Helping make change is a choice. Do you help or hinder?
Since 2010, the Black Diaspora has formally celebrated our collective history of philanthropy each August during Black Philanthropy Month. Deeply rooted in our ancient cultural traditions, Black Philanthropy Month celebrates our past and educates our children, so they have the knowledge and confidence that their communities are not simply takers (as so often portrayed in mainstream media outlets), but givers, builders and visionaries.
This year, the campaign architects are making a concerted effort to ensure this celebration goes global! We’ll go deeper to pay homage to the African Continent, our home of origin. And, if only virtually, we will gather and connect with those in the Diaspora living — and giving — in other parts of the world, including Brazil, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, throughout the Caribbean and those further afield. We’ll remind ourselves that a sincere Love of Humankind is not a concept that is unique, trademarked or innovative. Nor has it been mastered by any one sector, community or type of institution. Everyone is able to give of their time, talent or treasure, irrespective of how it might manifest. There is no monopoly on giving; it is simply a choice.
As this year’s Black Philanthropy Month celebration approached, I reflected upon this year’s theme, Giving Voice to Fuel Change, as well as my work and role in funding change and progress. During my almost 20-year career within the U.S. philanthropic sector, I have learned there is more value and sustainability in authenticity and commitment. And I get much better outcomes by letting go of impatience, arrogance and control. Instead, by constantly humbling myself (or being humbled; a bit more painful, yet necessary process) and listening to both grantees and colleagues alike, I have been extraordinarily blessed and able to work with and witness some of the most brilliant, committed and resilient communities on the globe. And I realized that in all this time I’ve simply been attempting to Give Voice to Fuel Change.
But, as I moved down this exciting and challenging path, I have also realized what many of my colleagues have forgotten. This was never about me. It was not about wielding or maximizing my power, or the appearance of some field-changing innovation. It was, and still remains, about love and the potential to help build or transform the world we seek. We need to remove ourselves from the endgame, act with more intention, honor our word, stop talking and LISTEN.
VOICE. As a Black woman in America, that is such a powerful word. Few of my colleagues in institutional philanthropy worry about being silenced, dismissed, or erased on a daily basis.
Giving Voice to Fuel Change can manifest in so many ways. As we move through this month of celebration, motivation and collaboration, I encourage you to reflect on how you enter, occupy and exit spaces. Did you talk more than you listened? How did your words make others feel? Did your voice encourage or tear-down?
Giving Voice to Fuel Change is a choice. What will you choose?
To learn more about Black Philanthropy Month, and how you can celebrate, your way, in your community, visit http://www.blackphilanthropymonth.com/
To learn more about the history of giving by African Americans we recommend the book, Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists. And to learn more about the moving exhibit which brings to life the beautiful photography above, visit The Soul of Philanthropy at http://thesoulofphilanthropy.com/