African-Americans — despite finding themselves at the bottom rung of the nation’s economic ladder — are collectively among the top ranks of financial contributors to charitable causes.
Having meager resources will not stop the Black community from being among the most reliable contributors on Nov. 27, also known this year as Giving Tuesday. Each year, the world sets aside the Tuesday following Black Friday and Cyber Monday to support charitable causes.
“We have been givers since the beginning of time,” Tracey Webb, founder of Washington D.C-based Black Benefactors, told NewsOne on Monday. “From our communities in Africa to the Underground Railroad and the Civil Rights Movement, Black collective giving is something that’s inherent in us.”
Slaves brought their value of community with them to America, author and public speaker Valaida Fullwood explained to NewsOne on Monday. She’s the author of “Giving Back,” a book that explores African-American philanthropy.
“Ubuntu (a Zulu word) translates to mean ‘I am because you are,’ which speaks to the elements of community and mutuality,” Fullwood said. “If one person is suffering, then the entire community suffers.”
A joint W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Rockefeller Philanthropy study, released in 2012, revealed that African Americans donate a larger share of their income to charities than any other group in the nation. Black churches have been the main recipients of the roughly $11 billion a year that about two-thirds of African-American households donate.
Black folks give at a high rate even though their family median household income was around $20,000 less than all other families in America, according to the Brookings Institution. The gap between Black and white median income has persisted over the past 50 years.
Still, financial contributions from African-Americans have been consistent and dependable for many generations.
“Being historically oppressed intensifies our desire to make a difference when we have the resources,” Fullwood stated. “The sense of mutuality is high—that’s the old saying ‘But for the grace of God go I.’ Your well-being is linked to mine.”
An increasingly popular way to give today, outside of the Black church, fraternities and sororities, is through something called giving circles.
“Giving circles have popped up in recent years in cities like Philadelphia, Dallas, Chicago and St. Louis,” said Webb, whose nonprofit is organized around its principles. “People come together with mutual interests in giving in a specific area, such as education, and commit to contributing $365, a dollar a day, or thousands.”
Participants in Black Benefactors, which launched in 2007, pool their money and time to support Black charitable organizations.
“Giving circles are a new iteration of what’s been happening in the Black community for centuries,” Fullwood, who’s a giving circle member, said.
Looking beyond Giving Tuesday, both women underscored the importance for the Black community to also know about Black Philanthropy Month, which is in August. This spirit of mutual support, which has its roots in Africa, will be a part of the African-American experience for years to come.
“In America, we’ve had to rely on each other in ways that other racial and ethnic groups have not,” Fullwood noted.