African-American Institutional Philanthropy Farai Chideya talks with economist Julianne Malveaux and Erica Hunt, president of the 21st Century Foundation, about how the black community gives back to institutions like churches and schools.

African-American Institutional Philanthropy

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Historian John Hope Franklin is the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University. He brought up the fact that many African-Americans regularly give money to family, but what about making social change through charities and foundations.

I'm joined now by economist, Julianne Malveaux, one of our regular contributors and also the president of Last Word Productions; also by Erica Hunt, president of 21st Century Foundation who's at NPR's New York bureau. Welcome to you both.

Ms. JULIANNE MALVEAUX (President, Last Word Productions): Glad to be here, Farai.

Ms. ERICA HUNT (President, 21st Century Foundation): Thank you, good to be with you also.

CHIDEYA: So, Erica, let me start with you. Tell us what the 21st Century Foundation is, what its mission is and how it relates to maybe changing the minds of African-American folks about giving.

Ms. HUNT: Well, 21st Century Foundation is quite unique. It's one of the few endowed African-American foundations. It was created in 1971 by the development economist Robert Brown, and the mission is to facilitate strategic and effective giving in the black community.

So we work with donors in African-American communities, as well as our allies, to support organizations that make social change happen.

CHIDEYA: Are people loosening their pocketbooks or wallets?

Ms. HUNT: I think there's been a tremendous upsurge in the last year - many folks who have been working on this issue of black philanthropy and doing the donor education. We believe that Hurricane Katrina has had a tremendous impact on accelerating our learning curve about how we can transform our giving into resources that give communities just the fuel to make impact.

We realize that race and poverty are quite intractable; and unless we're there with our charitable dollars and our strategic dollars, there just won't be progress.

CHIDEYA: Julianne, just heard the words strategic, strategic giving, targeted, you know, focused. A lot of times we in the community, sometimes we're like okay, well, my cousin needs this or, you know, someone is late on the car loan and we give but it may not be the same thing as giving strategically to an organization. Maybe you can break down a little bit of the difference in impact.

Ms. MALVEAUX: Well, you know, Farai, one of the issues I think we've talked about in our NEWS & NOTES is that people - African-American people lag behind whites in wealth for any number of reasons. And one of them is because we all got pookie(ph), everybody got pookie. You know, so you're doing what you're supposed to do. You try and deal. And then your cousin, your uncle, your sister, your niece comes…

CHIDEYA: Your dad…

Ms. MALVEAUX: …in and says I can't pay my phone bill. And you've got to go find $200, $300, $400 to help them out. And we need to balance those two things, balance pookie with what we've got to do in the long run.

But I would say that, you know, if we look at the - we have such a phenomenal legacy. I don't want us at all to downplay that. Delta Sigma Theta sorority gave the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund $1 million last year. A million dollars, that's serious money. Ursila McCarthy(ph), the sister who was a washer(ph) woman in Mississippi in 1995 gave Southern Mississippi University $150,000, you know? So we get it. But we're always caught between getting it and giving it, and that's something that we have to deal with.

We as a people very much have many demands on us, and we have to be very generous with ourself about understanding the demands on us. And then understanding - I always tell people if you show me your checkbook, I will tell you what your future is. Because, you know, your heart is where your money goes.

In other words, yes you can hang out with Pookie and hook him up, but if you say you're Christian, do you tithe? If you say you care about civil rights, do you give money to the NAACP? If you care about the future of black people, do you give to the 21st Century Fund?

So we have to ask ourselves these hard questions daily but at the same time sort of mitigate that with our humanity.

CHIDEYA: All right. Well, we don't have too much time left. Erica, I would just ask you to make concrete what do you think your greatest accomplishment has been. Because, first of all, you aggregate money from different donors and then give it out to specific causes, is that correct?

Ms. HUNT: That's correct. This year has been a milestone year for the foundation. It's, as I said, we've been in existence for close to 35 years. We've supported more than 600 organizations nationally. But I'm particularly proud of this year because we've broken our grant-making record. We've granted more than a million dollars this year. A lot of it has been focused in the Gulf in Louisiana and in Mississippi. We've supported a range of organizations from churches to civil rights organizations, litigation, media, to keep the attention there on recovery, and particularly recovery with equity and justice.

CHIDEYA: I'm going to have to get Julianne in here. Final word: What does black giving do in terms of producing a ripple effect in the community?

Ms. MALVEAUX: First of all, it gives us a self-acknowledgment and self-responsibility. We're not asking other people to do for us. We have the means to do for ourselves, Farai. We're a $750 billion community. We can do a lot for ourselves. And so when we choose to give, what we say is that we agree to step up and to participate in our own recovery. And that recovery is a recovery from slavery, it's a recovery from the lack of reparations. It's a phenomenal recovery but we can be part of that.

And we have so many people who don't step up. And I would, whoever's listening, I would say to them, you know, we've got these artists and actors and folks who are pulling down seven and eight figures, give. You know, the biblical implication is to tithe. The issue is to show who you are by what you give and your money is where your heart is…

CHIDEYA: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. Julianne Malveaux, an economist, one of our regulars and president of Last Word Productions. Erica Hunt is president of 21st Century Foundation, which you can find online at 21cf.org. Thank you so much.

Ms. MALVEAUX: Thank you, Farai.

CHIDEYA: Coming up, Senator Barack Obama says the U.S. gains clout if it pulls out of Iraq by next year, and are young people in poor countries happier? We'll discuss these topics and more on our Roundtable next.

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