(Aug. 1, 2022) Since 2011, a vibrant and growing network of leaders from foundations, nonprofits, and community groups across the globe have united to celebrate Black Philanthropy Month annually in August. It is a month-long social action campaign that celebrates and empowers Black giving in all its forms, and it promotes funding equity as a racial justice issue.
The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis joins the month-long commitment advancing this year’s Black Philanthropy Month theme, The Fierce Urgency of Now: From Dream to Action. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s quote from the March on Washington, the theme is especially resonant in a majority-Black city and in the wake of COVID-19’s disproportionate toll on communities of color.
For centuries, Black families have suffered unjustly and continue to face systemic racism today. Not only did slavery and Jim Crow make it nearly impossible for Black families to accumulate wealth, but discrimination rooted in public policies shaping housing, education, and financial systems further widened the wealth gap.
Despite the financial barriers, Black Americans have a rich culture of charitable giving—one that is sometimes under-appreciated or even ignored.
A study conducted by the Urban Institute found that “of all racial or ethnic groups…Black families have contributed the largest proportion of their wealth to charity since 2010.” Nearly two-thirds of Black households donate to community-based organizations and causes for a total of $11 billion annually.
Black generosity is grounded in a sense of family, community, and shared humanity. From the Black church that stresses consistent giving, to the ways Black communities rally to support neighbors’ needs, Black philanthropy nourishes community wealth and well-being.
Black giving was born out of the desire to uplift and support the Black community; this motivation is what continues to drive investments in the institutions that have been on the frontlines of supporting and promoting its mobility. Black donors often give to causes that they are directly passionate about, often because of their own life experiences.
Despite its formidable legacy, the power of Black giving has too often been overlooked by charitable institutions and many nonprofits. As this community’s philanthropic hub, we at the Community Foundation challenge ourselves and encourage others to consider the ways to support philanthropic giving by—and to—the Black community.
Mayors Strickland and Harris have officially proclaimed August to be Black Philanthropy Month locally. We observe this month by spotlighting Black donors whose impact and generosity can inspire others and by daily sharing a list of 31 organizations in the Mid-South that directly impact the Black community. Funding equity begins with awareness and trust in some of the incredible Black-led, Black-serving organizations that are helping people and families and lifting up neighborhoods across our community. These are groups on the ground, listening and responding to the voices of those they serve.
Public celebrations throughout the month are a small but meaningful representation of the deeper work that the Community Foundation is doing to advance racial equity in our operations and our funding. Our vision for the Mid-South is to create a just and equitable region where all individuals and groups receive the resources and opportunities they need to reach their full potential, and where identity and geography do not determine their outcomes. That can only happen by authentically recognizing and advancing the powerful role that Black donors and Black-led, Black-serving organizations play in supporting and sustaining a greater Memphis.
Veronica Jamison is vice president of donor services and Aerial Ozuzu is director of grants & initiatives at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, the largest charitable grantmaker in the Mid-South. Its Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund deployed $14.5+ million for relief and recovery efforts; 58% of grantee organizations were led by people of color.