August is National Black Philanthropy Month, a time to celebrate the long tradition of giving back in Black communities. This month, we’re celebrating and uplifting this tradition by featuring Q&As with members of the A.L. Lewis Black Opportunity & Impact Fund, a collective giving initiative at The Community Foundation.
Gregory Owens is retired Urban Planning & Development Coordinator for JEA
Q: At The Community Foundation, we believe that philanthropy is about how we use time, talent and treasure to give back to the community. What does Black Philanthropy mean to you?
A: My philosophy about philanthropy is that it’s about collaboration and collective action. At the core of philanthropy is love – love for self and love for community. It requires patience, learning, presence, and deep listening to hear what a community is saying.
Q: What led you to be involved in the A.L. Lewis Black Opportunity & Impact Fund?
A: My wholehearted belief is that if we really want to have a better community, we must be “first in” and help lead the change. Our namesake was a man of great faith and very little formal education, yet had the presence of mind to create a better life for Black people in Jacksonville. Through collaboration and collective action with others, his work over time was transformative. As a member of the Fund, I believe we can best relate to the community we desire to serve. And I’m reminded that we are not that far removed from what the community is feeling and experiencing.
Q: Was giving back to the community a core value in your family when you were young?
A: My journey in philanthropy began in college. My college and graduate studies majors were selected because I needed to understand how society worked and how to plan and build communities where everyone had the opportunity to thrive. I expanded my learning through reading history, recalling all who stepped forward to mentor me, having the opportunity to lead several nonprofit organizations and then moving into serving on nonprofit boards, committees, and initiatives. To round out my journey, today, I mentor and coach young Black professionals.
Q: Black families donate a higher percentage of their wealth to charity, yet many Black Americans don’t consider themselves a “philanthropist”. How can we change the perception? What would you tell them?
A: Philanthropy is what we do each day. When we help our neighbors and children in need; when we nurture children with our knowledge and common-sense; support growth and development and community projects; provide informal mentoring; and match the behavior you want to see in them by being a role models. Ultimately, philanthropy is about loving our community enough to give our time, talent, and treasure to improve life.