Power, Privilege and Pride: The Museum

Author: Necole S. Irvin

I’ve written previously about my personal legacy of giving, whether it was my foundational understanding of giving from my maternal ancestors, my giving brochure for my nephews or meeting the first recipient of my scholarship fund. All of these posts highlighted concrete examples of my giving legacy, but last month I was filled with something inexplicable as I walked the floors, examined the artifacts and basked in the magnificence of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

I have been sitting with the remembered beauty of this new museum and contemplating words that served as a metronome during the five days I spent in DC. The words that I mentally keep repeating were power, privilege, and pride. When I returned from DC I decided to write about these three words but struggled to get the post finished. A friend’s discussion about the importance of owning our narrative ensured that I completed this post.

I’d like to share my experience of the celebratory days of the opening. I traveled to DC with a group of friends and fellow donors to the museum. From the moment we got to the airport in Houston, we saw Black people who (correctly) assumed we were headed to the museum opening and the pride began. The museum hosted a series of viewings and receptions prior to the opening dedication and three-day community celebration on the Mall. Throughout the City there were also a host of events acknowledging the momentous occasion. I attended a pre-opening reception, the dedication, an insane after party and two additional days in the museum. Being surrounded by Black givers at all of these events was surreal, especially the day of the dedication. Black philanthropists, including my friends, who made donations of varying sizes to ensure that this concept became a reality. Philanthropists that were internationally known and those who were first-time philanthropists. It was a sea of individuals from a diversity of experiences, geography and learnings all focused on a cause. We were one within our diversity of blackness and it was powerful. Power emanated from the individual and the collective and stood tall in the midst of history and place.

Our group rented a house in DC and spent five days reveling in renewed connections, exploring new spaces and enjoying the moment. We acknowledged and celebrated our privilege. We had the opportunity, ability and flexibility to participate in this celebratory time. That privilege is something that I don’t take lightly. As I write about that privilege, I want this post to extend that privilege to others that were not at the event. My hope is that it inspires and motivates the reader to learn more about the Museum, Black contributions to this country and consider supporting this cause. Storytelling has always played a pivotal role in the Black community and it is why Blackwood Advisors encourage all givers to talk about their causes. When was the last time you shared why you give with your family or a co-worker?

The final word that exemplified my time at the new museum was pride. Pride in the leadership and philanthropy that made this happen. The role of leadership cannot be discounted. Mr. Bunch has done a yeoman’s task of taking a concept and making it a reality. As a giver, the leadership of an organization should always be considered. I didn’t have the opportunity to shake Mr. Bunch’s hand or give him an embrace but when I talk about the museum I highlight the role leadership played in successfully building a collection and building a building at the same time. I lift up his capacities and strength and acknowledge their importance. I took pride in him. I took pride in meeting elders that pointed out artifacts that they contributed to the museum.

Blacks in America continue to redefine ourselves and my museum opening experience highlighted the power, privilege, and pride that motivated the creation of our firm – Blackwood Advisors. Our firm brings to the legacy of Black giving intentionality around strategy and purposeful change. Meeting individuals with family artifacts donated to the museum, drinking with change makers whose skills were on display in the thoughtful construction and design of the building and dancing with individuals that have been raising funds for years highlighted the variety of ways each donor includes the museum as a part of their giving legacy. The reason I had the opportunity to experience the museum prior to the opening and attend the dedication is because I am a donor which means it is now a significant part of my personal legacy of giving. As we approach the end of the year and you begin taking inventory, what are the items you included in your personal giving legacy?

Don’t forget to add a trip in person or virtually to the Museum and donate to our museum.

The Building Fund That Did…

Author: Kelli King-Jackson

I cannot believe it has been nearly six weeks since Necole and I traveled with family and friends to Washington, DC for the opening festivities of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).  We spent five days attending receptions, previews, and galas.  We had a ball.  We spoke to givers (aka philanthropists) large and small. Even our Uber drivers were excited about NMAAHC’s opening.

My husband and I signed on as monthly givers about a year ago when Necole (the artsy side of this partnership) shared an update on NMAAHC.  Honestly, up until that point, I had not paid much attention to the Museum.  I did not see a connection to my family’s philanthropic investments and the Museum.  As an avid ambassador for the arts, Necole began to explain why she had made an investment and why others needed to join the effort.  Everything she said made sense so I begrudgingly signed on.

You see, I am a multi-generational PK (aka Preacher’s Kid).  Much of my childhood was spent in church so I remember the infamous ‘building fund’ that had a permanent place in the announcements and on the offering envelopes.  If you were raised in the Black church you know what I’m talking about!  As I grew older I felt that building funds were sketchy – I mean how many buildings actually got built?

The night of the opening reception that we attended for the Museum I stood looking at the beautiful structure with awe and pride.  We did it!  We built a building.  Our building fund was complete.  I felt amazing that my family had made a small contribution to this gigantic effort.  For the first time in the history of Black people in America, we can actually say we are in control of our narrative.  We can tell the truth of our collective story in this nation because of our investment!

As I thought about all the possibilities that this building will hold for future generations I began to think about the ongoing investments the Museum will need.  The building, administrative staff, artistic collections and so much more will require ongoing development. In thinking of NMAAHC as a long-term investment, I thought back to my issue with building funds.  I interpreted the funds to be about building a building but I now realize it was about maintaining the building.  Our investments cannot only be at the beginning of a building, organization or program.  We must commit to making long-term investments in the deep development of things we care about.  Building Funds are about maintenance, infrastructure, and legacy.

The next time you get excited about a philanthropic investment, consider asking the following questions:

  1. What are the long-term needs you anticipate for this facility/program/organization?
  2. Will monetary donations be placed in income-generating accounts?
  3. How much of the monetary donations are spent immediately vs placed in an endowment?
  4. Beyond money, what other long-term investments will be needed?
  5. Do you have legacy giving options?

As my family considers our 2017 contribution to the NMAAHC these are the sort of questions we will ask ourselves.  We want to make sure NMAAHC is around for our grandchildren and their children to enjoy.

If Blackwood Advisors can help you with your giving plans for 2017 or help you explore these questions with your favorite charity, please let us know.

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!

Leaving a Legacy

Author: Kelli King-Jackson

The day Prince died a little bit of all of us left this earth. Musically, Prince was a staple in my romantic life since adolescence. As a child of the 90’s I knew the re-imagined star. The one who fought to get free legally and financially from record labels. Prince was an example of how millennials could show up in the workplace, especially artists. My artistic friends read books about contracts and copyright as they sought to protect their gifts from the corporate machine.

As an adult, philanthropy – the notion of giving time, talent and treasure to causes that one is passionate about – is at the heart of who I am. My family gives to several charities monthly, for many years we were faithful church tithers and when possible and appropriate, we contribute to family/friends in need. We also mentor and give back by volunteering with local nonprofits. As such, I was emotionally moved when I learned about Prince’s philanthropic work after his death. Prince contributed financially to countless nonprofits, arts events and more. He often gave anonymously or on the condition of anonymity. Prince gave innovatively to places like Harlem Children’s Zone by extending lines of credit so he could maintain an ongoing involvement vs. contributing a one-time gift. I need y’all to know how flabbergasted I was that there is no will being presented from one of the many lawyers who represented and/or befriended him. Would a man so methodical and controlling about his art not have a plan for his assets after death? Possibly.

Without judgement, this idea of legacy is one I want more Black philanthropists to consider today. At Blackwood Advisors (parent organization to UjimaSouth) we encourage every client to have a Legacy Plan, a road map on how assets should be philanthropically disbursed when they die. Here are three tips to help you develop your Legacy Plan:

1. Create a will. There are countless reasons to have a will, especially in large families or families with minimal experience handling wealth. Your will should include a plan for how you want any assets to be distributed. The ways assets of public figures and individuals with significant wealth are disbursed after death can impact one’s image and impact – for good or bad – for generations.  Seriously consider discussing your will with your heirs. At a minimum, make sure a copy of your will is easily accessible upon your death.

2. If you have favorite charities consider leaving some, if not all, of your assets to them. Once you decide where and what to give, contact the organization. Remember you can leave organizations cash, stocks and more. A significant one-time gift can be a way to help your favorite charity establish an endowment or purchase/pay off debt on property. No matter what you give just make sure your intended beneficiary has the capacity to administer any significant gift you leave behind.

3. You can be an anonymous giver. Trusts or donor advised funds are one way to give anonymously. If you have assets that you want to leave to benefit causes/organizations you care about you can set up funds that allow your money to generate interest and be distributed anonymously according to your interests. Again, having a plan ensures that no matter who oversees your assets your wishes will be honored — if you you do not want the benefactors to know you/your estate were the source of the donation(s).  In these instances, monies and assets can be distributed quickly or over a period of time.

Note: Blackwood Advisors and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This information is provided for informational purposes and is not intended to provide or be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. Always consult your own tax, legal or accounting advisors before making any decisions.

If you need of philanthropic advising services please contact us at info@blackwoodadvisors.co.

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.

Getting My Nephews Hooked!

Getting My Nephews Hooked: How do I engage my family in philanthropy?

I love my nephews.  These two amazing boys are part of the reason I took a job here in Houston.  During my first year living in here one of my nephews asked about my new job.  As I began describing my work in organized philanthropy I saw both boys’ eyes glaze over.  This caused the birth of an idea that would have made my teacher mom quite happy.

Many of my earliest memories of the holidays included the one big item I’d hoped for and several practical things like fruit from our church (always a bag with two oranges, an apple and peppermint), clothes and socks. These were not items at the top of my list when considering what to give my nephews. Every year it gets harder and harder to find the right gift for two now teenage boys who are blessed to have both things they need and want. As I begin preparing for the holiday season I started thinking about what I’d give my nephews. Books, gaming programs, sports memorabilia were on the list but nothing really excited me. I also tried to recall what I’d given them the last two holiday seasons and much to my disgust I couldn’t. I then remembered the glazed eyes and realized that I had not been more intentional in being a model for giving. I decided to create an “I am philanthropist” experience for them.

I decided to provide them with the opportunity to be intentional philanthropists. This experience was done with a $150, a timeline and a guide book.

  • I determined the amount of cash because I wanted it to be significant and provide options for a single or multiple gifts.
  • I placed a time limit on their decisions because that is what happens in real life and I also didn’t want this experience to get lost in the midst of their busy lives.
  • Finally I prepared a bonded and personalized handbook. The creation of the guidebook including defining philanthropy, setting out the parameters of the experience and providing information on several non-profits. I chose organizations that were connected to children, had tangible results, geographically close or were issues impacting our family. I curated ten groups and provided a short description of who they were, who they helped and why/how.

When the boys opened their gifts, confusion and not joy was on their faces. After I cleared up the confusion they wanted clarification that all of the money had to be given away (and not to each other). I spent lots of time curating the list and in the end they were influenced by other factors – including the heavy rotation of a powerful commercial on animal shelters.

When their thank you letters arrived they were surprised too receive them and it sparked an additional conversation on how the money was being used, if they’d like to make this an annual tradition and if they were happy with their choices. My nephews are also now on the donor list of these organizations. This means they receive newsletters and new requests to continue supporting the organizations. What was their learning? It made them more aware of the role individual contributions play in organizations that help communities thrive.

Would I do it again? Yes. My hope is that the guidebook becomes unnecessary and my financial gift includes their own contribution. My recommendation would be that habits require practice. Engaging my nephews in philanthropy is not a one-time event. Please check out our guidebook. The creation of it was fun and inexpensively bond at an office supply store. If you’ve done something similar or decide to give it a try we’d loved to hear about your experience and how it was received.

Giving Thanks

Thank y’all for an amazing month.  When we officially launched UjimaSouth we could not imagine the amount of support we would receive.In just one month we have established a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Plus, we have hosted our first event and are preparing for a panel presentation.  We are so grateful.  Thank you!

Let’s get ready to take 2016 by storm…together.

Our online followers have likely seen us using our hashtag, #igiveblack.  Starting today you can order merch via our website.  What an awesome way to kick off #BlackFriday AND support a black business, right?!? Take a look and place an order today!

Learn with US

On December 2nd, UjimaSouth will launch a series of webinars. This first webinar sets the stage for giving in 2016.   The theme for the four webinars in 2016 is ‘collective giving.’  Collective giving allows like-minded people to pool their resources, research community needs and decide as a group where to invest.  Being part of a group can enrich the giving experience for all. Collective giving is a participatory process that is proactive and can be formalized in a variety of ways including family scholarships, giving circles and volunteer relays. Giving together amplifies the power of philanthropy. Join us by registering for one or all of our online learning opportunities.

Behind the Video – Family Giving

Author: Necole S. Irvin

Last week I posted my first video on-line as an UjimaSouth steward.  UjimaSouth, a project of Blackwood Advisors, offers a variety of community-based philanthropic educational services.  As a steward I strive to provide education and awareness to the history and current story of Black philanthropy.  Philanthropy can be defined in many ways including “love for humanity.” One of the most common definitions include the voluntary giving of one’s resources including skills, time and money.

I choose to focus my first video on family giving.   Black philanthropy has deep roots in family and a sense of community.  My video is an example of my families’ legacy of giving in the form of land and institutions.  Prior to recording I was concerned about several issues.  I wanted to pick a compelling example.  I had to figure out where I would record the video.  And I needed to figure out what to do with my hair and the proper shooting angle.

Deciding on the example was the easiest decision.  I am blessed to have numerous documented and frequently heard examples of family giving.  I decided to go with one that has always struck me as having long-term impact and was an example of giving for personal and community advancement that would impact generations.  It is also an example of collective giving (my great grandmother, her brother and their spouses) which implies a strong level of family cohesion.  As an aside – collective giving is most commonly referred to these days as a giving circle.  A giving circle is a group that pools their resources to increase their awareness of and engagement to achieve defined and specific goals.

Emily Johnson Anderson was born in 1862.  Her portrait hung above my grandparents mantle.  Even before learning that she was known as a stern disciplinarian to her eight daughters her image demanded respect.

Two other concerns that were relatively easy to resolve – shooting location and angle.  Both were determined by trial and error.  For my second video I plan on spending a little more time on this decision. (Boy! does my face look huge.)  Maybe not so shocking, the concern that took the most time was my hair.  This is not a new dilemma nor is it one that isn’t shared by most black women.  My solution – cover it.  Was that a cop-out?  Yes.

After resolving these four concerns at various levels of competency I realized that my two minute video was too long for twitter and I didn’t have the technical skills to compress it.  Lesson from my first video post – there is always something new to learn but sharing my families’ giving reminded me of personal legacy and inspires me to being a better philanthropist.  I hope that Emily’s story will inspire someone to think about and share their family legacy.