series will feature “remarkable experiences with renowned culture keepers”. One luminary presenter is scheduled per quarter.

During Karen’s visit to Charlotte, she participated in a “lunch and learn” with about 50 Duke Energy employees last Friday. On Saturday, she led “Culture in the Quarter,” a hands-on workshop with local youth and families.

The lunch talk, workshop, play about Harriet and Karen’s personal story were highly inspiring and proved ideal for celebrating strong, fierce women (praying to be one) during Women’s History Month and on International Women’s Day.

Below are photos from the past week.

— VF

 

From BGB: Black Philanthropy Panel Discussions in Charlotte Continue

All you have shall some day be given; 
Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors. — Kahlil Gibran

Remarkably, on a sunny and springlike Saturday afternoon, more than 50 people came to the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture on February 22 for a panel discussion on planned giving! An uncommon conversation, particularly in Black communities.

The five panelists at the “What Will Be Your Legacy” forum led an informative discussion and the audience was focused and engaged. You can read about the event at BlackGivesBack.com: Black Philanthropy Panel Discussions in Charlotte Continue With ‘What Will Be Your Legacy?’

This slideshow below includes a dozen photos from the event, which was co-hosted by New Generation of African American Philanthropists and Gantt Center.

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Thrice Is Nice

Three consecutive events are on the horizon where my giving circle and/or I will lead discussions about various facets of philanthropy. Civic discourse and public perceptions are shifting about the essence of philanthropy and how we can practice it to benefit the beloved community. There’s far more work to do, but the seeds of our long collective effort are blossoming and I couldn’t be happier.

“Feed Your Soul” Lecture Series, Feb 19
Arizona Community Foundation

“What Will Be Your Legacy?” Panel Discussion, Feb 22
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture

“We’re Bringing Giving Back” Presentation, Feb 26
Association of Fundraising Professionals-Charlotte Chapter

More info is here and here. Come join us!

(and this doesn’t even include this weekend’s retreat with members of New Generation of African American Philanthropists, where we’ll plant more seeds for gatherings, grants and giving in 2014.)