While it is commonly believed that philanthropy is a custom reserved for the white, super wealthy of the world, many African Americans, rich and poor, have donated their time and money to community-based organizations, churches and charitable causes. From the abolition of slavery, to the establishment and construction of churches and schools, to providing humanitarian aid to the developing world; giving back major has become a major tenet of the African American experience. In the spirit of this tradition, NewsOne highlights some of today’s top Black philanthropists.
Appointed Haiti’s Goodwill Ambassador, Wyclef Jean has much attention to the plight of his home country. Jean has stood by his native Haiti through the worst of times coordinating efforts to encourage the United Nations to raise over 100 million dollars for the countries hurricane relief, while also raising charitable donations through his own organization Yele Haiti to support the country’s earthquake relief efforts. At the same time, Jean’s charitable endeavor recently came under fire when the New York Post reported that only a third of the donations collected by Jean’s organization were used to fund emergency efforts in Haiti. The paper also reported that about a $1 million went to a Florida company that doesn’t actually exist.
In 1991, the year Johnson disclosed to the public that he had contracted the HIV virus, he founded the “The Magic Johnson Foundation,” Since, the foundation has spearheaded numerous efforts that address the educational, health and social needs of ethnically diverse urban communities. Johnson has also invested large sums in the revitalization of urban neighborhoods across the U.S., opening retail establishments, which helped to create jobs in some of the most underserved communities.
When it comes to giving among the Hip-hop community, icon and entrepreneur Russell Simmons stands above the rest. AOL reports that Simmons’s Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation and his Hip Hop Summit Action Network have directed millions of dollars to programs that serve urban youth, in addition to helping establish two arts exhibits and education facilities.
Since 1998, the Tom Joyner Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping student continue their educations at historically black colleges and universities, has raised more than $55 million, AOL reports. In addition to supporting the dreams of thousand of African American students, Joyner’s charitable giving has also bolstered a variety of initiatives such as HIV/AIDS programs.
Bill and Camille have proven their dedication to education through their charitable giving. According to the Atlanta Post, Cosby’s $20 million gift to Spellman college is one of the largest ever given to a historically black college. The couple also donated $1.3 million to Fisk University and founded the Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Foundation (named after their deceased son) to support children with learning differences.
Jackson was among the first celebrities to lend his support in the first against HIV/AIDS, donating an estimated $300 million to various foundations, about.com reports. Perhaps Jackson’s most notable philanthropic effort came in 1985 when he, along with the likes of Harry Belafonte, Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones gathered a diverse collection of musicians to record a remake of the 1985 hit song “We Are the World,” which directed the world attention and raised for African famine relief.
Perhaps the most well-known Black philanthropist, it is estimated that Oprah Winfrey’s charitable foundations– Oprah’s Angel Network, the Oprah Winfrey Foundation and the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation—have donated more than $300 million. According to the Atlanta post Winfrey’s Angel’s Network has raised more than $80 million for charitable projects and grants globally.