Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation Celebrates 20th Year


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Danny Simmons (Rush Philanthropic co-founder), Tangie Murray (Rush Philanthropic executive director),
Wangechi Mutu (Art For Life 2015 featured artist) and Russell Simmons (Rush Philanthropic co-founder) celebrate
Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation's 20th Anniversary at the Annual Art For Life Benefit on July 18, 2015 in Water Mill, New York.

Simmons Brothers Mark Two Decades of Transforming Young Lives Through the Arts

New York, NY — Founded in 1995 by three brothers, Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation works to expose inner city youth to the arts and supports emerging artists with exhibition opportunities. Together, the Simmons brothers—Danny (visual artist), Russell (media magnate) and Joseph “Rev. Run” (founding member of Run-DMC)—established the nonprofit organization to bridge the gap that people of color and the disenfranchised face in accessing the arts and exhibiting their works.

“Art saves lives, it is that simple,” asserts Co-Founder Russell Simmons. Rush Philanthropic aims to inspire students, provide positive alternatives to high-risk behaviors and support increased academic performance. Its initiatives rest on the belief that when young people gain opportunities to engage in and appreciate the arts—music, dance, poetry, painting, sculpture—they grow to value their own distinctive voices and visions and their lives are thereby transformed.

Over the past 20 years, Rush Philanthropic has developed two main program areas: Rush Education art programs for youth and Rush Arts Galleries, which supports and features emerging artists nationwide. These two program areas work seamlessly to remove barriers and open the arts to a wider cross-section of people. Directly serving over 3,000 students each year, Rush Education programs include Rush Little Kids, Rush Kids, Rush Teens and Rush Galleries in Schools. Rush Arts Galleries—Rush Arts Gallery in Chelsea, Manhattan and Corridor Gallery in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn—have exhibited the works of over 100 emerging and community-based artists. The galleries draw more than 10,000 visitors and provide unique opportunities for young people interested in careers in the arts.

Rush Philanthropic’s signature event is the Art For Life benefit in the Hamptons. The 16th annual gala, held on July 18 in Water Mill, NY drew hundreds of stylish celebrities, artists and philanthropists. “The Roaring Twenties” theme, in celebration of the organization’s 20th anniversary, inspired guests’ styles. Soledad O’Brien served as emcee during the evening that honored luminary supporters of the arts: Comedian Dave Chappelle, Art Collectors Michaela and Simon de Pury and Film Director Ava DuVernay. Wangechi Mutu was the featured artist, and the R&B group Bell Biv DeVoe closed out the night with a high-energy performance. Event sponsors were Bombay Sapphire and Merrill Lynch.

Speaking on the 20th year milestone, Tangie Murray, executive director of Rush Philanthropic for more than a decade, stated, “It’s really remarkable. One the biggest things that I’m excited about is seeing the transformation of the students that we work with. How they grow and get older, yet we always offer programs to continue to meet their needs.”

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Tangie Murray, Soledad O’Brien, Russell Simmons, Ming Lee Simmons, Danny Simmons and
Rush Philanthropic art program participants on stage at the 16th Annual Art For Life Benefit.

Submitted by Valaida Fullwood
Described an “idea whisperer,” Valaida brings unbridled imagination and a gift for harnessing wild ideas to her work as a writer and project strategist. She is a founding member of Charlotte’s New Generation of African American Philanthropists, author of Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists and innovator for the touring exhibition “Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited.” Follow @ValaidaF and valaida.com.

Photo credit: Andrew Toth and Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation


Monday, August 31, 2015

Social Impact, Education Among Themes at Head & Heart Philanthropy Summit


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Social entrepreneurs, education leaders, philanthropists, and foundation and corporate executives convened for the annual Head and Heart Philanthropy Summit, held August 16-18 on Martha’s Vineyard. Moderated by Dr. Aleesha Taylor of Open Society Foundations, the summit included sessions on The State of Black Children & Solutions for Success, The Power and Progress of Venture Philanthropy, The State of Black Philanthropy & Beyond, Women in Leadership Roundtable Breakfast, A Conversation on Black Men and Boys, The Rise of Shared Economies and Communities of Color, and more.

Head and Heart Philanthropy Founder Christal Jackson shared about the summit, “A clear focus on solutions set the tone for inspiring and challenging conversations. I was gratified by the candid conversations, genuine connections and elevated sense of urgency about matters relating to communities of color.”

Summit speakers and panelists included Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, President, Howard University; Broderick Johnson, Assistant to the President of the United States, Cabinet Secretary, and Chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force; Freada Kapor Klein, PhD, Partner, Kapor Center and Founder, Level Playing Field Institute; Dr. John S. Wilson, President, Morehouse College; Heather McGhee, President, Demos; Patsy Doerr, Global Head CSR & Inclusion, Thomson Reuters; Shawn Dove, CEO, Campaign for Black Male Achievement; and Keith Mestrich, President & CEO, Amalgamated Bank.







Next for Head and Heart Philanthropy is a series of convenings on Education, Health, Technology/Economic Advancement and Social Justice/Civil Rights; an inaugural convening on faith and impact; and a corporate roundtable focused on creating talent pipelines, retention of diverse talent and improving impact around corporate social responsibility.

Learn more about Head and Heart Philanthropy at www.headandheartphilanthropy.com.


Diversity Scholarship Honors Legacy of Black Playwright and Educator


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EBONI Alumni Association members Wade Williams '93, Chrystee Pharris '98, and Billy McDonald '75
at the Mary Burrill Scholarship Fundraiser in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES, CA – On August 23, EBONI Alumni Association, the African American alumni chapter of Emerson College, Boston, hosted its first fundraising party to support the Mary Burrill Scholarship for Diversity at Emerson. The event raised over $13,000 and celebrated the legacy of playwright and educator Mary Burrill, the first woman of color who graduated from Emerson, receiving degrees in 1904 and 1929. Some of Burrill’s best known plays were published nationally, and later in her career she taught English, speech and drama at Dunbar High School in Washington, DC. One of her students became the first African American dramatist to have a play produced on Broadway.

During the reception, members of the EBONI Alumni Association performed dramatic readings of Burrill’s plays, read thank you letters from scholarship recipients, and shared why they give back.

The fundraiser is scheduled to travel to 3 other major cities where Emerson has a large alumni presence, including Washington, DC. Thank you to Mary Burrill Scholarship Committee Chair Joyce Clarke for sharing your Black Philanthropy Month event with BlackGivesBack! Read highlights from the event here.

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Stephen Farrier '75, Claudia Bright and her husband, Emerson College Los Angeles Vice President and
Founding Director Kevin Bright '76, with Joyce Clarke '76

Photo credit: Daryl Paranada


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Black Giving Matters: Q&A with Birgit Smith Burton of the African American Development Officers Network



A series by BGB Contributor Valaida Fullwood initiated for Black Philanthropy Month 2015 and aimed at informing, inspiring and investing in philanthropic leadership


Birgit Smith Burton is Founder and Chair of the African American Development Officers Network (AADON), established in 1999 and comprising of fundraising professionals from across the country. The mission of Burton’s network is to foster professional development and facilitate interaction among members.

Burton works as Senior Director of Foundation Relations at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. Her career as a fundraiser began more than 25 years ago in Buffalo, New York where she organized such events as Jim Thorpe Celebrity Golf Classic and the Lou Rawls Parade of Stars Telethon and later established the first campaign office of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) in upstate New York.

Burton joined Foundation Relations at Georgia Tech in 1998 and raised $107M from foundations against a $40M goal during the institution’s capital campaign. Currently, she has led her team in raising $280M from private foundations against a goal of $180M in the Institute’s Campaign Georgia Tech with the campaign slated to conclude in December 2015. The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) has recognized Burton as a “Faculty Star,” and the Kresge Foundation selected her as an advancement expert for its HBCU initiative.

Burton has served on the Design Team for the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta’s study of African American philanthropy in metropolitan Atlanta, and she is a co-author of The Philanthropic Covenant with Black America. She is a past president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Greater Atlanta Chapter, currently a national board member of AFP, as well as a board member for several other nonprofit organizations nationwide.

Q&A

What’s your earliest memory of generosity?

My earliest memory of generosity was witnessing my grandmother Rev. Alvene Grice, who pastored a church in the small town of Covert, Michigan, for 35 years. I called her Poppy and when we would visit, I was her shadow—I would go everywhere with her. She would check on people who were ill, stop by the local school with a comb and brush and fix the hair of children whose mothers hadn’t combed their hair before school. And she would cook up meals in her kitchen and take them to people’s homes. I thought that was what people were supposed to do because I was in awe of my grandmother and I wanted to be just like her. I was four.

What’s your inspiration for giving?

You can imagine that if my grandmother was such a giving woman that all of her four children were taught to be charitable as well. And so her eldest child was my mother. My mother was a busy volunteer, and she and my father supported many organizations. I learned to volunteer my time and they encouraged me to tithe from my allowance and then later from my babysitting money. When I was 13, I called the 800-number and pledged $10 a month to the Christian Children’s Fund after seeing the hungry children on the TV commercial—I just couldn’t sleep knowing they needed my help.

What are your thoughts on why Black giving matters?

For much of American history, Black people have been excluded from participating in certain groups, businesses, and public and private entities so we began building our own religious, businesses and educational institutions as well as mutual aid and benevolent societies to meet our needs. The nonprofit sector is the mechanism through which Black people can support and protect our freedom and democracy.

What’s one lesson you've learned from your philanthropy?

I’ve learned that what you put out in the universe comes back to you—the law of reciprocity. It’s as simple as that. I remember singing in grandmother’s church, “You Can’t Beat God’s Giving” …the more you give, the more He gives to you. Just keep on giving because it’s really true. You can’t beat God’s giving….no matter how you try.

What do you aspire to see in this season of change, following Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, and so on?

In all honesty, the events that have impacted Black lives over the past year have me absolutely speechless. It made me cry recently that my son took his wife out for dinner to celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary and left the restaurant worried about the route they would take home so they wouldn’t risk being stopped by police that are known to be more aggressive towards Black men. I guess I want to see people pause more and take a moment to think about one another. Stop judging people based on our individual biases regarding race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical appearance, etc. We are all simply human beings.


Submitted by Valaida Fullwood
Described an “idea whisperer,” Valaida brings unbridled imagination and a gift for harnessing wild ideas to her work as a writer and project strategist. She is a founding member of Charlotte’s New Generation of African American Philanthropists, author of Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists and innovator for the touring exhibition “Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited.” Follow @ValaidaF and valaida.com.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Black Giving Matters: Q&A with Ebony L. Perkins of Central Carolina Community Foundation


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Ebony Perkins with children at a philanthropic event on Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina.


A series by BGB Contributor Valaida Fullwood initiated for Black Philanthropy Month 2015 and aimed at informing, inspiring and investing in philanthropic leadership


“Why would I not help others and future generations when I was helped in the past. We should help every generation so that we all grow more.” This is the creed by which Ebony L. Perkins lives.

Perkins is Donor Relations Manager at Central Carolina Community Foundation in Columbia, South Carolina. She is a solution-oriented administrator and gifted at establishing and maintaining strategic partnerships and networks. Prior to the Foundation, Perkins was a marketing consultant for Brookland Federal Credit Union. She also served as an intern to governmental offices at the local, state and federal levels—including Congressman James E. Clyburn and Governor Mark Sanford.

Perkins holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Claflin University as a summa cum laude graduate. She is also a graduate of the Women’s Leadership Institute at Auburn University. Her commitment to investing back into the community is evident by her volunteer service and considerable contributions to the FAAAC—an affiliate of the Columbia Museum of Art, Women in Philanthropy, Columbia Lions Club, Columbia Opportunity Resource (COR) and Columbia College. In observance of Women’s History Month 2015, The Blindspot Art Foundation named Perkins a “Woman on the Move.”

Q&A

What’s your inspiration for giving?

As most children do, when I was a little girl I often overlooked my many blessings. I soon began to realize, however, that everyone didn’t have the incredible support system or wonderful opportunities that I frequently took advantage of. Once I really understood how fortunate I was, I realized that it was my responsibility to use my blessings to help others. I now live my life knowing that to whom much is given, much is expected.

What’s one lesson youve learned from your philanthropy?

Through my work in philanthropy, I’ve learned that it’s critical that those in the world see that there are African American philanthropists. We matter because today’s youth need to know that African Americans aren’t only on the receiving end of philanthropy, but that our time, talents, and treasures have the power to make a difference in the lives of others. Knowing that African American philanthropists exist gives other African Americans permission to embrace their inner philanthropist.

What do you aspire to see in this season of change, following Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, and so on?

During Sanford, Ferguson, and Charleston, it broke my heart to see the massive amount of money raised in support of the monsters that murdered innocent young men in our country. I was angered to see how many people used the power of giving for hate. But once I really had the chance to think about what happened, it encouraged me to educate our community about the importance and power of philanthropy. More importantly, I'm hopeful because, if millions of dollars were raised because of hate, imagine what we can do out of love.


Submitted by Valaida Fullwood
Described an “idea whisperer,” Valaida brings unbridled imagination and a gift for harnessing wild ideas to her work as a writer and project strategist. She is a founding member of Charlotte’s New Generation of African American Philanthropists, author of Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists and innovator for the touring exhibition “Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited.” Follow @ValaidaF and valaida.com.

Upcoming Black Philanthropy Events in South Carolina

August 28: COLA Gives (A Community Organized to Leverage Assets), the first African American giving circle in South Carolina, will host its annual meeting. Open to the public. More information here.

August 29: W.E. (Women Engaged), an African American giving circle, invites you to join a multigenerational discussion on "Giving Back" in conjunction with the Soul of Philanthropy art exhibit. Location: Frame of Mind, 140 State Street, W. Cola, SC. Time: 5-7pm. Register here.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Black Giving Matters: Q&A with Athan Lindsay of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro


A series by BGB Contributor Valaida Fullwood initiated for Black Philanthropy Month 2015 and aimed at informing, inspiring and investing in philanthropic leadership

With more than a decade of experience in the field of philanthropy and through his personal philanthropy, Athan Lindsay has gained an understanding and appreciation for how philanthropy can be utilized as an effective tool for building and transforming communities. Lindsay has worked extensively in organizing giving circles—providing technical assistance to some of the giving circles composing the Community Investment Network. Currently, he is a Development Officer at the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro in North Carolina, leading the Foundation’s efforts to expand and diversify its donor base.

Lindsay resides in Elon, North Carolina with his wife, Cori, and they are proud parents of Langston, their two-year-old son. A native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Lindsay graduated from Davidson College with a B.A. in History. His work experience has included service with the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), Cameron Foundation, National Rural Funders Collaborative, Warner Foundation and Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation. Lindsay is a 2000 Fellow of the Southeastern Council of Foundations Hull Leadership and recipient of the 2006 Emerging Leader in Philanthropy Award from ABFE (Association of Black Foundation Executives).

Q&A

What’s your earliest memory of generosity?

Like so many African Americans, my earliest memories of generosity come from my being able to put those loose pieces of change in the offering plate. For me this took place at Friendship Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. This is where I learned why giving is an act of faith and when deployed it possesses the power to change lives.

I have to share a time where my church practiced the act of giving that was rooted more in a confidence or trust in someone without proof or evidence that it would make a difference. When I was an intellectually curious high school junior, I had an opportunity to participate in the American Field Service (AFS) foreign student exchange in Uruguay. All I had to do was cover my travel expenses. Sparing you all the details, let’s just say my salary as a dishwasher was coming up way short. As an act of last resort, I approached my church’s Deacon and Trustee boards for help. It’s funny, I don’t remember the amount they invested in me, but I always remember Deacon Miller saying to me, “Just because none of us have had this opportunity doesn’t mean you should not have it!”

Their belief in me was life changing. It gave me a sense of purpose and self-worth that my life mattered to a group of people, beyond my mom and brother. I always carried with me a certain level of self-imposed accountability to not “mess it up” because Deacon Miller and my church believed in my potential.

What’s your inspiration for giving?

Understanding how giving can be exercised as a form of soft power. Soft power is the ability to convince and inspire people to want things you want, based on shared public values. What inspires me is seeing donors exercising this philanthropic soft power to shape civic discourse in their communities.

The best example of this is New Mountain Climbers Fund. This is the first giving circle I helped form that is based in Christiansburg, Virginia. They were and remain an active African-American civic organization (The Community Group) whose primary focus was organizing the small African American community in rural southwestern Virginia. They did everything from paying heating bills in the local community center to advocating for social change to address systemic problems. They established their fund at the Community Foundation of the New River Valley and have been able to leverage a share of their community’s philanthropic dollars and critical social capital towards community building efforts often focused on social reform and social justice. They are influential donors in their community who lead with their philanthropy to support civic discourse that creates shared public values around the tough social issues in their community.

What are your thoughts on why Black giving matters?

Black giving matters because it is and has been a significant part of the entire philanthropic landscape in America. Efforts like Black Philanthropy Month raise the visibility and importance of giving among African Americans to the nonprofit sector. To me, Black giving matters because it represents one of our fundamental and most important freedoms as U.S. citizens: the freedom to associate with others and promote that group’s interests. When we organize and assemble our time, talent, and treasure to make better communities, we are not only doing good work but we are exercising our freedom of speech.

This is very important to me because when we organize our philanthropy we are building upon the legacy of the NAACP’s legal victories in the 1950s and 1960s over Southern states that deployed illegal tactics in an attempt to harass and disband the NAACP. These tactics violated their constitutional rights to freely associate, but the Supreme Court upheld this right as inseparable from the freedom of speech. Simply stated, organized and strategic African American philanthropy matters as a form of free speech and continues the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement!

What’s one lesson you’ve learned from your philanthropy?

Lately I have been asking myself this a lot. The most recent lesson: Philanthropy doesn’t have to be stagnant, but it can be fluid and creative. An individual’s philanthropy may begin with charitable acts of relief and flow upstream into more nuanced forms of giving that seek to dismantle systemic structures that perpetuate persistent social problems.

The best lesson I got in this was when my giving circle, Next Generation of African American Philanthropists (based in the Raleigh-Durham area), had an opportunity to address high numbers of young African American juveniles who enter the legal system too often and too soon. With a small grant we supported a local nonprofit that worked with juveniles and the courts for alternatives to sentencing purchase clothes for its “court clothes closet.” The director made a compelling case to us that if he could use our funds for court-appropriate attire for young people, it improved their chances of a receiving a reduced sentence. How you appear in court matters!

This demonstrated a creative way to address an immediate need while also tackling the systemic issue of juvenile incarceration rates.

What do you aspire to see in this season of change, following Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, and so on?

To see more African American giving utilized in efforts that bring together communities and police departments to re-create a shared value system that makes communities livable. It is complex and doesn’t have a simple solution, but it is an opportunity to exercise some of that soft power that comes with philanthropy. It also is an opportunity to be creative with our philanthropy that inspires people to reshape their communities in a way that they would like to see them. For me that simply means to be able to live freely without fear of dying from violence at the hands of anyone!


Submitted by Valaida Fullwood
Described an “idea whisperer,” Valaida brings unbridled imagination and a gift for harnessing wild ideas to her work as a writer and project strategist. She is a founding member of Charlotte’s New Generation of African American Philanthropists, author of Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists and innovator for the touring exhibition “Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited.” Follow @ValaidaF and valaida.com.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Pop-Up Edition Brings Essence of ‘The Soul of Philanthropy’ Exhibit to Wider Range of Places, Spaces


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Exhibition of the Pop-Up, Abridged Edition of "The Soul of Philanthropy" at an event celebrating Black philanthropy, which was hosted by Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.  
Photo courtesy of Hartford Foundation for Public Giving


Groundbreaking in focus and depth, the new multimedia exhibition “Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited” is touring the country, presenting inspirational images and stories of generosity among Americans of African descent.

Now selected elements of the comprehensive exhibit compose a versatile, compact version, called the Pop-Up, Abridged Edition. Designed to make the exhibit’s content more accessible, the smaller edition can be mounted quickly in nearly any space, adding an engaging arts and culture ambient when and where people gather—conferences, schools, homes, churches, corporate lobbies, banquet halls, community centers, galleries and more.

Twenty black-and-white photographs and narratives provide insight to centuries-old cultural customs and beliefs about giving and generosity that—though rarely referred to as “philanthropy” in Black communities—have long been an integral and transformational force in lives and communities throughout American society.

Like the comprehensive exhibit, the Pop-Up, Abridged Edition draws evocative content from the award-winning book Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists, by Valaida Fullwood and photographer Charles W. Thomas Jr. Pop-up exhibitions are the latest innovation of The Giving Back Project, which explores Black giving practices and reframes portraits of philanthropy.

Featuring the Pop-Up, Abridged Edition at past special events are Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, New Generation of African American Philanthropists and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. New exhibitions at Frame of Mind Gallery (August 29) in Columbia, SC and Levine Museum of the New South (September 5 , 2015 - February 28, 2016) in Charlotte, NC are scheduled.