THE BLOG
08/05/2011 08:57 am ET | Updated Oct 05, 2011

August Is Black Philanthropy Month: Celebrating Our Culture of Giving for New Times

Black people the world over have a long history and strong traditions of giving that have gotten us through good and bad times. We have so many names for our culture of giving -- from "helping a sistah out" to "tithing," "giving circles," "harambees" or volunteering -- that it's easy to miss that people of African descent are philanthropists and have among the highest levels of giving in the world.

And this includes everyday people too -- not just celebrity philanthropists. According to John Havens, researcher at Boston College's Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, the Federal Reserve's 2007 Survey of Consumer Finances reports that African-Americans gave more than $12 billion to various charitable causes in 2006, the most recent date for which reliable data are available. This includes both large and small gifts from wealthy as well as people of modest means.

According to the World Bank and African Development Bank, African immigrants throughout the world gave an astounding $40 billion to families and community improvement projects in their hometowns in 2010 alone. This is just the tip of the iceberg, because not all of black philanthropists report their gifts on their taxes. And we give in other ways that are not usually counted, including volunteering, donating goods and providing care for people in need.

Recognizing that philanthropy -- this giving of "time, talent and treasure" -- is such a fundamental part of global black culture, the Pan-African Women's Philanthropy Network (www.pawpnet.net), a coalition of African-descent women leaders, devoted to community transformation through giving, has declared every August as Black Philanthropy Month to increase awareness of our history, culture and contributions of giving in the U.S. and worldwide.

Women in our community take on key roles in our culture of giving. Research shows that African-Americans take care of orphaned or elder extended family members in their homes in higher levels than other American ethnic groups. And the African Union has declared this as the African Women's Decade, including black women in the diaspora, to encourage everyone to recognize and support black women's critical community contributions.

PAWPNet will celebrate Black Philanthropy Month and our women's leadership with the groundbreaking Pan-African Women's Action Summit from August 11th-13th in Minneapolis, MN (www.pawas2011.net). PAWAS will bring together African-descent women from more than 20 countries to re-energize black philanthropy.

Among the outstanding keynote speakers will be Naomi Tutu, human rights activist; esteemed poet, Sonia Sanchez; Dr. Julianne Malveaux, renowned economist Bennett College President; and prominent women's activist, First Lady Bisi Adelye-Fayemi of Ekiti State, Nigeria.

Minneapolis/St. Paul is the perfect place in the USA for this historic gathering, because the region has the country's most diverse black community, including more Somalis, Liberians and Kenyans than any other place in the nation, along with high concentrations of other African, Afro-Latino and Afro-Caribbean groups.

The global gathering in Minneapolis is just one hotspot in what is becoming an international Black Philanthropy Movement.

Just to name a few examples, The African Women's Development Fund, Africa's oldest and only continental foundation, has created a USA-based non-profit, the African Women's Development Fund USA to encourage all people to support the role of women in developing the Motherland.

The Community Investment Network in North Carolina is reviving traditional black philanthropy in the South through giving circles originally brought to the country by our African ancestors. The Black Women's Donor Action Group, a project of the Women's Funding Network and the Global Fund for Women, is organizing a national campaign to encourage even more giving by the black community.

From Detroit, Michigan to Durban, South Africa times are hard for black folks. But part of the solution is hidden in plain view. Our self-help traditions have been the basis of every successful transformation in our community -- from the Underground Railroad, the Civil Rights, African Liberation and Anti-Apartheid Movements. Black Philanthropy is a new social movement. Giving your time, your voice or your money -- however small or large your gift -- to reliable organizations and projects devoted to rebuilding our families, schools and communities everywhere -- is not only a key to success in this new global economy. It's the stuff of which our very history and survival as a people has been made. Join us at the Women's Summit and write the next chapter in Black Philanthropy's future.

To learn more about black philanthropy in the USA and worldwide, visit www.pawpnet.net and join our free community. Coming Up next in The Face of Philanthropy blog, Giving Stories: From Africa to America and Back Again.