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Foundation Celebrates Black History Month 2022

By Ericka Wooten, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

The Sisters of Charity Foundation celebrates Black History Month 2022. The brainchild of noted historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Black History Month is a time to honor the contributions, achievements, legacy, and central role Black Americans have played in shaping and advancing American history.

In honor of Black History Month, the Sisters of Charity is pleased to highlight four extraordinary Black leaders and the nonprofits they head. Please click on the organization’s name below to hear in the leaders’ own words what Black History Month means to them, there organization, and how they are continuing the legacy of Black excellence.

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The Naomi Project: Joyce Ford, Executive Director

  1. What does Black History Month mean to you professionally and personally?
    Personally, there is not one month for Black History, it is every month! Having grown up in the 50’s and 60’s we faced obstacles that let you know you were Black and that you had a place. As a people, we wanted to be treated as ‘one nation under God.’ That means protests and standing up for Oneself. How did that affect me professionally? It took many years of soul searching. As a youngster, I grew up with four brothers and no sisters, so I hung around boys. I saw how these boys (not my brothers, but their friends) treated the girls they encountered. My father, who respected everyone, but did not take anything, taught me how to stand up for myself. To never let anyone put me down. Well hanging around these boys and seeing how they treated their ‘girlfriends’ made me mad. I would always say to myself ‘I wanted to help women to thrive and survive.’ That is the motivation for The Naomi Project.
  2. What Black leaders have inspired you personally and professionally?
    My father was a leader, personally and professionally and an inspiration to everyone he came in contact with. He owned his own businesses and created jobs for anyone who wanted one. He, along with some other community leaders, formed a coop, so that everyone could have fresh vegetables and fruit. The community helped to maintain the garden. He was an activist in politics and church. But he always took time to come to every event that my brothers and I were a part of. He was my BLACK INSPIRATIONAL LEADER.
  3. How does your organization celebrate BHM?
    Remembering that every month is Black History Month along with all the other cultures is important to all of us. We ask each client monthly to highlight an important person in their life that influenced them. They write down their strengths and draw on the things that made them better. They hang that paper in their rooms and they have to read those strengths. We find that repetition helps to build character.
  4. Why is it important for our sector in particular (nonprofit/philanthropy) to honor Black History?
    It is important because philanthropy is a major cultural component of the Black experience. Black people, since the beginning of time, have given for its own sake. Expecting no return. A heritage of village care, community care is instilled in us from childhood. As with many things in this country our people have led the charge, laid the groundwork, and served as examples. Philanthropy is no different. We have to keep the cultural pass down going. We have to be intentional about making sure that the young people coming behind us know what happened, how it was handled, how we endured, and how to keep moving forward.

Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach Services: Ericka Plater, Executive Director

  1. What does Black History Month mean to you professionally and personally?
    Black History Month is a public acknowledgement of the impact and influence the Black community has had on almost every facet of this nation for hundreds of years. It’s a time to celebrate black culture, ingenuity, leadership and even resilience. It’s a form of preservation of the contributions of a people that are sometimes overlooked and frequently erased from history books. It also provides space to focus on many beautiful aspects of the Black community instead of the negative and stereotypical aspects generally displayed in various media and believed by many. I am very proud of my Black heritage and culture and look forward to this month, in particular, as a way to celebrate and share my pride with others.
  2. What Black leaders have inspired you personally and professionally?
    I have a long list which includes many famous names such as Maya Angelou, Viola Davis, Nikki Giovanni, Angela Davis, John Lewis, Cornel West, and Nedra Glover Tawwab. There are also individuals like Carla Bravo-Wing, my first boss out of college. Watching a Black woman who owned her own coffee business in the early 90’s navigate the business world expanded my view of what I could accomplish as a Black woman. And Sharon Adams-Taylor, my first nonprofit boss, who’s passion and mentorship around service and issues related to women in leadership, children and communities of color sparked similar passions in me. Watching her move through the nonprofit world in her brilliance, and her unapologetic authenticity as a Black woman influenced some of the how I “show up” in my career, how I lead and how I support and mentor other Black women in the nonprofit sector.
  3. How does your organization celebrate BHM?
    As a community-based nonprofit committed to serving in rural and urban areas with high poverty rates made up of predominantly communities of color, celebrating black accomplishments, cycle breakers and long-time community impact is inherent in our work. Even beyond the month of February, we continuously elevate success stories through social media, news articles, and conversations with stakeholders. We celebrate individuals that are proudly achieving “firsts” such as obtaining their GED, a job that pays a living wage, or securing a home so they are no longer living on the streets. We celebrate, daily, the youth who were born through our Women’s Wellness program at a time when they’re parents couldn’t afford health insurance, who are now graduating college and breaking generational cycles in the process. We celebrate the family that escaped eviction and are back on solid footing in maintaining mortgage payments. For us at Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach, ensuring the well-being of the whole person and family is our priority. We celebrate the small wins, the generational successes and the determination of community members to overcome obstacles to reach their fullest potential in life.
  4. Why is it important for our sector in particular (nonprofit/philanthropy) to honor Black History?
    The nonprofit sector is, by definition, most directly involved in many of the core determinants of a healthy life. These determinants highly impact communities of color – especially the Black community – whether the work is focused on health and well-being, education, employment, financial literacy, mentorship, etc. As a sector, we exist to fill gaps and serve those most affected by various life situations, systems and infrastructures that make it difficult to live an equitably prosperous life. To be effective stewards of our missions and authentic partners in community, we must entrench ourselves in the cultures and the worlds in which those we serve live every day. We must honor the history that has led, not just to the current challenges in the Black community, but also to the contributions, accomplishments, progress and fighting spirit of Black Americans that have also shaped all American history. Only when you know where you’ve come from, can you know where you’re going AND can carry forward the learnings to determine a better path to success. History – Black History, no matter how painful or difficult at times – is pivotal to finding solutions for taking better care of ourselves individually and collectively, dismantling structures that no longer serve the common good, and in building equitable communities for all in the future.

The Hive Community Circle: Ashley Thomas, Founder & Executive Director

  1. What does Black History Month mean to you professionally and personally?
    Black History Month has always been a significant time of the year for my family and me to celebrate our history as a people and as a culture. As a Black woman my work as a professional is rooted in who we are as a people. As an adult and mother of three, my husband and I have made it a part of our family values to celebrate Black History every month, not just in February. It is important for our children to know the truths about their history, those that have come before them, and whose shoulders they stand on today that allow them to live a life of privilege. We want them to know that while we commemorate the month of February as Black History Month, our greatness and contributions to America as a people far extend 28 to 29 days out of 365.
  2. What Black leaders have inspired you personally and professionally?
    I have been inspired personally and professionally by individuals that I have been privileged to interact with as well as those who I one day hope to meet one day and share the impact they have had on my life. As a daughter of a pastor and mother whom was very involved in my academic experience, they are the finest leaders I have been inspired by. My weekdays were spent gleaming at my mother as she led PTO efforts for my siblings and my schools and weekends growing up were spent in church meetings and serving others. My parents inspired in me the gift and the ability to not only lead others but more importantly serve others.In addition to my parents, I was inspired by two of the few Black elementary teachers that I dreamt of having as a teacher Ms. Tobin and Ms. McElwain who though were not my teachers I admire everything about her still today. As an adult I have been inspired by Oprah Winfrey, Wilma Rudolph, Dr. Margaret Spearmon, Dr. Sheila Lang, the late Cicely Tyson, and former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama and my list could go on. However, what I believe was most important to being able to experience any level of influence from other Blacks was the ability to see people who reflected me.
  3. How does your organization celebrate BHM?
    As a Black led, Black benefiting organization that centers our efforts for Black Indigenous Survivors and those experiencing poverty, we celebrate not only Black History but the history of all Black Indigenous People of Color and their contributions to ending gender based violence daily. The Hive also celebrates and participates in Black Philanthropy Month during the month of August as well as Giving Black Day which is 8.28
  4. Why is it important for our sector in particular (nonprofit/philanthropy) to honor Black History?
    I believe it is important for the nonprofit and philanthropy sector to honor Black History because of the contributions that have been made to influence and grow these sectors to what they are today. It is also important because of the many Black led Black Benefiting organizations that are creating history today such as The Hive. If we do not tell our stories and celebrate our efforts then who will?

Brothers Restoring Urban Hope (BRUH): Victor Durrah, Jr., President & Executive Director

  1. What does Black History Month mean to you professionally and personally?
    Black History Month is a time to reflect on the black excellence that has taken place over our Country’s history. It also a time to reimagine what the future holds for our African American Culture. Black History Month is so important and sheds light on why we do the work we do everyday. Black History is about Character, Courage, Leadership, Perseverance, and Determination.
  2. What Black leaders have inspired you personally and professionally?
    I have a mentor by the name of Hoyt Bynum that has mentored me since my college years. He was one of the few African American Executive Directors in Spartanburg during the 2000’s. He took me under his wings and taught me the administration side of the non-profit sector. His character and leadership has always been admirable to me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Hoyt Bynum.
  3. How does your organization celebrate BHM?
    Every year for Black History Month, Bruh Mentor assembles volunteer’s county wide and we host a Black History Month Literacy Initiative. During the month of February our volunteers visit local Elementary Schools and Day Care Facilities and read books, written by local black authors, to students across the County. We know that reading with our students at a young age is imperative to the educational advancement of our youth.
  4. Why is it important for our sector in particular (noprofit/philanthropy) to honor Black History?
    As we learn Black History year-round, we unlearn the lies perpetuated across generations. We think deeply about who and what made this country what it is and what it can be. Black history is American ingenuity and innovation. Our Sector more than any other should understand that Black History is the ongoing American pursuit of truth and justice.

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