Someday

Someday at Christmas man will not fail
Hate will be gone and love will prevail

— Stevie Wonder

Candle

A holiday fave. Take a listen!

Have a Wonder-filled Christmas!!!

Exhibiting Humanity

love drawing with light“Drawing with light” is beautifully both a literal and metaphorical description of taking photographs. Our upcoming photography exhibit draws inspiration from that definition as well as from the root meaning of philanthropy: love of what it means to be human. Each a potent concept on its own, combined, these ideas are fueling the design and programming for Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited. A powerful experience awaits gallery visitors and program participants in 2015. Expect an exhibition of humanity where the images glow, the stories enlighten and your soul is set afire.

Sharing love for the holidays. And anticipating the arrival of an exceptional new year!

That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality–your soul, if you will–is as bright and shining as any that has ever been….Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly. — George Saunders

Valentine’s Day Love via Video

Keeping it simple today with a video…particularly since a picture speaks a thousand words and since music begins wherwords end.

Watch: Valentine’s Day Love via Video

L-O-V-E | Charles W. Thomas Jr., photographer

L-O-V-E | Charles W. Thomas Jr., photographer

Love,

VF

(there’s music so check your volume)

‘Cause That’s How We Do

Today our book trailer [ philanthropy reframed ] reached 1000 views on YouTube!

Watch it (again) and share it to hear a new voice, to feel a new vibe, to experience a new video and to gain a new view on philanthropy. #getyourgiveon

philanthropy reframed vid screenshot

Reclaiming The Root Meaning of Philanthropy

  Radical simply means ‘grasping things at the root.’ — Angela Davis

Let’s engage in the radical work of reclaiming the root meaning of philanthropy: love of humanity. Philanthropy, a curious word to many, evokes a range of images, beliefs and emotions. To contemplate its semantics and evolution and then to initiate anew our collective philanthropic practice could prove a seminal undertaking for black America.

This moment hangs ripe. The “season of giving” is near and clears the way to a new year of possibilities. The election of President Barack H. Obama has substantiated, again, the might of black unity. And yet, between the hopes and history making and the thanks and gifts giving are uncharitable acts and vitriol that signal a shift back in time, not forward. Indignities, inequities and injustices do not simply dissipate; instead, we must come together in systematically uprooting them.

With community needs great and the need for unity greater, the times beckon a new era of conscientious philanthropy rooted in a love for community and expectations of social change. Let this generation, both young and old, embody a social transformation with bold recognition of our power and responsibility to give back.

Philanthropy is a gateway to power. It is a chief means to acquiring, sustaining and strengthening our status—economically, politically, socially and spiritually. Our ancestors knew this. They originated and supported systems for giving and assisted members of the community, whether neighbor, stranger or kin. Remarkably, a fundamental source of our progress at times seems forgotten.

Remembering our long and prolific history of philanthropy is crucial. Historical accounts of black largesse and examples of culturally significant vehicles of giving abound. Look up the Free African Society, an 18th century mutual aid organization established by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones. Study the social justice philanthropy of the legendary Madam CJ Walker. Before the Civil War, up through the Civil Rights struggle and after, our forebears charted paths and lay blueprints for progress. While the impulse to “give back” lives on in the community and opportunities exist to bring new twists to old traditions, this work must be encouraged and nurtured.

In the starkest of ironies, black Americans give the highest percentage of discretionary income to charitable causes when compared to other racial groups in America; and yet our philanthropy is discounted and overlooked by mainstream society. Indeed, within the black community, our traditions of giving are seldom acknowledged or celebrated, or even described as philanthropy. Absurd as it is, this cultural disconnect persists for many reasons and shortchanges us all.

Ideas and images of present-day philanthropy frequently fail to resonate and, worse yet, serve to alienate black Americans. Particularly unsettling is the stunning absence of black people in representations of philanthropists—a few select luminaries notwithstanding. A point of view endures that renders black donors and benefactors, in effect, invisible. The familiar picture of philanthropy is narrowly framed and thus gives a false impression that the only giving that matters is beyond the average person’s means.

On the demand side of philanthropy—as beneficiaries and “the needy”—is a common context for depictions of black children, families and communities. While but one facet of philanthropy, imagery around whites as the benefactors and blacks as those in need has devolved into a stubborn stereotype and produced a picture that distorts and is incomplete.

A richer picture exists. Widening the lens to include our customs and stories of giving yields a different view. Vibrant philanthropy is occurring in black communities, whether labeled as such or not. Even so, great promise rests in sharpening our focus to affect social change. Collectively, black America possesses the assets—heart, head, heritage and dollars—to eradicate a host of social ills. With our legacy of generosity, our shared stake in change and our capacity to leverage centuries-long gains in wealth, education and access, how could we not?

Exercising this power first requires a shift in thinking and wider recognition of the power of black philanthropy. Strategic alliances among black donors, across black communities and with institutional partners also are vital.

Significant in seizing the moment and sustaining the effort is love. Love of family. Love of culture. Love for thy neighbor as thyself. In its truest sense, philanthropy is rooted in love. Advancing social change with that spirit opens opportunities for everyone to participate and fixes the focus on liberating people not elevating oneself.

Putting our money where our heart lies. That is the charge. Begin doing your part today by deepening your knowledge of philanthropy, by examining your motivations for giving and by joining with others to grasp at the root causes of our collective concerns—for love.

Valaida

Much Given, Much Expected

“To whom much is given much is expected. This biblical passage from the Gospel of Luke conveys a belief that I and many of my African American family and friends hold dear. Many of us recall a defining moment or childhood lessons that influence our philanthropic giving.”

I’ve opened with these lines from Giving Back to say thanks to many of the people who gave their time, talent and treasure during the development of the book. The word cloud below is yet another way of giving props….as was done here too.

Rebuilding Our Communities, Inside Out

“The messages in your book and the work of the Community Investment Network are critical today. Local African American donors and others are replicating the early investments that our ancestors made in building the United States. 21st century technological innovations and the resulting economic shifts obligate us to rebuild our communities from the inside out. We must all invest in places where we live, work and worship—the places that we love.

“Thank you for reminding each of us that strong democratic communities require all to give time, talent and money. Our families, institutions and communities are depending on us.”

— Linetta J. Gilbert, co-leader of The Declaration Initiative and longstanding CIN supporter, in response to my recent interview on The Tavis Smiley Show about Black philanthropy and Giving Back.

Charles W. Thomas Jr., photographer

‘Power Without Love’

Mr. Wallace Pruitt of Seversville | Photography by Charles W. Thomas Jr.

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Another exquisite truth from yesterday’s NCNG luncheon keynote by Martin Eakes of Self-Help, paired with a portrait from Giving Back. — VF

For Lovers of Humanity


Charles W. Thomas Jr., photographer

A loving heart is the truest wisdom. — Charles Dickens

Giving Back reframes portraits of philanthropy, while reclaiming its root meaning: love of humanity. Put simply, each page pictures love.

Wishing “lovers of humanity” everywhere a Happy Valentine’s Day! — VF