Friday, August 14, 2015

Black Giving Matters: Q&A with Lyord Watson Jr. of Birmingham Change Fund

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

Lyord Watson Jr. is a preacher and philanthropist who lives out his faith in the pulpit as well as in the public square. Watson is a program coordinator for the Birmingham Urban League, an associate minister at Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church and a member of the Birmingham Board of Education. He resides in Birmingham, Alabama, with his wife, Katrina, and their son.

A native of Brewton, Alabama, Watson earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Samford University and a master’s degree from Beeson Divinity School also at Samford University. He is an alumnus of ABFE Connecting Leaders Fellows as well as a founding member and former chairman of the Birmingham Change Fund and a former member of the board of directors for the Community Investment Network.


What’s your earliest memory of generosity?

My earliest memory of generosity is my father, Jimmy L. Watson. He is a deacon at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church in Brewton, AL. He takes his charge of taking care of the elderly and the widows seriously. I remember my father waking me up to go cut some elderly person’s grass, building wheelchair ramps, and repairing someone’s roof, plumbing, or seemingly anything else that broke. What I remember the most is after the job was finished, other than the cost of materials he was not looking to be paid for his service (however, I wanted to be paid for my service). My father’s commitment to helping people is my memory of philanthropy—love of mankind.

What’s your inspiration for giving?

My faith is my inspiration for giving, in particular the role of the Black Church in the Black community. One of my favorite preachers is Rev. William R. Pettiford. He was the pastor of 16th Street Baptist Church from 1883 to 1893. While pastor, he founded the Alabama Penny Savings Bank in 1890. It was the first Black-owned and Black-operated financial institution in Alabama and it supported the development of Black businesses and community development until 1915 when it closed. Before community foundations existed, the Black church was gathering resources from the community and redistributing them in the Black community.

What are your thoughts on why Black giving matters?

I believe in identity-based giving. The practice of raising and leveraging resources by and from a community on its own behalf is empowering and creates effective community philanthropists. This provides the opportunity for more individuals to be involved in strategic institutional philanthropy and take greater ownership in solving problems and issues that have a direct impact on them.

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

The lesson that I have learned is that in order to be effective and relevant, you truly have to value community, collaboration and creativity.

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

I aspire to see the development and growth of systems and leaders within the African American community, as well as in all other communities, to address the social justice issues of today.

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

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