A Confluence of Influence

“The nation’s premier multi-cultural awards show celebrating the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts as well as those individuals or groups who promote social justice through their creative endeavors” — About the 43rd NAACP Image Awards

More on the awards program a little later…first, I’d like to say that you never know what life has up her sleeve. Until it’s revealed, the best we can do is to stay purposeful, pursue our passions and prepare for the twists and turns that come our way.

Photography by Charles W. Thomas, Jr.

About a year into forming our giving circle, I approached the members of New Generation of African American Philanthropists (NGAAP-Charlotte) with the idea of publishing a book about Black philanthropy. Our early experiences as a giving circle had affirmed deeply ingrained values but also surfaced commonly held misconceptions about philanthropy and Black communities, which served to stoke a passion. The Giving Back Project was launched to introduce a counter-narrative about Black people and philanthropy through authentic stories and stirring photography. That was four long years and a lot of blood, sweat, tears, paper, ink and digital photo files ago.

It’s now three months since the publication and release of Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists, a new hardcover book that reframes portraits of philanthropy. In a relatively short period, Giving Back has generated dozens of media stories, garnered praise from philanthropic leaders, scholars and clergy and gained a listing among the “10 Best Black Books” of 2011. I’m gratified and grateful for the positive responses from so many people, and support from members of Community Investment Network (CIN) has special significance.

Without doubt, Giving Back represents the potency of CIN: the members, the mission and the movement. The book is my brainchild, but it could never have come to fruition without the collaborative spirit of NGAAP-Charlotte members, Charles Thomas, India Simpson, Dimeji Onafuwa, the CIN family and many others. Collective influence made it possible to partner with dozens of sponsors and supporters, pool over $100K, engage 200 Black givers, publish 400 pages and distribute 1200-plus books in only three months—on average, more than one hundred books a week!

Giving Back is attracting wide interest because its stories, imagery and truths resonate with many. The insights shared by members each year at our CIN conferences and summits are powerful, and that knowledge echoes throughout the book. I chose to exhibit CIN’s strength on the pages of Giving Back by intentionally featuring every circle in the Network through a mention, quote, story or photograph.

Because of our collective strength, Giving Back is now a contender for an NAACP Image Award nomination for “Outstanding Literary Work–Non-fiction.” Gaining a nomination for an Image Award would be more than amazing. Not only would it fulfill one of my wildest dreams, it also could usher in new opportunities for CIN. Perhaps  Birmingham Change Fund could leverage the buzz around a Giving Back nomination while mobilizing for the 2012 CIN National Conference. And NGAAP-Charlotte could get a big boost in its efforts to engage younger generations by making Giving Back the “freshmen read” at colleges around the country.

Actually winning an NAACP Image Award could present a watershed for our movement. It would certainly create a rare platform for promoting philanthropy and social change among African Americans and communities of color. In two weeks, we’ll learn whether Giving Back has earned a nomination. Starting mid-January, members of NAACP will be able to vote and select award winners—across film, TV, music and literature. Winners will be announced in March during a live televised show in Hollywood.

So this is my appeal to the CIN family and your invitation to support Giving Back in the award selection process, while serving our collective interests. Some CIN members have asked what specifically they can do, and here are some key things:

This is but one opportunity lying ahead. An exciting year awaits us and I sense CIN is experiencing a confluence of our collective influence, which is heading toward a watershed in 2012.  Happy New Year!

About valaida

writer. thinker. listener. idea whisperer. traveler. mad word geek. absolute scrabble freak. drinker of life. da*n good friend. ridiculous foodie. imaginative dreamer. afflicted party planner. kind conqueror. okra lover. hillbilly w/ southern roots far-stretched global sights. author of book that reframes portraits of philanthropy. Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists | http://bit.ly/htLxQU
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