***The Thursday Interview is a showcase for creators, innovators and troublemakers to share news and insight about the creative impetus & inspirations behind their latest projects. This week, writer & project strategist Valaida Fullwood shares the inspiration, people and purpose behind The Giving Back Project.
Name: Valaida Fullwood
Occupation: Writer and Project Strategist. I write stories that clients want to tell. I organize ideas and people that move clients’ work forward. I manage projects that lead where clients want to be.
Motto: Gandhi’s wise words: Be the change you wish to see in the world.
My current project is…
…a labor of love that evolved from my work on the book Giving Back. The Giving Back Project began as a means to collect stories and capture photography about traditions of giving in black communities. Along the way, there was a realization that the book would be just the beginning. The publication of Giving Back, one year ago, created a springboard for intimate conversations and public dialogue about philanthropy that is not only culturally significant but also inclusive, responsive and collaborative.
Using multiple forms of the arts, the Giving Back Project ventures to ignite a movement of conscientious philanthropy by empowering a generation to recognize its power and responsibility to give back.
I got the idea for the book Giving Back…
…from discussions and experiences around philanthropy with my giving circle New Generation of African American Philanthropists. Like a book club or investment club, a giving circle is a group of people who come together around a common interest. Our shared interest is giving back to our community, so we pool our charitable dollars and make grants to benefit nonprofits that are making a difference in people’s lives.
I found that members of the circle had often been influenced by the generosity of everyday givers in their lives. They frequently shared stories about the philanthropy of family members, neighbors, teachers and others who provided a template for their giving today. Circle members also lamented that the prevailing imagery of philanthropy depicts African Americans as only beneficiaries, not as benefactors, too.
Giving Back is designed to provide a counter-narrative that depicts and celebrates black philanthropy. It is a tribute to all the unsung givers and lovers of humanity whose generosity has been instrumental in our communities and vital to America’s progress.
The catalyst for the book is…
…rooted in the story of my great aunt Dora. She is nearly 92 years old and has dedicated her life to service — to her family, community and God. Aunt Dora has a vibrant personality and amazing vitality, which are perhaps gifts for her selflessness and generosity. Through her example, I learned that our true fortune lies in what we choose to give, not in what we get.
Giving back is important to me because…
…it flows directly from the Golden Rule: Love thy neighbor as thyself. And because it is part of my family legacy. That’s how we do!
…While I’m unsure what’s next, I’m hoping it includes speaking engagements around the globe, more books and interesting topics to write about, greater opportunities to stretch skills and apply my gifts in ways that benefit others.
And I want to thank…
My parents Ann and Allen
My sister Diatra
My extended family and ancestors who have provided ample examples of philanthropy, like my Aunt Dora and cousin Sheila
Members of my giving circle New Generation of African American Philanthropists
Charles W. Thomas, Jr., photographer for Giving Back
Donors and sponsors of the Giving Back Project
What a powerful message for Thanksgiving Day! Thank you, Valaida. Happy Thanksgiving, All!