Since announcing the publication of my book, I have been blessed and touched by the outpouring of generosity by people towards the project. I’ll never forget my experience from April 2019 in delivering the closing keynote plenary address at the CASE/African American Development Officers (AADO) National Conference on Diversity in the ballroom at the Conrad Hotel in Indianapolis. AADO founder Birgit S. Burton had graciously extended the invitation along with Anita Walton from CASE. At least one hundred and fifty fundraisers and advancement leaders from around the country filled the room. At the time, I was still writing the book but testing out portions of it with audiences. I decided to give this audience a preview.

As I took the stage following a beautiful and heartfelt introduction, I felt something inexplicable come over me. I was unsure, but imagined it’s what the many ministers in my family going back three generations have felt as they stood in their pulpits Sunday after Sunday. I began my presentation.

By the time I was done, nearly an hour later, sweat dripped profusely down my brow and dampened the shirt beneath my suit coat. I was eager to take my seat as I had been standing and energetically giving Madam C.J. Walker’s gospel of giving all I had. But I was taken aback because the audience was on its feet enthusiastically applauding. And the applause continued. I thought they were just being considerate, but I soon learned that, together, we were all part of something bigger that day. It was beautiful and humbling. The event concluded and, to my surprise, several people lined up to speak to me afterwards. While it had been common in my experience for one or two folks to follow up with questions following a presentation, I was not prepared for the long line of people who wanted to chat.

As I stood greeting each one, there was a mix of affirming handshakes, emotional hugs, and huge smiles. I repeatedly heard “thank you for sharing our history” or “thank you for seeing us for who we are.” There were a few “I knew its” and several “Tell me mores.” “We have more work to do at my organization” was often accompanied by “I had no idea Black philanthropy was this rich.” The spirit with which these audience members shared their insights and emotions that they attributed to my presentation was moving for me. It seemed that the same generosity I was describing in historical context was shining down upon us in that moment. It was 45-minutes before I got to the last person in line. The ballroom was empty, the conference had adjourned and yet a small group of us remained because the spirit of Walker’s generosity visited us and compelled us to stay in fellowship.

As I walked out of the hotel lobby headed to my car, this generosity visited me once again. Two other conference attendees stood on the sidewalk out front with their luggage in tow waiting for their Ubers. They stopped me. Two great big bear hugs followed as they thanked me for the session and we laughed together and enjoyed more fellowship. They both told me they could not wait for the book to come out. One has stayed in touch with me ever since, frequently offering a kind word while simply “checking in.”

With the book now out, that same generosity has continued. People have emailed me and hit me on social media to share their enthusiasm. Organizations have reached out to host launch events—churches, businesses, foundations, giving circles, universities. A few have started reading groups featuring the book and invited me to pop in. It’s all incredible and demonstrates that Madam C.J. Walker’s generosity keeps on giving.

One Comment

  1. Vanessa Simagan September 17, 2021 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    It blessed me to find out that Ms. Winfrey wasn’t the only big philanthropist in our recent history. So many African Americans have seemed to lost the spirit of giving especially to one another. This was a wonder lesson for me to learn even late in life. Thank you for your work and effort to teach our people about giving. Well done and thank you so much.

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