Giving Black Matters
Written by Valaida Fullwood
Photo: June 2020 protest against injustice, Charlotte, NC | V. Fullwood
Before we knew their names, whether George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Keith Lamont Scott, or COVID-19, members of New Generation of African American Philanthropists knew, too well, of racial injustice and disparities in Charlotte. We have by no means been alone in that knowledge. A distinction perhaps is that as a Black giving circle, together, members have delved into, navigated and publicly questioned racial dynamics in Charlotte’s philanthropy and nonprofit space.
Togetherness is a defining characteristic of collective giving groups like Charlotte’s New Generation of African American Philanthropists (NGAAP). I, along with my fellow members, share values around preserving culture, building community and sharpening philanthropy’s social impact for racial equity and equality. Our vision for Charlotte is “a healthy, safe and prosperous community for African Americans to live, work and flourish.”
As a giving circle, we study and learn together. We pool our dollars and leverage resources together. In recent weeks, we have grieved and raged together — while apart. As Black Americans, we have had to contend, again, with devastating indignities, dangers and deaths rooted in anti-Black racism. June 8th is NGAAP’s 14th year together. Yet, we cannot truly celebrate when horrifying videos, headlines, street scenes, data, rhetoric, and masks serve as unyielding reminders of threats that loom large over our health, civil rights, and humanity. We are, instead, marking this moment with an initiative of consciousness and an urgent call to give black.
Advancing The Bold Project
NGAAP is eager to see Charlotte’s Black organizations leading differently — a change that will require uprooting longstanding belief systems, power dynamics and funding practices. The Bold Project is an initiative of NGAAP as well as a call to action to local funders, donors and community-minded Charlotteans that centers on strengthening Black-led community-based organizations as advocates and drivers of racial justice and equity.
Through this initiative, NGAAP is turning up the volume in Charlotte and joining voices nationwide urging philanthropy to invest in and support Black-led and defined work. Patterns of philanthropic under-investment and racial bias, both conscious and unconscious, have long served to undermine the operations and capacity of Black organizations and thwart their impact.
This pattern of chronic underfunding results in these organizations, on the whole, experiencing steep barriers in carrying out and sustaining their missions. It also builds hurdles to collaboration, innovation and advocacy, as recently reported here and here.
The Bold Project is grounded in the belief that racial equity and transformative social change in Charlotte can only be achieved and sustained when Black leaders and organizations are well supported. Focused support is crucial to growing fierce advocates who become powerful forces in driving the agenda, and not merely seated at the table. The ultimate aim is to produce different and more just outcomes for Black Charlotteans and the widening spectrum of marginalized groups and communities of color — a benefit to all of Charlotte.
NGAAP’s primary focus is “Black-led social change organizations,” which we define as:
“Groups having a predominant Black or African American racial identity; majority Black or African American stakeholders, board members and/or staff leadership; and whose primary purpose is to build economic, social and/or political power to uplift Black communities and ensure they thrive.”
In Charlotte, Black-led organizations are often well-recognized beacons of hope and opportunity, delivering critical services, offering training, and giving voice to those frequently unseen and unheard. They function as the backbone of communities, possessing the knowledge, relationships and trust needed to promote and sustain well-being and survival. Even so, these organizations frequently face serious barriers to accessing capital and resources vital to sustainability, growth and impact.
Four pillars compose The Bold Project and align with levers for change that NGAAP is focused on: Funding, Leadership, Narratives and Networks.NGAAP has already dedicated resources toward creating a digital directory of local Black-led, Black-benefiting organizations; commissioning a study to better understand and report on local funding patterns and the experiences of Charlotte’s Black-led nonprofits; partnering with local grantmakers and others for August observances of Black Philanthropy Month with #BPM2020CLT and a day of giving on August 28th; and hosting a virtual workshop to amplify underrepresented voices and elevate a myriad of leaders. NGAAP members continue to research and collaborate on further concepts and strategies.
Underfunding and resource imbalances among Black organizations is a major, systemic problem that will require commitments far beyond those of NGAAP. A concerted effort will be required — across race, socioeconomics, sectors and zip codes. When in pursuit of justice, neutrality fails as a solution. Responsibility to change policies and practices to uphold racial equality and build equity must be acknowledged and acted on by all of us.
New models of leadership in philanthropy and among nonprofits will require a reexamination of how we listen, learn and make decisions. This means moving further than carefully crafted, yet still sterile solidarity statements, committees and community conversations. For Black and non-Black stakeholders, it will require stretching outside of old ways and comfort zones.
The bold action that NGAAP is advocating aims to ensure Black-led organizations experience more financial freedom, greater organizational stability and broader networks of trusted partners and supporters to advance their missions over the long term.
By elevating and strengthening Black leadership and voices of groups that historically have been marginalized, our city can make strides in de-centering Whiteness. We must dismantle systems of anti-Black racism that have dominated Southern culture and sustained institutions and structures that perpetuate distrust, oppression, inequity and injustice.
Rising from the shattering effects of the global coronavirus pandemic and the ideological virus of white supremacy, Charlotte can recover and heal together, while rebuilding as a community where everyone has equal opportunity to thrive.
For more on NGAAP’s case and summary of The Bold Project, click here.
Photo: V. Fullwood
Valaida Fullwood is the author of “Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists,” creator of The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit, and a founder of New Generation of African American Philanthropists, a giving circle in Charlotte. Valaida can be reached on LinkedIn and at valaida.com