With recognition from the UN, Congress, a governor and mayors, the African Women's Development Fund USA (AWDF USA) created Black Philanthropy Month two years ago as a celebration every August of black giving throughout Africa and its diaspora. Our hope when we created it was that people and organizations of all backgrounds globally would become aware of, celebrate and encourage the longstanding black traditions of collective giving, advocacy and self-help, including the critical role of women in leading community change.
Black Philanthropy Month 2013 (BPM 2013) is a watershed moment in our effort to promote black giving globally. This year coincides with the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's historic March on Washington and his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech, which inspired millions throughout the US and worldwide to promote justice and opportunity for all.
BPM 2013 is unique because BlackGivesBack.com, The Giving Back Project and the Community Investment Network have joined with us to mount a coordinated, multi-media campaign to raise public awareness of black giving and highlight its leaders. Because of this coordinated effort, millions worldwide are joining the movement, which will culminate in special initiatives during Black History Month 2014. Join us by visiting blackphilanthropymonth.com to share your insights and events about giving and the 50th Martin Luther King anniversary (MLK Dream 50).
As we celebrate BPM 2013, it is time to push black philanthropy to another level appropriate for the global society that has always shaped our communities.
One of the most disturbing, shared aspects of our history and experience is the worldwide abuse of black women's reproductive rights. The sexual exploitation of black women's bodies during US slavery as well as African colonialism is a well-known and distressing shared aspect of our experience. It continued well into the 20th century too, including the shameful experiments that were the basis of much of modern science and gynecology, as documented in the story of Henrietta Lacks and many more nameless victims.
This legacy reared its ugly head again just this year as Israeli activists uncovered their government's longstanding practice of sterilizing Ethiopian Jewish immigrant women with Depovera as a condition for entry into the country, a birth control drug well-known to have long-term health risks, including permanent infertility. The revelation of these forced sterilizations, now admitted by the Israeli government, caused an outcry in Israel and other countries.
Maternal and infant death is another global black reproductive health issue. Wherever there are black women on the planet--whether they are rich, poor, educated, or have health insurance--they face the highest levels of infant and maternal death in their communities.
African women die in childbirth at the rate of 500 women a day! That is the world's highest level of maternal mortality. Also, as documented in a recent report, the African continent has the highest number of babies who die in their first day of life.
And this is not an issue unique to black African women living on the continent. African-American women, and now second generation African immigrant women, have the US's highest rates of maternal and infant mortality. US black infants die at more than two times the rate of white women's.
African immigrant women to various European countries also find that their maternal health worsens over time with infant mortality rates increasing over time due to a variety of complex factors.
Another global issue that increasingly affects black women is contemporary slavery. Unfortunately, the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery. It has found a resurgence in our times with almost 30 million slaves worldwide, including: 80 percent of them women most in some form of sexual slavery, 50 percent of them children, and an increasing number of them black, particularly from Africa.
Like every one of these global black women's issues, there is a US dimension. Almost 20,000 slaves come to the US each year, most of them female, including a growing number of black women from Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and other countries. This is slavery by another name is instead tucked in the factories, homes, orchards, massage and nail salons, restaurants and other unexpected places throughout American and overseas neighborhoods.
With maternal health disparities and modern slavery, black women are just canaries in the world's mines. The US overall, including white women, has one of the highest maternal mortality rates of any wealthy country. And slavery in the US today is multi-racial with white, indigenous, Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern, black women and men from throughout the US and various countries falling victim to it.
Global social issues require global giving. To be effective in a global economy, black philanthropy needs a transnational dimension that connects our community's fight for justice to the worldwide Human Rights Movement, including women's maternal health, reproductive and other rights.
We must be informed, ever vigilant and proactive philanthropists to ensure that issues like slavery that we thought were resolved centuries ago do not re-emerge hidden-in-plain-view right in our own backyards today.
These global black issues are complex, requiring an understanding of current affairs that cuts across communities and continents.
AWDF USA can help. As America's partner for African giving, we provide a vehicle to understand global justice issues and to do something about them.
Working with our sister organization, the African Women's Development Fund International (AWDF), we support over 1000 women's organizations in 42 African countries led by some of the continent's most effective leaders, including people like Nobel Prize winners, Leymah Gbowee, the late Dr. Wangari Maathai and many other less prominent but compelling grassroots leaders. Together these women are a network of community-based social innovators, who with the support of American and other allies, are promoting rights and opportunity for women necessary to developing the entire continent.
As part of BPM 2013, we have launched a Mother Africa: Saving Our Future campaign to promote black women's rights and maternal health in Africa and America.
It includes public awareness events throughout the US to help communities better understand black women's health issues. For example, we will be convening a Saving Our Future Summit in Chicago featuring leading researchers, activists and policymakers to address the global black women's health crisis. The summit also includes a training seminar on how we can use technology to mobilize globally to promote maternal health in Africa.
Through a partnership with the producers of the award-winning film, "Mother of George," and Africa.com, we will spotlight African reproductive health in the U.S. at a September 15 film forum in New York City. The first major American film with an African director and all-African cast, the forum will be a chance to discuss reproductive health issues with a diverse community and the filmmakers themselves.
Global black women's health and rights also affect the elders in our community, since our grandmothers worldwide are caring for grandchildren who are HIV/AIDS orphans in high numbers. African grandmothers alone care for 11 million AIDS orphans. We honor them and other grandmothers supporting our families and communities with Grandmother Power Celebrations, featuring award-winning author Paola Gianturco, throughout Fall 2013 in Bay Area and . Minneapolis.
You can also read our upcoming report, The New Black Diversity: Looking Back to Move Forward, for ways to include black immigrants and other diverse groups in the Black philanthropy and other social movements. Visit our website on August 28th, the MLK Dream 50 Anniversary,, for a free copy.
These are but a few of our community learning and organizing opportunities to promote justice for black women and others in the US, Africa and beyond. See www.usawdf.org for a full schedule.
In a global economy, there is little time for an "us vs. them" approach to giving. Black Philanthropy today needs New Global Citizens comfortable working with diverse partners to promote social justice wherever there are people in need whether in Detroit, Durban or Port-au-Prince.
Our history has proven that our collective giving can impact our local communities and the world. Afterall, homegrown community giving and activism have made the real difference in promoting change for black people from the Abolition, Civil Rights, African Liberation, Anti-Apartheid Movements and more.
Today between the at least $11 billion that Africans gave and the $11 billion that African-Americans donated to various causes in 2011 alone, we can mobilize a huge, $22 billion economy of caring to address the current challenges facing our communities in the US and abroad.
King reminds us that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." We are indeed our sisters' keeper. King even articulated an African agenda that guides us towards a black giving strategy inclusive of Mother Africa and black immigrants.
His dream was always a global one: That "all God's children...will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! "
Happy Black Philanthropy Month 2013! Let's keep The Dream alive everywhere, everyday for everyone. Visit www.usawdf.org for more on how you can join us.
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