I had the pleasure of spending the past four days in Miami Beach at the Council on Foundations’ annual Family Philanthropy Conference.
“…outside resources will be much more effectively used if the local community is itself fully mobilized and invested, and if it can define the agendas for which additional resources must be obtained.” -”Building Communities from the Inside Out,” John P. Kretzmann and John L. McKnight, 1993.
I’m always excited for the Family Philanthropy Conference. The plenaries feature dynamic speakers who often offer a philanthropic perspective that I hadn’t considered before. There are so many interesting sessions, and so many interesting ideas to take in. I try to attend a session about something I’d likely not be able to explore any place else. Sometimes it’s a speaker I’ve never heard. Sometimes it’s a story I’ve never connected to. Sometimes it’s on a subject matter I know nothing about.
I was a member of the third class of diversity fellows. I value many things about the fellowship. My top two are the structured opportunities for reflection and learning and the access the fellowship provided to the philanthropic field overall, a tremendous support network, and numerous growth opportunities.
Prior to starting as a Proteus Fund Diversity Fellow, I spent five years in my hometown serving the city that provided me with the platform to become an educated professional of color. In returning to my hometown of New Bedford, Mass., to serve its youth, I saw that the promise of an excellent public school education had been supplanted by an underfunded and lackluster version of my urban school experience.
I entered the field of philanthropy through a theological framework. With idealism guiding my path, I started a journey in search of a meaningful and purposeful vocation. Because of my commitment to social justice, civic engagement, and community development, I enrolled in a dual-degree master’s program that combined urban policy and divinity. The program was designed to create more leaders like UN Ambassador Andrew Young and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who allowed their faith to empower them in the civic arena.
I looked down at my phone as it began to ring and I screamed with frustration, “Seriously? Again?!? Don’t they realize that it is 3 p.m. on a Friday?” That was the tagline I was known all too well for when I did housing relocations for tenants. Housing inspectors would notoriously find a home to condemn for unsafe housing conditions, including supporting beams being taken down and illegal sleeping quarters in basements, attics, and even kitchen pantries.