What is it like to know your feelings aren’t real?

my eyes!!!!

Nonprofit with Balls is my favorite workplace humor blog because, Vu, is able to capture the tone, spirit and love/hate relationship of working in the nonprofit sector. So when I saw his latest post about poetry, I knew it wouldn’t disappoint. Heck, I’m still trying to figure out how I missed the call for submissions.  In total, he featured 15 poems, but only one really, really resonated with me.

“What is it like?”


What is it like to be working with a team of white people?
You asked me
Not just any white people
But white people with Ph.Ds and research interests in non-white people
Research interests in people like me

The thing is, you never asked me this
No one ever asked me
What is it like
To drown in a sea of whiteness?

No one ever asked me
What is it like
To hear white people
Talk about how they know
Because they were on food stamps
When they were doing AmeriCorps
Or what is it like
To hear white people
Talk about
Working with at-risk youth
So now they know
What it’s like
To be disadvantaged and poor

And even if you asked me
I might not answer
Not because I don’t want to
But because I might say
It’s just in my head

These things I feel
Are not real
These things I wonder
Does not mean much

Because that’s what it’s like
To drown in a sea of whiteness
The things I feel
Are not real

The rest of the poems he shared can be read here.

The problem with trickle – down community engagement

Trickle-Down Community Engagement is a serious problem, and communities are getting exasperated. If we are to solve problems, we must stop thinking of communities as helpless children, and start trusting that people are the experts of their own lives and invest accordingly. “We need to stop finding solutions and instead fund them,” says one of my colleagues, Jondou Chen… There is way too little trust that communities have the solutions, that they are the solutions.

Vu, Nonprofit with Balls

Jessica Williams, The Daily Show


The Social Nonprofit: How to Gain More Support From Your Followers

I’m famous! The Chronicle of Philanthropy retweeted me and included my tweet (5th tweet from the bottom) in their Storify. Life is good!

No New Years Resolutions


Last year I made a lot of resolutions for this blog.

And, now that 2014 has arrived, I’m faced with the dilemma of making new resolutions or continuing to work on the ones I made last year. Some bloggers make it a requisite to make new years  resolutions. That’s what works for them. But I’ve realized that grandiose resolutions don’t work for me. Instead, I am better at assessing what worked, what could have been done better and then proceeding to make ongoing change.  In short, resolutions are too static and don’t allow for the dynamism of real life.

A Few Interesting Links

Just a few links that caught my eye this week:

An introspective editorial about New Jersey’s most overrated governor, Chris Christie, that detailed his political successes, as well as failures.

The Marcus Graham Project presented about the collaboration between Microsoft Surface and the new app, Lisnr at Advertising Week in NYC.

People are still surprised about the level of intelligence, ingenuity and determination that children in inner-city communities have in regard to social media and technology usage. *sigh*

Kayne West did an interview with BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe. Basically Prof. West dropped lots of gems about his personal frustrations with classism, money, power, wealth, racism, and the gift of being an artist but being categorized as only a musician. If you have time, check out part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.

And unfortunately, Jimmy Kimmel and team, trivialized him by using child actors to mock him.

A Few Words about the Harry Belafonte and Jay Z ‘Beef’


Photo Credit

In an interview with Alexandra Zawia of the Hollywood Reporter in August 2012, Harry Belafonte, said, 

“And I think one of the great abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities. But they have turned their back on social responsibility. That goes for Jay-Z and Beyonce, for example. Give me Bruce Springsteen, and now you’re talking. I really think he is black.”

To which Jay-Z recently responded with a few lines in a song on his latest album, “Nickles and Dimes,”

“I’m just trying to find common ground/ ‘Fore Mr. Belafonte come and chop a n*gga down/ Mr. Day O, major fail/ Respect these youngins boy, it’s my time now/ Hublot homie two door homie/ You don’t know all the sh*t I do for the homies.”

Mr. Belafonte is 85 years old and vividly recalls working with Martin Luther King, Jr. to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. The landmark piece of legislation outlawed major forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities, and women. It also ended the unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public. And, quite frankly it made it possible for many people of color including Jay-Z and myself to be able more fully participate in the American workforce. However, it does not mean discrimination and racism have completely disappeared from American society (that’s a discussion for another blog post).

Mr. Carter is 43 years-old and he’s considered one of the most financially successful hip-hop artists and entrepreneurs in America. According to Forbes, Carter’s net worth is estimated at nearly $500 million. Additionally, he has sold approximately 50 million albums worldwide, received 17 Grammy Awards, is an investor in the Brooklyn Nets, the founder of Roc Nation and the started the Shawn Carter Foundation. So, Mr. Carter is a shrewd entertainer and business mogul. Moreover, mentioning Jay Z’s name in some social circles elicits a laundry list of the negative things he represents – drug dealing, misogynistic song lyrics, and capitalistic exploitation to name a few. Mr. Carter is controversial because he only aligns himself (and brand) with causes that add value to his companies.

Obviously, Mr. Belafonte and Mr. Carter have two different perspectives on social responsibility. Alexis Garrett Stodghill from The Grio, wrote,“Belafonte along with entertainers such as Sidney Poitier and Josephine Baker, are part of an older guard of African-Americans in the public eye for whom it was as important to be politically active as it was to be wealthy and watched.” Further, Mr. Belafonte’s comment signals to the public that it is okay to publicly question another person’s charitable endeavors and stance on social responsibility.

As a young professional, I see this controversy as a larger reflection of the changing economic and social activism landscape. From Mr. Belafonte’s comment, I gather he is dismayed that current African-American celebrities do not share the same level of dedication to social activism that he and his peers had. If Jay Z feels he’s more effective being a entertainment media mogul, so be it. Why is it his responsibility alone to address issues of social injustice the first place?

And since working in the philanthropic industry, I have learned that social responsibility is a complicated idea to practice. And, it is a very personal choice. Yes, billionaires throughout the world are signing The Giving Pledge, but what does it say about larger society when a slight few are able to amass wealth and choose to help those without it? Additionally, not every wealthy person has the best intentions in mind with their philanthropic decisions. Heck, it makes me wonder why Belafonte isn’t publicly critiquing David Koch for his influence in American media and politics?

But at the end of the day, this public frenzy feels like a distraction from a bigger issue – protest and traditional charity are not enough to undo generations of deliberate social inequity.



MOOC for Philanthropy: Learn How to Give With A Purpose

This summer, the first ever Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in Philanthropy will be offered by the Learning by Giving Foundation.  It will be comprised of six compact classes and complemented by interviews with guest speakers such as Warren Buffett, Doris Buffett, Cal Ripken, Jr., Soledad O’Brien, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield.

The class is hosted on Course Builder, an open source project led by Google.

Since many of the MOOCs currently offered focus on STEM, this is definitely a unique course offering. And even though many universities offer traditional online courses in nonprofit ethics, grant making and fundraising, none of them are MOOCs.

When I took the LearningbyGiving class at Tufts University, our class received a $10,000 grant to distribute to local nonprofit organizations. Each student was paired with a local nonprofit and wrote a grant proposal on behalf of the organization. Unfortunately, the organization I represented did not receive the grant. But overall the entire experience, from the the class discussion to deciding on the criteria to judge each organization was vivid and thought-provoking.

So, I’m curious to see how this model will work in a MOOC format. And, if you’re as curious as me, sign up!


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Stories about African American philanthropists are important

In this TEDxCharlotte Talk, writer, Valaida Fullwood and photographer, Charles Thomas explain how the creation of their book, Giving Back, helped to re-frame portraits of philanthropists. Since publication in 2011, the book was named 10 Best Black Books of 2011 and received the prestigious 2012 McAdam Book Award, which recognizes “the most inspirational and useful new book for the nonprofit sector.”


Have you read Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists, yet?


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Don’t Complain, Make Things Better

Sometimes grant administration can seem a bit dull.

Tina Roth Eisenberg’s 2013 SXSW talk about how to incorporate design and values-based living into your personal and professional life, is not.

She is the creator of Swiss-miss.com, Tattly, and Teux Deux App. The popular design blog has a growing audience of 1.3 million monthly unique readers from all over the world and was selected by The Times as one of the world’s Top 50 design blogs.

Misconceptions About Wealth Inequality in America

Think you know how wealth is distributed in America? Think again.

A YouTube video that went viral a few weeks ago reminds us that our  perceptions of who has money and how much they have is quite skewed.