Juneteenth – Arriving at the Freedom Party After the Lights Are Up

Authors: Kelli King-Jackson and Necole S. Irvin

We started our week with a live Facebook conversation on Juneteenth and the legacy of giving. We wanted to talk about legacy giving after the death of Prince but felt even more compelled to discuss this important topic after Muhammad Ali passed away. We define legacy giving as planned giving that is distributed after death. Watch our Facebook Live video to learn more.

While we both live in the Houston, we took different paths to get here. Necole was born and raised in the South and lived abroad and on the East coast before her return. Kelli was raised on the West coast and lived on the East coast before migrating South. Both of our mothers share a name, Emelda, and were born in small towns outside of New Orleans. These commonalities have greatly influenced our partnership and the ways we thinking about our giving. We both want to honor our mother’s while also investing in the development of Black giving in the Southern United States.

Growing up, Necole’s community didn’t celebrate Juneteenth; neither did Kelli’s. When we learned about Juneteenth we were headed toward adulthood and were confused as to why Black people would celebrate learning about our legal status two and a half years late. As we have grown in our knowledge of Black history and the perspective of Black Americans, we now understand that the timing of the knowledge of freedom was not the most important element in the Juneteenth story. The reality of freedom and what it meant to Black people is the actual focal point we should all look to. Freedom was not just about where to go, live or work. Freedom is humanity. Freedom is ever evolving and freedom also includes opportunities for learning and building wealth.

Given all the civil unrest of the last few years, our opportunities for learning and building wealth are being questioned and challenged. Stanford. Ferguson. Baltimore. Charleston. Orlando. Voting Rights. Congress. The Supreme Court. Trump. These signify a receding of life, liberty and the civil rights held dear, even for a short time, by Blacks in America.

The opportunities and importance of freedom are the basis of why Juneteenth has survived over 150 years and stands as the most visible holiday by and for Blacks in America. This year, more than any other in our lifetime, the importance of Juneteenth is clear.

Our freedom is at stake.

This year, one of the most tangible giving legacies of Juneteenth in the South is the revitalization of the historic Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas. Prominent community leaders, politician Richard Allen, Reverend Jack Yates of Antioch Baptist Church and Reverend Elias Dibble of Trinity Methodist Episcopal, all former slaves, pooled funds from the community to purchase 10 acres in 1870 as a dedicated site for annual Juneteenth celebrations. It is one of the earliest documented land purchases in the name of Juneteenth.

Upon moving to Houston, we were both introduced to Emancipation Park as a cornerstone for the Black community. The unassuming community center was noted as a building that had remained standing since 1939 and served multiple functions for the neighborhood. Before 2016 ends, Houston will celebrate a major $33.6 million overhaul to the park.

This long-standing public space in Houston shares an architect with a new national asset for the Black community – the soon-to-open Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). The NMAACH is a brand new, $500 million structure that was built due to philanthropic investments that span the globe. The Gerald B. and Anita Smith Family and Lauren Anderson, America’s first Black principal for a major dance company, are Houstonians among the list of significant donors to the museum. We will be traveling to Washington, DC in September to pay homage to the legacy of our ancestors and our personal philanthropic investments to the development of this structure.

Emancipation Park and NMAAHC are sustaining legacies of freed people – past and present – that represent the cornerstones of the Black community. This legacy includes individuals identifying a challenge – a dedicated place to honor Black history – that cannot be blocked or rescinded. Black leadership, in choosing the land and raising the funds for these facilities, while understated, must be acknowledged. Courage to purchase the land and dedicate it to ensure our Black history lasts beyond any of our lifetimes should be commended.

Foresight and planning are the words that come to mind with the impactful example of pooled giving. We see this legacy in churches that donate land to communities for affordable housing and with families and individuals in the form of giving circles and other types of pooled giving. While Emancipation Park is a well-known story of collective philanthropy there are many other examples across the South within the Black community. In Necole’s first giving video I talk about how her maternal ancestors purchased land and dedicated parcels for a school and a church. Six generations later both are still standing strong.

What is the giving legacy in your community? How will it stand the test of time? Today as we celebrate our history and progress in the freedom journey let’s challenge each other to leave a legacy with our giving for the next generation. Loudly share that legacy for the entire world to know!

Black Restaurant Week – Houston

As stewards of UjimaSouth, an exploration of Black philanthropy in the South, Kelli and I love sharing giving stories. We see this as a powerful way to expand what Black philanthropy looks like. Houston is a leading culinary destination and it is exciting to share and participate in the inaugural Houston Black Restaurant Week which takes place April 3-10, 2016. As foodies we celebrate Black Restaurant Week and look forward to supporting both new places and one of our favorites – Holley’s.

Below are five questions we asked the creators of Black Restaurant Week. We hope that you take advantage of the good food while making a difference for a community organization. For more information visit www.houbrw.com.

Please describe BRW and why it was created.
Black Restaurant Week is a city wide celebration of Black restaurants and chefs in the Houston area. Houston Black Restaurant Week will feature signature prix-fixe dining menus and special meals for brunch, lunch and dinner, at various dining establishments, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting local non-profit organization Change Happens!.

We wanted to create a week to highlight the Black culinary experience from the African Diaspora. We are excited to highlight African, African-American, and Caribbean restaurants.

What do you hope to achieve?
We hope to succeed in our mission of increasing the awareness, support and patronization of Black restaurants and chefs in the city; While at the same time, raising money for a worthy cause.

As a fundraising initiative how did you choose your featured non-profit?  Were there specific elements your required?

We wanted to feature a non-profit that was local, as well as Black-owned and operated. We also appreciated the fact that Change Happens! caters to predominantly African-American communities in Third Ward and Acres Homes. We felt that these elements coincided with our mission of #HOUBRW.

Does the featured non-profit, Change Happens! have a  role in BRW?
The role of Change Happens! will solely consist of being the beneficiary of partial proceeds raised from Houston Black Restaurant Week. 

How do you describe your giving?
A portion of the proceeds from Houston Black Restaurant Week will benefit Change Happens! In addition, we hope that by highlighting Change Happens!, we will increase the awareness and support of the organization; in turn, providing more aid to those in need.

Giving is more than just about a charitable donation. It is an effort effort by an individual or organization, based on an altruistic desire to improve another’s life and well-being.

Soul of Philanthropy Houston Educational Events

Thank you to all who have shared information about the Soul of Philanthropy exhibit.

Below you will find additional information about the educational programming that will take place throughout the month.

Exhibit Grand Opening Reception – Buffalo Soldiers Museum, October 6th at 6:00pm – 9:00pm. Music by Kathleen Harrell and Award Winning Song Writer, Kathy Burrell, of Yourweh Music.  Registration is appreciated via phone (713-942-8920) or email to camillia@buffalosoldiermuseum.com or lahines@pvamu.edu to register.

The Historical Characteristics of Philanthropy in the African American Community – Buffalo Soldier National Museum, October 13th at 6:00pm. Sponsored By: The HiMac Center for Creative Thinking, Entrepreneur Innovation & Organizational Development; and Divinely Inspired Events. This discussion will center on the historical perspective of giving in the African American community, and the characteristics of giving back. The discussion moderator is Jeffrey L. Boney, Entrepreneur and Radio host.

The Next Generation of Giving – Buffalo Soldier National Museum, October 27th at 6:00pm. Sponsored By: Ujima South. This discussion will focus on the charitable habits and engagement of generations Y and Z in giving within their communities.