A black woman engaging in philanthropy
A black woman engaging in philanthropy. © WavebreakmediaMicro - Fotolia.com

“Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”  -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In recent weeks, marches and rallies, town hall meetings and more have united people from all races to address inequities in the judicial system, change perceptions of black men and boys and address questions concerning why race remains a strong determinant in Americans’ pursuit of happiness.  This moment, which has involved calls for a boycott of Florida, in addition to demonstrations in dozens of cities, takes on even greater importance with the approach of the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” this August.

The convergence of these events and concerns for our nation’s future call for reflection on the state of the “dream” a half-century later, and urge action among citizens to tackle the most pressing challenges of the 21st century: mass incarceration, failures in education, and more.

How can we channel our collective energy and resources to transform our communities? Throughout August and beyond, you can help by contributing time, talent and treasure in observance of Black Philanthropy Month 2013.

Participate in Black Philanthropy Month 2013

Four leaders in the movement to advance black philanthropy, African Women’s Development Fund USA (www.usawdf.org), BlackGivesBack.com (www.blackgivesback.com), Community Investment Network (www.thecommunityinvestment.org) and the Giving Back Project (http://givingbackproject.org/) are launching Black Philanthropy Month 2013 (BPM 2013) on August 1 to bring together these threads of need to be met with productive purpose.

The BPM 2013 launch in August will kick off concerted efforts that will continue through a subsequent six-month multimedia campaign to foster civic engagement around philanthropy, amplify authentic stories of black philanthropy, cultivate the next generation of givers and expand opportunities for people of African descent to give through new and traditional channels, including giving circles, global giving, crowd funding, volunteerism and more.

Valaida Fullwood, strategist for the Giving Back Project and author of the award-winning book Giving Back:  A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists, shared her thoughts on the aftermath of the watershed events in 1963 that many will be commemorating this August. She also urges us to remember that, although much has changed, much is still needed to help others reach for the dreams and mountaintops King spoke of during that era.

“There have been significant gains that warrant celebration, yet considerable work remains,” Fullwood said. “While hard fought, changes in laws and policies have, in the long run, proved easier than changing systems and mindsets. Even in an era when American voters twice elected an African-American as president of the United States, I am troubled by how much race still determines our experiences and opportunities.  Disparities in employment, pay, wealth and healthcare, inequities in educational opportunities and student achievement, re-segregation of schools, imbalances within the criminal justice system… indicate ‘the dream’ is still elusive for a large share of us.”

The roots of Black Philanthropy Month

Founded by the African Women’s Development Fund USA and proclaimed 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. Jackie Copeland-Carson, Executive Director of AWDF USA states, “Black Philanthropy Month gives our diverse communities an opportunity to celebrate and renew their rich, shared traditions of giving, self-help and innovation throughout the U.S. and the world.” And we have much to celebrate.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation released a report on race, culture and philanthropy in 2012 that stated nearly two-thirds of African-American households donate—to the tune of $11 billion each year.  Of particular to note, many studies show that African-Americans give at a higher rate than do other racial groups.  Recognition of black philanthropy is growing.

Our next generation of donors, black Millennials, are giving in major ways as 67 percent of this group gave $100 or more in 2012.

Black celebrity philanthropy is increasingly in the spotlight, African-American families are establishing foundations, forming giving circles remains popular in black communities, and interest in global giving is on the rise. These developments and trends in black giving hold great promise.

How you can get involved in BPM 2013

How can you get involved?  Self-organized events, community conversations and charitable fundraising in recognition of BPM 2013 are encouraged, including:

  • Attending a philanthropy or community-related event. Visit the BPM Calendar for happenings in your area.
  • Joining or starting a giving circle in your community.
  • Hosting local civic engagement forums, e.g., panel discussions, community conversations, etc. around topics and issues of local interest.
  • Engaging in a community service project.
  • Leading or supporting a back-to-school drive for school supplies and clothing.
  • Holding an event or intimate social gathering on August 28 to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington.
  • Donating your charitable dollars to a cause of interest.

Special gatherings taking place in cities nationwide in celebration of BPM 2013 include a summit on black philanthropy on Martha’s Vineyard; a Northern California benefit in support of improving maternal health in Africa; a moderated panel discussion in Charlotte, NC commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, while examining the history and possibilities of African‐American giving and civic engagement; and weekly Tuesday Tweetup chats during August at 2:00pm ET about various issues of importance. A regularly updated calendar of events can be found at BlackPhilanthropyMonth.com.

BPM 2013: many supporters and options for giving

DonorsChoose.org, the leading online charity that raises funds for students and classrooms in need, is supporting BPM 2013 by matching financial contributions during August when donors use the code “Dreams.”

Other partners and supporters include the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, NC and a host of social media allies that will broaden conversations and impact.  An impressive roster of honorary ambassadors has joined the inaugural campaign, including A’Leila Bundles, president of the Foundation for the National Archives and author of the New York Times bestselling biography On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker; Darryl Lester, a visionary social entrepreneur who was instrumental in the launch of numerous African-American giving circles; and Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorofChange.org.

Fullwood sees BPM 2013 as just the start of ongoing, concerted efforts in black communities nationally to expand and intensify our philanthropic leadership, know-how and impact.

“I hope people across the country are moved to think about and act on their generosity in ways that help realize ‘the dream,’” Fullwood said. “Remembering the Civil Rights Movement and the achievements of Americans of African descent, then and now, should serve as a call to action. Otherwise, what’s the point of celebrating our traditions of giving and long legacy of generosity, if we aren’t investing our resources and assets, strategically, to transform people’s lives, strengthen communities and bring about a more just world?”

Share how you will observe Black Philanthropy Month 2013 on the official Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BlackPhilanthropyMonth) and by using the Twitter hashtag #BPM2013.

Visit BlackPhilanthropyMonth.com for more news and updates throughout August.

Tracey Webb is the founder of BlackGivesBack.com and The Black Benefactors. Follow Black Gives Back on Twitter @BlkGivesBack