Essence Is Celebrating Black Philanthropy Month This August By Delving Into What It Means To Be Philanthropic And Black


Did you know that August was Black Philanthropy Month (BPM)? If you didn’t, you’re probably not alone because for a long time, “African Americans have been very uncomfortable with the title of philanthropist.”

This disassociation is incredibly ironic when considering the fact that “[w]hile often not given credit, African Americans…have been leaders in charitable giving, not only providing generous monetary contributions but innovating ways to empower worthwhile causes.” In fact, “Black philanthropy has always existed. But Blacks…have seen their philanthropic achievements receive little to no attention outside their own community.”

But one Black woman was determined to change that narrative, and thus prompted Dr. Jackie Bouvier Copeland to create BPM in 2011, which is now celebrated annually in August to commemorate and advance “Black giving and funding equity.”

One organization, the Cleveland Foundation, which is the oldest community foundation in the country, has long been committed to ‘philanthropy-ing’ while Black. The Foundation houses Cleveland’s African American Philanthropy Committee (AAPC), which was created 30 years ago “in 1993 to promote awareness and education about the benefits of wealth and community preservation through philanthropy.”

This year’s theme for BPM is “Love in Action,” which was inspired by the life and times of “the late scholar-activist bell hooks’ writings on love as a necessary foundation for true social change.” BPM organizers would like 2023 celebrations to revolve around transforming philanthropy from rhetoric and into a reality for Black communities. Per the BPM website, “[i]n the context of Black giving, we will highlight the power of Black self-love as an act of universal human rights that promotes racial, social, economic, gender, and environmental justice for our communities and the entire world.”

The 2023 BPM theme is truly embodied in AAPC’s work and its legacy, and the numbers don’t lie. AAPC and its members have raised millions of dollars to support nonprofits in Cleveland — as well as working to increase awareness about the deep tradition of philanthropic commitment among Black Clevelanders.

“For the past 30 years, the African American Philanthropy Committee of the Cleveland Foundation has been changing the narrative around Black philanthropy, and Black women philanthropists specifically, here in Greater Cleveland and beyond,” said Terri Eason, Senior Director of Philanthropy Equity Initiatives at the Cleveland Foundation. “Black people have always been philanthropic – we have a generational tradition of giving back, and Black women have often been at the forefront of this tradition in their households and in their communities.”

“With our biennial summit and programming throughout the year, the African American Philanthropy Committee (AAPC) of the Cleveland Foundation is bringing together changemakers from across our community to connect and engage in vital conversations,” Eason continued “For example, just this past April, the AAPC partnered with a local nonprofit, Birthing Beautiful Communities, to host a panel conversation focused on Black maternal and infant health in Greater Cleveland.”

In conjunction with BPM celebrations, every year there is also “a giving day on August 28 to promote financial support for Black-led and Black-benefiting grassroots organizations.”

The date on which Give8/28 occurs “has a special significance for the Black community in the United States: [on] August 28, 1955…Emmett Till’s murder ignited the Civil Rights Movement; [on] August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, [delivered his] ‘I have a dream’ [speech] in Washington D.C.; [on] August 28, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated disproportionately the New Orleans Black residents; [and on] August 28, 2008, Senator Barack Obama accepted nomination for presidency.”


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