Ebonie Johnson Cooper is a member of the CIN giving circle Black Benefactors and founder of Friends of Ebonie, a public relations group focused on philanthropy among Black Millennials. Ebonie recently attended a Black Gives Back event in New York City and below is her account of the evening. Photography by Margot Jordan
Giving has long been part of the African American community. On February 28, Black Gives Back celebrated the giving of our community in collaboration with JP Morgan Chase’s Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD) and with support from Community Investment Network (CIN).
Echoing the spirit of black philanthropy, CIN board member and sector trailblazer Valaida Fullwood led the audience on a journey through black giving and how its very essence is being permeated throughout communities across the nation. Audience members listened intently as Valaida shared facts about black philanthropy and how impactful our work really is. From The Liberty Hill Foundation in Los Angeles to the Kellogg Foundation’s report on giving by people of color, the presence of blacks in philanthropy is evident.
Once Valaida laid the foundation, the conversation seamlessly shifted to the guest of honor, Christina Lewis Halpern, daughter of self-made billionaire businessman, Reginald F. Lewis. Christina, an accomplished journalist and philanthropist in her own right, shared a candid conversation with Valaida about her journey to success and the anxiety she felt at the top. As Christina read an excerpt from her book, Lonely at the Top, the audience felt with her the feelings of emptiness and discovery that are detailed so well in her memoir. But the conversation wasn’t only about Christina’s hardships.
The conversation between she and Valaida was also about her cultivation as a philanthropist at a very young age. “I’ve been a board member of my family’s foundation since I was 12 years old—well not officially until I was 18—but I learned early the importance of family giving. I’ve also reviewed lots of grants in my life,” she told the audience with a laugh. Listening first hand to an heiress—a black heiress—I believe was both exciting and awe-inspiring for most of us. It’s not very often we see a young person of color speak with such detail and passion about giving at such a high capacity.
As the discussion ended, the floor opened for questions where the topics spanned from technology and giving to black millennials in philanthropy. It was indeed a conversation at all levels of philanthropy to enjoy.
We all endeavor to make a difference through giving. As we give collectively or individually, remember we are all part of the fabric that makes black philanthropy beautiful.