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The Voice of the Black Community

Life and Religion

Book celebrates generations of giving
Charlotte author lauds black philanthropy
Published Thursday, December 22, 2011 7:44 am
by Sommer Brokaw

On the verge of retirement at age 70, Dora Atlas started giving free meals to the hungry in a public housing community in Asheboro. This kitchen grew to become incorporated as Our Daily Bread Kitchen that now serves 10,000 people a year.
"Giving Back" author Valaida Fullwood (left) and photographer Charles Thomas.

Atlas inspired Valaida Fullwood, Atlas’ grandniece, to write a book that shows that blacks have given back to the community collectively for generations.

Fullwood, who lives in Charlotte, said she wrote “Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists,” because African-American philanthropists and donors are usually overlooked in mainstream media.

“Often times the images are more likely to show wealthy people giving to African Americans, which is wonderful and it is part of the story, but I knew there was a different story, a broader story,” she said.

“If you’re in the African-American community it’s likely you’ve experienced and witnessed it, but if you’re outside the African American community you don’t know, and you think the only philanthropists are Bill Gates and Warren Buffett or Oprah Winfrey.  And so the book ‘Giving Back’ was intended to provide a counter narrative that elevated African-American giving and philanthropy and that offered new images, photographic images and imagery around the generosity and giving in the black community.”

“Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists,” recently published by the Foundation for the Carolinas with photography by Charles Thomas is rated as one of the 10 Best Black Books of 2011. Fullwood said she’s also been invited to submit the publication for a 2012 NAACP Image Award.

Atlas’ story is featured in the book, which is 365 pages and has about 180 photographs. “You might not know my great-aunt Dora, but you probably know somebody like her,” Fullwood said. “And if you’ve never met anybody like her the book will be a  fascinating read that will introduce you to a segment of our community you’ve never encountered.”

The book has a variety of content with over 30 tribute stories showing how people became inspired to give and over 30 Micro stories about aspects of black philanthropy.

It also has several quotations from famous people and “everyday givers” about why it is important to give back. “Their responses are peppered throughout the book and while it may only be a sentence sometimes that sentence reveals a story in and of itself,” she said.

In addition to being an author, Fullwood founded New Generation of African American Philanthropists in 2006 and organized a giving circle of members who pool money to make grants to grassroots organizations and nonprofits in the black community.

“That’s how we began, and now almost six years later we’ve given over $40,000 to community organizations, to nonprofits in Charlotte, and we’ve committed a lot of our time to volunteer and provide support to some of those same nonprofits,” she said.

The Giving Back Project, an initiative of NGAAP, helped produce the book.

“I just felt a strong sense of responsibility to be a blessing and to be looking back or looking behind me at those who are coming up after me to instill that principal and value of giving because I really believe I only achieved what I have because a community of people helped me,” said Meka Sales, a member of NGAAP Charlotte giving circle.


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