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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Tale of Two Cities

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Atlanta panel discussion during Black Philanthropy Month, leading up to the exhibit’s opening

You’d be hard pressed to find two American cities any more geographically and demographically disparate than Portland, Oregon and Atlanta, Georgia. And yet, one thing they have in common is their commitment to to host the comprehensive, multimedia version of The Soul of Philanthropy. Following the IMLS grant-funded exhibit tour, managed by Johnson C. Smith University during 2015 and 2016, these cities are the first in the country to mount exhibitions and lead civic engagement aimed at reframing philanthropy for greater inclusiveness and lasting impact.

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The road from Portland to Atlanta opens a world of possibilities

Vibrant big cities, both Portland and Atlanta benefit from prominent philanthropic families, businesses and foundations. Perhaps then it’s unsurprising that groups in each city would be intrigued by The Soul of Philanthropy, which invites people to see philanthropy differently. That is, come to know that philanthropy is deeper than your pockets.

The Portland exhibition, presented by MRG Foundation at Concordia University, opened at the start of this year and ended late March. The Atlanta exhibition, presented by Hammonds House Museum, is sponsored by the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and several other groups and individual donors. The exhibition will open at Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History in November 2017. Above is a photo from an early program in Atlanta; below is a photo collage from the Portland exhibition.

 

 

Since the inception of the Giving Back Project in 2007, I, along with Charles Thomas, aimed to create a body of work that would transcend race and place. Charlotte, North Carolina has been the epicenter of the project because that’s where our giving circle is based and where we each live and have formed relationships over the majority of our lives. Even so, we aspired to craft stories and release photography, so soulful and true, they’d resonate broadly and tap deeply at the core of people any and everywhere. I used to say, “I want people in Phoenix to see themselves and people they know in these stories and images.”

Ten years into this project and six years after the first printing of Giving Back, seeing sustained interest in the book nationwide and overseas, too, has been gratifying. Proving relevant and timeless, the book continues to sell steadily and, having again sold out, is presently being printed for the fourth time; over 200 books are now on backorder. It’s truly the book that keeps giving!

When the exhibit was announced in 2014 and opened at Johnson C. Smith University, it also began attracting attention and inquiries from coast to coast, including at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Leaders in Portland and Atlanta were among the first to express interest in the exhibit.

Three thousand miles stretch between Portland and Atlanta. The distance between their histories and demographics is wide as well, yet hosting The Soul of Philanthropy bridges these communities. It has provided space for uncommon collaborations, honest conversations and new insights, offering lasting benefit to both places.

Situated in the Pacific Northwest, Portland boasts a hipster reputation as a progressive, socially conscious city, which belies its racist history. Oregon enacted a shameful ban of Black people during periods of the 19th and 20th centuries. Generations later, Portland consequently stands labeled “the Whitest City in America,” because 78 percent of its population identifies racially as White. At seven percent, Black residents comprise a small fraction of the community.

Conversely, Atlanta is a cultural and commercial center of the Atlantic Southeast. A majority of its residents are African American, earning it the reputation of a “Black mecca”. While Oregon forbade Blacks from moving to the state until the 1920s, clear across the country, Georgia depended on the enslavement and exploitation of Black people well into the 20th century. At opposite corners of the U.S., both cities have legacies that can, at times, thwart or even pervert philanthropic efforts today.

The Soul of Philanthropy is a vehicle for communities to explore and celebrate multiple giving traditions, to learn about an array of philanthropic tools and strategies, and to break through barriers to inclusiveness. Even with vast differences in history and population, philanthropic leaders in Portland and in Atlanta have found value in engaging in vital community building through the exhibit. Whether Black, White, Latino, American Indian, Asian American, Middle Easterner, Pacific Islander, or any cultural roots, the stories, photography and themes of The Soul of Philanthropy hold relevance. After a decade, Charles and I have seen firsthand the ways our work persists and sustains significance and resonance in a complicated field and often misunderstood topic.

First Portland and soon Atlanta are reframing portraits of philanthropy and coming to see philanthropy differently. If America’s “Whitest city” and “Black mecca” have found value in this crucial work, there is ample room for cities in between to do the same.

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Wednesday and Every Day

Carnegie Wednesday Wisdom

I uttered the words “Philanthropy is deeper than your pockets” in short film about the Giving Back Project last month. I say it often. Somehow the folks at Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy stumbled upon those words and then posted a #WisdomWednesday tweet. Sweet!

The Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy is bestowed each year, since 2001, by the Carnegie family of institutions. The award recognizes outstanding philanthropists who reflect the values of the legendary Scottish-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie and his philosophy of giving. More quotable wisdom and words of inspiration for me are the late Mr. Carnegie’s words: Do real and permanent good in this world.

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.

 

Coming Up in August: BPM 2017

BPM 2017 BannerBlack Philanthropy Month is a multimedia campaign to inform, involve, inspire and invest in Black philanthropic leadership. This year’s focal concept is Giving Voice to Fuel Change.


FROM THE BPM 2017 MEDIA RELEASE

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Moderator at a BPM 2016 event in NYC

Entering its seventh year of observance, Black Philanthropy Month (BPM 2017) is an unprecedented campaign during August to strengthen African-descent giving in all its forms.

Dr. Jackie Copeland-Carson, founder of Black Philanthropy Month and Pan African Women’s Philanthropy Network (PAWPNet) offers a litany of unjust events around the world and contends, “Black people are at a crossroads.” She further asserts, “This year we’ll celebrate our giving past while reviving Black giving as a collective movement for social change. Look for opportunities to join PAWPNet and support high-impact projects that, with your support, can build a better future in this new period of injustice and struggle for our communities everywhere.  Black giving matters!”

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Host of a BPM 2016 event in NYC

Attacks on our nation’s progress in areas of voting rights, LGBTQ equality, women’s health, criminal justice, educational opportunity, economic power and more are emblematic of what’s occurring around the globe. These assaults demand we give voice to injustice and, collectively, dedicate resources to turn the tide and assert our rights, interests and humanity.

As a campaign, BPM 2017 comprises activities—online and in communities—to inspire people to advocate and to give in strategic ways that transform policies, systems and lives for the better. The public is encouraged to participate by hosting self-organized events, charitable fundraising activities and community conversations. To spark ideas on how you can participate, visit BlackPhilanthropyMonth.com.

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Presenter at exhibit opening in Portland

BPM 2017 happenings that promote philanthropic investments and conscious giving in our communities are planned in cities, coast to coast. Included among these are a special exhibition of The Soul of Philanthropy with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture at the 2017 Association of African American Museums conference in Washington, DC, plus a pop-up exhibition at the University of Kentucky. Slated to spotlight philanthropy across the African Diaspora are gatherings in such communities as New York City, the Bay Area, Chicago, Atlanta and Columbia, SC. These and other observances led by foundations, nonprofit agencies, cultural institutions, giving circles, media and individuals will be featured on BlackPhilanthropyMonth.com.

Tracey Webb, founder of Black Benefactors and an architect of the annual campaign, says, “This year’s Black Philanthropy Month will inspire givers to ignite change at the local level, in addition to supporting initiatives nationally and internationally. Powerful shifts happen with collective action, and BPM 2017 is set to fuel connections and amplify voices that will shape our future.”


BACKGROUND

Founded by Dr. Jackie Copeland-Carson of the Pan African Women’s Philanthropy Network and recognized by the United Nations and Congress in August 2011, Black Philanthropy Month was created as an annual, global celebration of African-descent giving in the United States and worldwide. Principal partners on the campaign are Jackie Copeland-Carson, Tracey Webb and Valaida Fullwood. For a full listing of sponsors, visit BlackPhilanthropyMonth.com.

To stay connected, like the BPM Facebook page and follow these hashtags on social media: #BPM2017 #givingvoice


 

 

Charlotte’s ‘Art & Soul’

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Former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Bernard Gantt at Jazzy 2016

As the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts & Culture revs up for its major fundraiser, Jazzy Holiday Gala 2017—which, by the way, will be the COOLEST ever—here are some photos and the new sizzle reel from Jazzy 2016 (thanks to the most-talented Ben Premeaux!).  After such an awesomely rosy and red hot event last year, I can’t wait to share with you my ideas for Jazzy 2017!

Photos and a recap of past years can be found here and here and here.

Please watch and enjoy the sizzle reel! https://youtu.be/gcTtXhqN3rA

‘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

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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

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).

On Opening in Oregon

— dimeji onafuwa (@casajulie) January 7, 2017

Friday night, The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit opens in Portland, Oregon!

Joy swells and overwhelms me when I think about evolution of an idea I had 10 years ago: to reframe portraits of philanthropy with love.

MRG Foundation is bringing the exhibition to Portland and mounting it at Concordia University. My friend Dimeji Onafuwa, the book designer for Giving Back and graphic designer for The Soul of Philanthropy, now lives in Portland and is this exhibition’s designer. Photos below show Dimeji and his team installing pieces in the library’s gallery space at Concordia. 

I’m grateful to all of MRG Foundation’s community supporters, which include: Concordia University, The Collins Foundation, Grantmakers of Oregon and SW Washington, KBOO Community Radio, Meyer Memorial Trust, Moda Health, Multnomah County Cultural Coaltion, The Oregonian Media Group, Spirit Mountain Community Fund, Street Roots and Willamette Valley Development Officers.

For MRG Foundation, presenting The Soul of Philanthropy is an opportunity to share its story publicly and welcome new supporters, donors and friends into its work. MRG believes that “giving is an act of social justice” and recognizes that throughout history communities whose needs are not being met by traditional sources eventually come together and build their own systems.

An aim of bringing the exhibition to Portland is making connections with individuals and groups who are rethinking philanthropy and building the structures and support they need outside of conventional means.

— VF