Friday, August 2, 2013

Let’s Get to Know A’Lelia Bundles, BPM 2013 Honorary Ambassador

A trio of Honorary Ambassadors has joined the celebration of Black Philanthropy Month this August.  Thought leaders in their respective fields of work, each is participating in BPM 2013 by engaging their networks and social media to amplify dialogue about generosity and giving in Black communities.  BPM 2013 Honorary Ambassador A’Lelia Bundles, great-great granddaughter of the famed entrepreneur and philanthropist Madam C.J. Walker, is featured today.

Bundles, a journalist and public speaker, authored biographies about trailblazing family members Madam C.J. Walker and Walker’s daughter A’Lelia, a Harlem Renaissance socialite and arts patron. After a 30-year career as an executive and Emmy award-winning producer with ABC News and NBC News, Bundles now chairs the board of the Foundation for the National Archives and is a trustee of Columbia University.  She also is president of the Madam Walker/A’Lelia Walker Family Archives.

Below are her thoughtful responses to questions from the BPM 2013 August of Dreams and Mountaintops.

Black philanthropy is . . .

Generosity inspired by appreciation for our ancestors and aspirations for our children.

What are your thoughts on where America stands 50 years after Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech?

During this year, as we celebrate many milestones on the journey toward civil rights—from the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation to the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington—I remain hopeful that America will continue to move towards becoming a “more perfect union.”  Even with the devastating verdict that acquitted the person who murdered Trayvon Martin and even with the recent setback to voting rights in the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision, we know we must muster the energy to continue to push forward.

As Sweet Honey in the Rock’s “Ella’s Song” reminds us: “We who believe in freedom cannot rest…”

I wish I could say that the next half-century would bring an end to the racism that weakens our nation, but sadly, I’ve come to believe the river of racism will never run dry.  The levels will rise and breech the levees and flow over the banks when there are storms.  The water will recede when the storm subsides, but there always will be at least a trickle.  We know, as well, that some people will wade hip deep in that river and never feel wet because they do not want to acknowledge that this scourge exists.

Still there is hope for those with open hearts and open minds.  We surely have come a long way since 1963.  Doors that once were sealed now are opened at institutions of higher learning, in corporations, in legislatures and, of course, at the White House.  But while many of us have prospered, many others have been left behind in communities with record incarceration rates, poorly run public schools, epidemic gun violence, inadequate health care and high unemployment rates.  Our current situation reminds me of Charles Dickens’s words in A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

The passage, which seldom is quoted in full, is:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

Let us hope for more wisdom than foolishness, more Light than Darkness.

When it comes to society or our community, what is your “dream” or aspiration?

In my dream of dreams, I wish for a day when all our children would have access to the kind of high quality education that prepares them to compete in the work place, to rear healthy families, to prosper sufficiently so they can help others, to love themselves and to have a sense of compassion and generosity toward others.

In terms of your philanthropic endeavors, what’s your “mountaintop” or highest achievement to date?

I’m still trying to get there!  I’m especially proud of helping to endow—and encouraging others to contribute to—a fellowship in honor of the late Phyllis Garland, the first black woman tenured professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.  It was my pleasure to spearhead 100 Books/100 Women, an initiative to expand the library at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women and to contribute items from my Madam Walker/A’Lelia Walker Family Archives to the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture as well as to the National Portrait Gallery and other museums.


Visit to learn how you can get involved.

Contributed 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 and author of “Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists.” On Twitter, follow @ValaidaF and @BlkGivesBackCLT.

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