Why I Believe in Ubuntu

Sumayya Coleman, is a warrior, an activist and advocate for all women and families to heal from domestic violence since 1990. Her skills to develop residential and support services, develop programs, motivate leaders, and enhance gender violence advocate’s leadership skills have been utilized by many states, organizations, and faith communities. Sumayya enjoys networking, training, developing programs, mentoring advocates, mobilizing communities, and coalitions nationwide. Years of outreach and organizing inspires her to further work and do justice ministry specifically in the African American community, and globally. She is a national trainer and speaker for conferences, community and faith-based events as well.

While attending the Black Immigration Network Conference in Atlanta this year, I met Chad Jones, Executive Director of Community Investment Network. In listening to him, my interest about giving circles was sparked as I saw the possibility in my developing and accessible social capital with the African American/Black Women’s Cultural Alliance. The Alliance is approximately 150 women caring for their communities across 26 states in a variety of ways as leaders, mentors, advocates, teachers, artist, pastors, producers, writers, fashion designers and in many other forms of service.

My vision path and destiny to address justice and human rights led to the outstanding October 2012 Community Investment Network Conference in Birmingham, Alabama. I grew up in Tennessee but never visited Birmingham. I am very glad for the opportunity and that I went.

I guess you can say I am a part of the small business owners who make much less than $250,000 annually but I do know something about fundraising when in need. The cost was over my budget, but support through scholarship funds, and my family and friendship circle responded to my excitement about going to the CIN Conference and the mission of CIN. In exchange, I promised to tell my circle about what I learned upon attending. My hope is that they will help me develop a giving circle.

what happened while there

Following my internal fire that led me to Birmingham was a match made by heaven. All my senses elated by the fellowship, food, fun, and learning the foundational principles to build giving circles created the brightest light in the room and a spectacular learning experience. The wholistic information shed light on some cloudy spots for me and gave me language for my new mindset and paradigm shift. Immediately, I proudly added “philanthropist” to my twitter profile #aabwa. Hearing “It ain’t all about money” demystified the way I looked at my own altruistic philanthropic approaches, which I proclaim as ministry because it inspires, connects, and strengthens individuals and communities to generate social change and justice – all at my expense. What? Why hadn’t I thought about proclaiming this as philanthropy? Reading, Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropist by Valaida Fullwood touched my fire. Why aren’t the charitable $11B from African American communities celebrated – they give 8.6% of their discretionary income to charity, more than any other racial group in America? By far, that’s not to say our communities are thriving but it does say historically we have cared and continue to do so. Reading Fullwood’s book brightens the days I hear about community devastation because I know we are doing something about it though it doesn’t reach the negative news media lens. Fullwood’s book gives me hope and why I believe in ubuntu – I am because of who we are together.

Sumayya (l) with Valaida Fullwood, author of “Giving Back”

The stellar lineup of speakers there can’t be adequately praised – truth be told, they were my final decision to attend factor. Kimberle’ Williams Crenshaw, Carol Jenkins, Barry Knight and many others spoke about their contributions to making justice, changing systems, and profound philanthropy… like Kellie Caufield who is a young entrepreneur in Birmingham with multiple businesses. With some difficulty, I kept my composure to quell what felt like an approaching ignition of emotions until we took the tour to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and a bus tour to historic areas. Yes, we have come a long way, but… Sharing a shuttle ride with Barry Knight, we exchanged feelings about the current plight of the city where Lady B.J. Love King hosts a radio show, From the Mountain to the Valley, to keep the dreams of justice and their history alive. The Civil Rights Movement is resurrected on Sunday evenings in Birmingham with her broadcast.

On an early morning walk, I crossed the invisible lines that separate the north and south ends of the city that just so happen to meet at the Birmingham Library that holds the historical account of lives that would be forgotten without the history books on the public library shelves. As I walked past the ghostly buildings toward 1st Street and beyond, the blatant signs of the dearth of life and loss of actors who served the city were quite unnerving. I thought to myself as I did walking prayers, no one would REMEMBER those who gave their lives as we had honored them on Thursday night at the Library book signing for Valaida. I wondered about all the fights for peace and justice that had been lost and forgotten. Then to learn that their library collection is the largest in the nation was a ray of sunshine over my dim thoughts. Then tour guide’s stories rattled the mental skeleton images from my previous day’s walk as he remembered the church bombings and house fires that our ancestors endured. I hope the city will continue to do all that is possible to be the holder and provider of this rich history for our nation’s future. Its presence and the Birmingham Change Fund Giving Circle will help us remember but not repeat the bleak past as well as to build upon the good done to legislate justice.

and what you take home with you

This electric experience stays with me. It sits on a fertile layer of my heart with these words and the rhythm beats to theses reminder from speakers:


Kimberle’ Crenshaw, “Notice how race is eliminated from the societal media conversations. How do we advance our interest if we don’t talk about it… can’t solve it if you can’t name it. Remove social structural barriers to African American communities receiving funding. Institutional equality has a hole in its bucket…global equality is at stake.”

Carol Jenkins, “Black women are the invisibles of our society. How do we decide to be in the world? We have forgotten about scarcity and creative supply made by our family and ancestors just by simple acts of love. When someone tells you no to your ask for funding the assumption is that you are unworthy.”

Charles Lewis, DIY – do it yourself. You are a part of real change and coming from a position of strength. Time and talent is serving within your capacity.

OMG! This event was a loving bootcamp which inspired me to new heights in my thinking, organizing, and passionate identity and actions to care for our communities through time, talent and treasure. I hope to develop a community giving group through my alliances next year. As a woman thinks, so is she and I think I can. Peace.


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1 Response to Why I Believe in Ubuntu

  1. Pingback: Blog. Blog. Blog. | valaida

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