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.
Lisa and Ken Johnson are members of the A.L. Lewis Black Opportunity & Impact Fund. Lisa is Chief Technology Officer at IBM Financial Sector, and the chair of the board of directors of the Nonprofit Center. Ken is a pilot with American Airlines.
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: It means being very intentional with our time, talent, and treasures with a greater focus on a community that has been underserved and underrepresented. Jacksonville has long been known as the city of bridges, and just as those physical bridges are vital to our city, we believe that Black philanthropy is equally vital, as it represents a financial bridge to connect our city to the greater potential that lives on the other side of the rivers of – division, discrimination, and polarization.
Q: What led you to be involved in the A.L. Lewis Black Opportunity & Impact Fund?
A: We have long believed that charity begins at home and now that Jacksonville is our home, it was imperative that we get involved and engaged with a fund like the A.L. Lewis Black Opportunity & Impact Fund that embraces the foundational principals of self-determination, collective giving, and built on the historical significance of Jacksonville’s own A.L. Lewis story. And with over 70 years (combined) in the fields of business, technology, transportation, leadership, and military service, we recognized that it was our civic duty to engage and give back.
Q: Was giving back to the community a core value in your family when you were young?
A: Giving was an essential practice in both of our families.
Ken: My Grandfather’s philosophy was in order to profit from the promise of giving, one had to practice the principles of giving.
Lisa: My parents practice the giving principles in many ways, through church, civic engagement, and education. It was through those daily examples that my siblings and I learned.
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?
Our time and treasures will help ensure that opportunities exist to make Jacksonville a more empowered city. We knew from our own personal and professional story that we could not miss this opportunity to build something greater than our individual selves by building bridges of opportunities for all communities in Jacksonville.