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.