Giving Compass' Take:
- Here is a deep dive into the contributions of Black female philanthropists who invested their money, time, and voices in fighting injustices.
- What is the role of activism in philanthropy? How can we do more to acknowledge the work of Black women fighting for justice in their communities?
- Listen to this webinar to learn more about the evolution of Black women in philanthropy.
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Acts of protest and revolution have historically been powered by ordinary-but-extraordinary Black women like Gilmore: leaders and strategists, some formally educated, most not, the majority whose names aren’t instantly recognizable outside of their communities or included in documented academic and historical retellings. But movements don’t move without money, and Black women’s goal-focused philanthropy has funded and shifted power dynamics from Black Lives Matter to reproductive rights, one organized act of resistance after another.
Even at the bottom of the net-worth scale and despite the estimated $964,400 that Black women lose in earnings over the course of a 40-year career because of the wage gap, according to The NonProfit Times and a study done by Blackbaud, 54 percent of African American women still regularly give to support causes and organizations doing the work they care about.
For Black women, activism and philanthropy are bridged by the same desire to support the people they love and resolve issues that impact their families and communities, says Tahira Christmon, the vice president of external affairs at ABFE, a national philanthropic organization that partners with foundations, nonprofits, and individuals to expand advocacy for and investment in Black empowerment. Still, she adds, Black women are generally reluctant to identify themselves as philanthropists, and that’s largely because of the American narrative around giving.
“The way our country perceives philanthropy is why most Black people don’t consider themselves philanthropists. When you think about philanthropy, you typically think of white billionaires taking rockets to space. Traditionally, those donors don’t deeply invest in our issues. But I think the way that my grandmother tithed to the church and my mom advocated for better schools and playgrounds in my neighborhood is absolutely the work of philanthropy,” Christmon explains.
“Philanthropy obviously is a measurement of giving dollars, but that’s a very limited view. If we just gave dollars, but nobody invested time, lifted a voice, lent a hand, or stood up against injustices, we’d just have happy philanthropists convinced that they did their part while communities remain in distress,” Christmon adds. “I would dare say that philanthropy requires activism, and activism requires philanthropy for both to be effective tools for progress.”
In 2018, after what she calls a “profound breakthrough” during a therapy session, writer and activist Rachel Cargle thought, “All Black women deserve this opportunity toward healing.” Her birthday was coming up, and instead of accepting gifts, she launched an online fundraiser to help finance therapy for Black women, who, according to the American Psychological Association, are almost two times more likely than Black men to feel sad most or all of the time. Cargle’s community-centered act of philanthropy caught fire on social media and raised almost $10,000 in just 24 hours.
Read the full article about Black female philanthropists by Janelle Harris Dixon at Shondaland.