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The Voice of the Black Community


Goal is keep moving the Queen City forward
Nonprofit specializes in social capital
Published Wednesday, August 14, 2013 1:11 pm
by Valaida Fullwood

In observance of Black Philanthropy Month, interviews in this series feature African Americans engaged in multiple facets of philanthropy and focus on interests and concerns, 50 years after Martin Luther King’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech.

Charles Thomas is director at Queen City Forward, a social venture nonprofit in Charlotte.

Executive Director, Queen City Forward

HOMETOWN: Charlotte


EDUCATION: Duke University

PREVIOUS POSITIONS: Education Director, The Light Factory Museum

PHILANTHROPIC INVOLVEMENT: New Generation of African American Philanthropists (NGAAP-Charlotte), Queen City Forward, board member at Que-Os and donor to several nonprofits

BLACK PHILANTHROPY IS  .  . . Uplifting; reaching out to support those who need a hand up.

What is your first memory of generosity?
My mom giving her paycheck to ensure that I had clothes and presents for Christmas.

How does that memory influence your philanthropy and your work in the field of philanthropy?
This memory reflects philanthropy and describes the roots of my desire to understand economic principles and the power of money to create positive change. I always wanted something better for my mom and me. Once we overcame our circumstance I knew that like my mom I needed to be of service and help others to achieve their dreams. 

You lead Queen City Forward. What is Queen City Forward?

Queen City Forward is a nonprofit organization that aims to increase the creation, scale, and impact of social ventures in Charlotte, NC. We are guided by the conviction that Charlotte can create a thriving cluster of innovation for the region that spurs economic development, improves the lives of citizens, and drives a new business model of sustainable growth. Our mission is to enable local entrepreneurs to create enduring social change. We do so by connecting social entrepreneurs to the resources and relationships they need to successful grow and scale their business.

How did you come to have the distinction of being Queen City Forward’s founding executive director?

I joined the organization in October 2011. Years prior, I read, studied and began to follow the social entrepreneurship movement and development in the United States. When I heard about Queen City Forward I knew I wanted to be a part of the founding and starting of an innovative organization dedicated to creating positive economic and social change in my hometown.

What do you believe is the correlation between philanthropy and social entrepreneurship? And how are social entrepreneurs addressing issues of social justice?
Philanthropy is the “love of humankind” and serves as the fuel to power the business models and missions of social entrepreneurs.

Tell us about some of the social entrepreneurs and start-up enterprises that QCF supports or is helping to launch.

Speak Up Magazine
Contact: Matt Shaw
Work Email:mattshaw@speakupmag.org

Speak Up Magazine is a street magazine sold by the homeless. Speak Up gives a voice, advocacy and creative outlet for all marginalized people, as well opportunities of employment, healing and reintegration for the homeless, impoverished and challenged.

Neets Sweets

Neet's Sweets Inc. is a bakery founded and operated by Antonia “Neet” Childs a survivor of sex trafficking. Her bakery not only providing fantastic baked goods and catering services, but also funding programs and services to young women in order to help them get back on the right track.  The bakery provides jobs to young women survivors and underwrites the Market Your Mind Foundation a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness and providing a safe place and services to young women.

Second Helping, a coffee cart and catering venture that hires formerly incarcerated women and gives them the opportunity to build financial stability and careers. 

QC Mobile led by Chef Barry Francois is a mobile fresh market delivering healthy food to low income communities in an effort to eliminate food desserts.

What are some of your thoughts on where America stands 50 years after Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech?

We have come a significant way in our journey to realize Dr. King’s dream. Unfortunately, we have much more to achieve particularly with economic equality. African-American wealth is extremely low relative to white Americans. I believe Dr. King’s movement was evolving to battle poverty and income inequality.

When it comes to society or our community, what is your “dream” or aspiration?

My dream is that our world unites as one and we as individuals realize how we are a part of an interdependent human and natural system. As a result, we are creating businesses and institution based on principles of sustainability.

In terms of your philanthropic endeavors, what’s your “mountaintop” or highest achievement to date?
Publishing Giving Back. Starting Queen City Forward… not quite at the mountaintop but we have vision and we are building a strong vehicle to help us all get there.

Name a book that has shaped your philanthropy.

Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists, by Valaida Fullwood and photography by Charles W. Thomas, Jr. (2011)

What are some of the ways that readers can learn about and provide support to a social entrepreneur?
Readers can continue to follow Queen City Forward and the articles we publish on Facebook, Twitter and our blog. In addition, readers can gather a great deal of information on social entrepreneurship from the web.

Attend Queen City Forward events to learn more about local social entrepreneurs. Readers can get involved with social entrepreneurs as volunteers, donors and investors. Volunteers can take the form of joining the board of a social enterprise, serving as a mentor or providing a valuable resource like legal advice, accounting or marketing services. Readers can also providing funding to social entrepreneurs as a traditional donor or as a social impact investor.  You can learn more about social impact investing online at InvestorsCircle.net

Please leave us with a favorite quote that characterizes an aspect of your philanthropy.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” — Proverb

Valaida Fullwood is author of "Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists." Follow at valaida.com, @ValaidaF and @BlkGivesBackCLT.

For more information, visit BlackPhilanthropyMonth.com and follow the hashtag #BPM2013


So proud of you and your endeavors. My love to your family
Posted on August 15, 2013

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