Of course I know charitable giving can happen year-round, but I have to admit, I got caught up in the energy and inertia of the #givingtuesdaynow movement on May 5, 2020—a new initiative with the energy and branding of Giving Tuesday to raise funds for the nonprofit sector impacted by COVID-19. I was so excited to be able to participate in and with my hometown, also, and contributed largely to Columbia, SC – based groups: the Riverbanks Zoo, Sowing Seeds into the Midlands, the Richland County Library, Historic Columbia, and a memorial scholarship fund set up in honor of Landrum Washington, a middle school band friend of mine who died in a car accident at 22, just before college graduation. In South Carolina alone the state raised almost $10M! All those folks on one day joining together to consider what they could do. It felt good to have a task that I could complete, and that could feel like it did some good. I encourage y’all to do it now, if you are able.
In a conversation with a client recently, I talked about capacity and what we can do. While I was explaining, I thought about Brooklyn-based Southern Black poet Patricia Spears Jones, and her poem “Living in the Love Economy,” published in 2009 in Kweli Journal. In the poem, she says:
I can do two major job applications a day…”
And later: “What I can’t do is parse the future.”
What I love about these lines are the simple truths. The control, and the surrender. What I can do, what I cannot. Most days, that’s been hard for me to admit. What I can do today. What I cannot do today. What guides me is a constant inner inquiry, and standing in my truths: here is what I can control. Here is what I cannot control.
Last month, we learned what had been suspected: Black Americans and other racial minorities were among the highest-impacted populations of the devastation of the virus. In South Carolina, as of May 1, 53% of deaths were Black. 52% of the confirmed cases, Black. This month, the New York Times continues to reminds us that water is wet, and that “race is still a factor in who gets what” with regards to philanthropic dollars. What can I do? I can write about it. I can call out these injustices when I connect the dots. I can make appeals. I can make some donations. I can help a nonprofit organization think deeply about the way they articulate need in this moment.
What I can’t do is cut the millions of dollars of checks needed right now. But I can make more appeals. I’ve been having a lot of conversations with philanthropic partners across the country in the past few weeks—some hard, for those that fall into the category of not considering Racial equity, even in moments like this, & other conversations are hopeful. Through outreach to some philanthropic colleagues, two small Black arts organizations that we were unable to fund at Black Art Futures Fund, (because the need was so much greater than our pot) were later funded.
Is it a long term fix? Who knows. I hear Patricia Spears Jones, again: “What I can’t do is parse the future.” So much of this is still yet to be uncovered. So much of this is asking us to wait, and be patient, to consider our capacity for today, and today alone.
My planning self wants so badly to know what the future holds, to be able to work with my clients to fundraise against it. It wants so badly for me to exist future-forward, and to be able to stand on my two feet and say with my clients what is possible, and certain, instead of asking “What can you move forward into the future without?” But that is increasingly becoming the hard question these days.
Patricia writes, and I nod, “The Love Economy is complicated.”
What’s on your lists?