"Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly." – Langston Hughes
Is there a nexus between history, innovation, and love? Community Foundation for a greater Richmond and the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia illuminated this connection, during the recent 5th Annual Black Philanthropy Month Celebration. The evening demonstrated the intertwining of history, innovation, and love. This was a unique coming together of the Richmond community to acknowledge the history of slavery, to celebrate the joy and resilience of Black culture, to honor those who have chosen to serve, and to set the stage for a brilliant future. The evening was a reminder that innovation isn't just about creating gadgets or groundbreaking software. This moment conveyed that innovation at its best can embody love, respect for shared history, and a celebration of diverse experiences. In Richmond, Virginia, the duality of innovation in the face of past injustices is ever-present. When communities unite, recognizing and honoring their past, the stage is set for a transformative future. This moment was a call to remembrance, a call to action, and a call to aspire for a brighter tomorrow. Three key takeaways from the evening:
In the Face of Adversity, Joy, Innovation, and Unity Can Prevail. History has showcased this time and again. One example highlighted during the evening was Mary Lumpkin. She gifted a legacy that shows each of us how to be resilient amid adversity. Mary Lumpkin had the vision and faith to persevere, to be philanthropic, and to metamorphose Lumpkin's Jail into what is now known as Virginia Union University—changing the narrative from a place of enslavement to a place of higher learning that continues to educate and change lives. Like many first-generation college graduates, I am a beneficiary of her legacy.
Philanthropy, Innovation, and Love are Interconnected. Giving is more than just transactional—it can be transformational when it’s propelled by love. As Dr. Martin Luther often shared in his messages, “Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve... You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” This spirit was embodied at the event by celebrating and honoring the service of several philanthropists and philanthropic leaders L. Robert Bolling and Veronica Fleming.
Innovation is about Nurturing Minds and crafting Futures. In addition to providing education opportunities and enduring life lessons, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have traditionally been at the center of innovation, ingenuity, and inclusion. The conversation between Devon Henry, Rector & Alum, Norfolk State University, and Dr. Makola Abdullah, President, Virginia State University emphasized the challenges HBCUs face and their instrumental role in forging a dynamic society by making available opportunities for higher learning to all students who believe in the power of education to change the trajectory of their lives and future generations.
The evening was an inspiring reminder that love, history, and innovation can illuminate our paths when we are willing to come together, learn from our past, be committed to serving the greater good, and to envision better solutions that help shape an impactful and just future for those who dare to believe and invest in this possibility.
Questions for Innovation:
How do you infuse the lessons of our collective history into your leadership approach?
How are you championing an atmosphere of inclusiveness and innovation in your sphere?
The Story Exchange: Dedicate a session to sharing personal stories resonating with the theme of resilience and ingenuity against adversity, promoting empathy and understanding.
The Innovation Challenge: Plan a mini "innovation day" for teams to brainstorm ways to back local philanthropic initiatives. The twist? Ideas should be inspired by historic events or figures.
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