by Dan Schipp
The image of the hands captivated me – aged, weathered and furrowed with wrinkles, strong yet gentle, one hand cupped in the other. I couldn’t help but think of my own mother’s hands. The cover photograph piqued my interest. It achieved its purpose. It drew me inside the book . . . as did the title, Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists.
Giving Back, authored by Valaida Fullwood with striking photography by Charles W. Thomas, Jr., is a unique book for several reasons. It was conceived and brought to fruition by the New Generation of African American Philanthropists, a Charlotte, NC giving circle, one of more than 400 giving circles in the United States. It tells the stories of ordinary people – not mega-philanthropists – who chose, often in spite of very difficult circumstances, not to give up or hold back but to give back. Giving Back also focuses on African American philanthropy -- a topic that does not get the attention it deserves.
According to “Time, Talent and Treasure: A Study of Black Philanthropy”, a February, 2004 report from The Twenty-First Century Foundation, an overarching theme of African American generosity is recognizing the help one has received along the way from others and repaying that “debt” by giving back to family, community, and society at large. The Twenty-First Century report also notes that the historical foundation of African American philanthropy remains intact: philanthropy is both volunteering and giving money. The stories of the ancestors and elders told in Giving Back underscore these defining elements of African American philanthropy.
The members of the New Generation of African American Philanthropists open the Foreword to Giving Back with the line, “Being a blessing to somebody is philanthropy.” The book then offers, through narrative and photographs, inspiring and instructive vignettes of family role models and community elders who were (are) blessings. Adding to the appeal of the coffee table book are “micro-stories” illustrative of a particular tradition or aspect of Black philanthropy and motivational quotes from distinguished individuals ranging from Nelson Mandela to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mary McLeod Bethune to Kahlil Gibran, Mother Teresa to Booker T. Washington.
For some inspiration (and captivation!), check out Giving Back. It’s the kind of book you can read in one sitting, curled up in your favorite easy chair on a wintry night, or spend a few minutes with from time to time. It also would make a great holiday gift. Giving Back was published in 2011 by The Foundation for the Carolinas, one of the largest community foundations in the United States. It is available online through John F. Blair, publisher, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.