Where do you get your inspiration from?
I am inspired by my daughters. Since their birth each day I get up with the thought that they are looking at me to set the example for them. There is no greater job for a parent than to set the pace and meet the expectations of our children. I want my girls to know that life is not all about what you can get. It’s more about what you can give to someone else. Loving and serving others will give you a fulfillment that no job or financial gain will ever give you. So I must say my girls. They are my litmus test to the work that I do. If they like it, then I know I am doing the right things.
When did you join your giving circle? Why?
I attended the initial launch meeting for A Legacy of Tradition back before there was an A LOT. Darryl Lester is a brother I have always respected and admired from afar. When he invited me to the initial meeting, I was honored. The vision for the group was so powerful that I had to be a part of it. Through the development stage, I stayed engaged and was one of the initial founders of A LOT. I wanted to be a member because of the work that I envisioned us doing. It has been great thus far and I know it will only grow in the future.
What impact has being in your circle had on you?
Being a member of A LOT has affected me greatly. Growing and bonding with the members has been tremendous. Building that bond and working to make change in the lives of Black men and boys as a unit has been remarkable. Working with like-minded brothers gives one such a feeling of strength as a group. No one person is ever on an island; being a part of my giving circle definitely gives me and our members power to make positive change.
How has being in your circle altered your views about your community?
I live in Raleigh, NC. Since the launch of our circle I have seen that there are huge opportunities to do positive work and that there are organizations that work in silos doing good work. We need to find a way to share the stories of the many organizations working to move our communities in a positive direction.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Halifax, VA. Halifax is a small rural town in southern Virginia. I was born there and left for college in 1989. I graduated from Virginia Tech in 1994.
What was your favorite subject in elementary school?
My favorite subject in elementary school was Math. I loved learning the diverse technicalities of math and how to use these functions to solve everyday problems.
If there was one major issue that you could address, given that funding would not be a concern, what would it be?
I currently have a nonprofit organization called the Cornel West Academy of Excellence. The program is a leadership academy for young African American boys, from 2nd-6th grades. We meet with 25 little boys on a weekly basis on Saint Augustine’s Campus. We expose the young men to different curricula to improve their math, literacy, critical thinking, self-esteem, and accountability. The program has been in existence since 2009. We have taken the group on field trips and they serve on community service projects on a monthly basis. If I had all the funding I need, I would make my academy into a full time school for young black boys.
What advice can you give to the next generation of philanthropists?
The noblest thing one can do is put the needs of one’s community ahead of one’s own needs. Live a life to serve others in some fashion. Give your time, talent, and/or treasure and you will see life from a different point of view. You will be fulfilled. I am always living to be fulfilled. Seeing a change in your community that you had a direct impact on will carry you far.