Initiatives led by black philanthropists have raised millions in charitable dollars to help Greater Miami’s communities. Three such donors shared the backstory on how they did it with a crowd of 125+ donors and civic leaders during the 2018 State of Black Philanthropy at the Overtown Performing Arts Center.

In 2016, we convened the first State of Black Philanthropy where a panel of civic leaders discussed ways we could promote black philanthropy to strengthen the community. We continued the conversation and focused on strategic investments in tangible solutions during the second iteration. This is now the third convening, and there are some notable successes to connect to this annual gathering.

One example is a retired teacher who cared deeply about education. She had a long, successful career in the public school system that yielded sizable retirement savings. But having no children of her own, she was unsure of how she could carry forward her life-long work of being a champion for learning. She attended the first two State of Black Philanthropy events, which inspired her to reach out to the Foundation for help in developing a solution. She established the James and Ola Carter Memorial Fund that, through her estate gift, will create permanent college scholarships for black students in Miami-Dade to attend college. That’s the power of philanthropy to create long-term opportunities for local youth.

At this year’s event, Barron Channer of American Friends of Jamaica, Ghislain Gouraige, Jr. of Ayiti Community Trust, and Dr. Wendy Ellis of Honey Shine, Inc. talked about what has worked for them in their charitable efforts, what didn’t, why it matters and, ultimately, how anyone can use philanthropy as a way to drive change. The night’s conversation was moderated by Nadege Green, WLRN Public Radio reporter and a Miami Fellows alum (Class IX).

Redefining philanthropy
When one community leader in the audience asked a question about people who may not have the big dollars to give, Barron, who is also the CEO and founder of BACH Real Estate and a Foundation trustee, mentioned “sweat equity.”

As philanthropy in black communities evolves to address more issues, a focus should remain on individuals giving in any way they can, whether through volunteering, sitting on a nonprofit board or charitable donations. “Everyone has something that they can give,” he said.

Audience members listen to the discussion at the 2018 State of Black Philanthropy event.

Philanthropy should be sustainable
Giving is already happening. If you look at it proportionally, African-American households give a higher percentage of their income to charity. It’s difficult to quantify exactly how much philanthropy happens in black communities, in part because donating to outside, formal institutions is eclipsed by more informal giving like church tithing or remittances to relatives abroad, said Ghislain, senior vice president, wealth management at UBS and a former trustee of the Foundation.

He and the fellow directors of the Ayiti Community Trust want to create a permanent source of charitable dollars to support long-term quality of life solutions in Haiti, like alleviating poverty, and protecting clean water. The Foundation is now incubating the Trust, providing strategic support and resources as they grow to eventually become the first community foundation ever to operate in Haiti.

“If we channel our giving, it sustains … it grows,” Ghislain said. “If it is invested and continues to grow and compound, then the impact you have can be exponential.”

Channel your passion
Wendy didn’t exactly know how to get involved at first. But she knew that she wanted to help youth “dream, achieve and believe in greatness.” That pushed her to lead several organizations focused on mentorship, including the YMCA and now Honey Shine, Inc.

“Whatever that cause and purpose you have, walk in it and own it,” she added. “Remain focused and committed to what it is you want to do that is burning inside you … not just to be heard but to create change, to create a movement.”

Each of these stories began with a donor stepping up and becoming a champion for an issue. That same power lies in everyone, said Foundation President and CEO Javier Alberto Soto during his opening remarks. “Find your passion and use your time, talent and treasure to create a more just community.”

Malika A. Wright is a South Florida-based writer reporting on community issues.


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