As I come to the end of my 26th year as a fund raiser and my 45th year as a person of color and a black woman, I am forced to assess my worth in light of what I have given back and in terms of how I want my future and the future of other black children to be. As I reflect upon the current affairs of our world and the daily messaging that deems me and those black children as worthless, I am further committed to my lifelong work of giving-back. As I prepare to enter the month of August, Black Philanthropy Month, I am reminded of the hidden jewels of my upbringing and attempt to practice them daily, as part of my day to day life.
Black philanthropy began for me as a child at my mother’s side. She taught me the hidden jewels of self-sacrifice, and love in-action aimed towards those in need. There was always something we could give to those in need. There was always time to be spent with the elderly and the infirm, there was always love for our fellow humans. There was always the mantra of give, give, give-without the expectation of something in return.
As MRG Foundation prepares to launch its first recognition of Black Philanthropy Month with a traveling pop-up exhibit entitled, Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited, I am sent back to the spaces where my understanding of philanthropy was nurtured… yes, nurtured. Philanthropy wasn’t a late in life idea or practice, but it was a foundational way of being, that existed in my childhood, and in my mothers’ childhood, in my community and our collective ancestors. From my mother’s feet, in my church’s pews, at my grandmother’s picnics, at school events, I was shown how to be a philanthropist. We never used big fancy words for it we simply called it giving back because that is exactly what it was.
Using the word philanthropy has created a wedge between the meaning and the action. Philanthropists today are often seen as the Fords, the Gates, and maybe even Madame CJ Walker. I believe philanthropy is more. Philanthropy is giving your last dollar, without knowing where the next one would come from, because the person asking for it needs it more. That is why you give. It is not to have your name on a building, it is so the building can be built to house a community center or a senior center or whatever the need is. Philanthropy is love in action. This is what I was taught and how I live today. I had great teachers.
This exhibit has toured the southeast at numerous historically-black colleges and universities (HBCUs). It has always been offered as a free gift to the public—to come and experience in community, what just one deep and rich culture has brought to this nation. A culture that was birthed in pain, enslavement and injustice. My culture, my heritage. The practice of black philanthropy is a hidden jewel in overall culture of philanthropy. It is often overlooked or misnamed, but the act and art of it is still the same: giving back to meet another’s need.
When I first saw this exhibit in October 2014, I was stunned. Having been away from my home state of North Carolina for 7 years, I was upset with myself that I did not know this exhibit was in process. In Oregon, I always know that I am black. I always see that I am in the minority, and I daily experience being put down or disregarded for who I am because of the color of my skin. In seeing this exhibit, where my folks were lifted up for the jewels they are for helping to build the nation, one underfunded community at a time, I was both proud and enraptured. I wanted this to come here. So that my sisters and brothers in Oregon could see what I saw and have one more reason to be proud of our heritage. In the spirit of this philanthropy, MRG invites you to come, experience the exhibit, read the stories, read the book and think about what true philanthropy means to you. Love, we got this and let’s give it back!
-Carol Tatch, Major Giving Director, MRG Foundation
–For the Pop-Up Exhibit, MRG is thrilled to welcome the exhibit’s creator, Valaida Fullwood who will be attending our August events. The larger, interactive, multimedia exhibit will be in Portland beginning in January 2017 and on display through March. MRG Foundation is proud to be the last stop before it is launched internationally in Johannesburg, South Africa. We deeply appreciate the partnership of The Oregon Community Foundation and The Collins Foundation for their early support of this important project. We seek the partnership of other organizations and ask that you contact us for more information.
Help us get the word out! Use the hashtag #BPM2016 on social media channels around the web.