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Black History Month event contemplates changing face of philanthropy

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Valaida Fullwood, author of the award-winning book “Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists,” will speak Thursday at West Virginia State University in Institute.

The word “philanthropy” often conjures images of big organizations like the Ford Foundation or wealthy establishment figures such as Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.

But philanthropy can be defined in hundreds of smaller, more local actions such as giving money to your church or volunteering at your child’s school, said Tim Gibson, vice president of the Charleston-based African American Philanthropy in Action (AAPA).

“Our goal is to really ‘reimage’ what philanthropy is,” said Gibson, a financial adviser with Merrill Lynch. “Giving really is about time, talent and treasure.”

As part of Black History Month, AAPA will sponsor an exhibit and speaker this week at West Virginia State University in Institute. The exhibit, “The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited,” will be on view in the week ahead in the Della Brown Taylor Art Gallery in Davis Hall at West Virginia State University during normal business hours.

The exhibit explores philanthropic efforts across generations told through more than 50 black and white images and narratives. A profile of the exhibit describes it as “offering insight to centuries-old cultural customs and beliefs about giving and generosity that — though rarely referred to as ‘philanthropy’ in Black communities — have long been an integral and transformational force in lives and communities throughout American society.”

As part of the event, AAPA will host “The Giving Project, Reframing Portraits of Philanthropy,” at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, featuring the keynote speaker Valaida Fullwood, of Charlotte, North Carolina. Fullwood, author of the book “Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists,” is a founding member of New Generation of African American Philanthropists. (See her blog at

The event will also have a panel discussion led by Fullwood that includes Michelle Foster, president and CEO of the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation; Lewis Smoot, Sr., chairman and CEO of Smoot Construction; Charles Patton, American Electric Power president and COO; Carl Chadband, COO of KISRA; and Barbara M. Washington, vice president of Philanthropic Solutions U.S. Trust.

“Giving Back” was recognized as one the 10 Best Black Books of 2011, and was the winner of the prestigious Terry McAdam Book Award as the nation’s most inspirational and useful book for the nonprofit sector in 2012.

The themes of the book work in tandem with the artwork and narratives featured in the exhibit by Charles W. Thomas, Jr., author and photographer of “The Soul of Philanthropy.”

In a release about the event, Fullwood said: “While our book serves as a moving tribute, the exhibit along with the programming and discussions it inspires are meant to compel us towards a triumphant movement of conscious giving for social change.”

Melvin Jones, AAPA president, said the panel will discuss the changing facets of philanthropy.

“We have five panelists who are going to talk about different forms of philanthropy, how it takes place, how much of it takes place beneath the radar. You don’t have to look to the Ford Foundation or any large organization to be philanthropic.”

Jones said the AAPA aims to put these principles in action.

“We’re a ‘giving circle.’ Simply put, that means we pool our funds and then we find worthwhile nonprofits or projects to invest in the community. So, our mantra pretty much is, we are trying to have communities take care of themselves. We invest in their own destinies and try and do that with the community’s input. We listen to the people we’re trying to help.

“One of the things were trying to do is educate the black community about philanthropy and really what that means and how we can take things forward — that means, put something out there for the next generation.”

Also at Thursday’s event, AAPA will award three grants for the 2016 year. They include the Dream Community Development Corp.; HOPE Community Development Corp.; and Southern WV Acton for Youth Center.

In addition to AAPA, sponsors for the exhibit and talk include The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs, Merrill Lynch and the WVSU Foundation. For more information, or to RSVP to the event, contact Bridget Bavetz at (304) 347-2532 or e-mail

Reach Douglas Imbrogno at

304-348-3017, or follow

@douglaseye on Twitter.

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