Exhale. . . ah.

President Obama. I can’t stop saying the name. “Yes We Can!” I’m reminded of Negro spirituals (“We Shall Overcome”, “I Wanna Be Ready”, “Ain’t That Good News”) and Stevie Wonder songs (“Overjoyed”, “For Once In My Life”, “We Can Work It Out”, “Higher Ground”). These are not just songs but anthems because the events they mention have been realized. This is my first blog posting on Urban Thought Collective focusing on giving and philanthropy.

Giving is something we do all the time, but it doesn’t always go by that name. We do so in many ways but we do not always identify it as giving. Giving is when we send a cousin money for books because their financial aid check hasn’t arrived, when we give an offering to our church, when we help a family member who is having trouble paying the rent one month or when we decide to make a donation to our high school or college. All of this is philanthropy but we don’t usually identify it as such. When we think of philanthropists we think of philanthropists with a capital “P” people like Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey or Russell Simmons who have given millions and billions to charity. But you don’t have to have Oprah-money or be on the Forbes list of the wealthiest Americans to be a philanthropist. You can be a philanthropist by giving $100, $500, or $1000. Philanthropist is a big word but the concept is simple: Philanthropists are people who want to use their time, talents, and income to make a difference and “be the change they want to see in the world.”

We learned many lessons in this campaign but one of the biggest lessons is that nothing is impossible. If we can elect an African-American President, we can eliminate the school to prison pipeline for young black men. If we can elect an African-American president, we reduce the devastating effect of HIV on the African-American community. If we can elect an African-American President, we can reduce crime and poverty in our communities. If we can elect an African-American President, we can eliminate educational disparity. Yes We Can.

Now that the election is over our thoughts have turned to speculation over cabinet appointments, jockeying for tickets to the Inauguration and Inaugural Balls (let me know if you have any leads) and questions about the new first dog. We can take a few weeks off and bask in the glow of the moment but then its back to work. Remember that before we had President Obama we had Community Organizer Obama, a man who dedicated his career to strengthening our communities and giving voice to the voiceless. Each of us can help President Obama if we adopt his community organizer spirit and contribute to the strengthening of our communities. Just as Senator Obama needed our help to get him elected, President Obama needs our help to make our communities stronger. He can’t do it all from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

During the campaign we engaged in the political process in many ways: knocked on doors, conducted voter registration drives, made phone calls, worked on get out the vote efforts and most importantly voted on November 4th. We contributed in our own ways but we were engaged. In fact during this election we were engaged and more politically active than at any time since the Civil Rights Movement. Let’s not lose that momentum but now turn our focus to making our communities stronger.

There are many ways to engage in philanthropy and charitable activities, but the first step is committing. Many of us have a range of emotions when hearing about social and economic problems in our local and international communities: frustration—there are so many problems but what are the solutions; helplessness—can one person make a difference; and complacency—those problems don’t really affect my daily life. But each of us can help by volunteering, mentoring a child and/or making a donation to a nonprofit organization. These actions are rewarding, gratifying and necessary.

So if you’re already engaged in your community, great! Commit to give more time or money to the causes you care about and recruit a friend or colleague to your volunteer effort. If you are not engaged in some way, now is a great time to start. Commit to mentoring a child, volunteering at a soup kitchen or making a contribution to a nonprofit organization before January 20, 2009, the day we usher in a new era in our nation. Each of us can do our part to make sure that every African-American child has the same sense of hope and opportunities as Sasha and Malia Obama. We should all do what we can to nurture and support the next generation of Barack Obamas who are hopeful about their future and now know that they can grow up to be President of the United States.

Find your passion and take action. Once you’ve done so you’ll be able to say I did what I could to improve the large societal problems we face as a community, nation and world. One person can make a difference.

As will.i.am said, “It’s a New Day” and we each need to do our part. YES WE CAN, YES WE SHOULD, YES WE MUST.

Angelia Dickens is an attorney and author with lots of thoughts and opinions, and now a place to share them (other than with her friends and family). Her blog is a compilation of her musings and commentary on charitable giving, volunteerism and philanthropy from an African-American perspective. Her writings have appeared in the Nonprofit Times and the Root.com. She can be reached at speakyourvoice@gmail.com. Read, comment and circulate.

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November 15th, 2008 at 1:28 am SweetSis says:

Welcome to UTC Angelia! You are a very accomplished sister and I look forward to reading your work!

November 15th, 2008 at 8:26 am PATTY CAKE says:

This is definitely a perspective I’ll enjoy reading on UTC.
Philanthropy in the black community needs to have a resurgence. I’m looking forward to your blog very much.

November 15th, 2008 at 10:11 am kellie woodson says:

Hi Ang, loved the message. As an educator I am blessed to be able to give of myself and positively impact the lives of children daily. It is such a good feeling to be a black female science teacher and truly enjoy what I do. I love the fact that I can interact with my students and not only be representative of a successful black female, but a passionate black female who enjoys her career. Its this image that goes far beyond the subject area, its a lesson in life for the students [black, white, latino, asian, etc / male and female] that Yes You Can!

November 15th, 2008 at 11:31 am Jalissa Lareaux says:

Great point on Malia and Sasha.

November 15th, 2008 at 2:26 pm Justine Henry says:

great advice we all have to start somewhere

November 15th, 2008 at 4:57 pm culturepop says:

Welcome to our family!
I appreciate your message and I will definitely pass it on. We can all do our part and make a difference if we don’t keep thinking we aren’t enough.. bravo!

November 15th, 2008 at 10:01 pm CeaseNYC says:

Welcome from me too.
What kind of attorney are you?
I used to want to be one growin up, but real life caught up with me if you know what I mean.

November 16th, 2008 at 12:05 am Tawnie says:

Its never too late Cease. Welcome to UTC Angelia. I like your subject matter.

November 16th, 2008 at 6:44 am nicq says:

Grea blog..i totally agree…change is happening!

November 16th, 2008 at 8:07 am SMARTA$$ says:

Welcome MISSY!!!!

November 16th, 2008 at 10:22 am Mr.Fantastic says:

ha ha at the song!!! its damn sure right

November 16th, 2008 at 1:40 pm Elsa Harkins says:

Passion in Action - I heard that! - Happy to have you!

November 17th, 2008 at 11:14 am Ashley says:

Don’t forget a ” A Change Is Gonna Come” everytime I see him that song fills my head. I love this new blog, welcome. I have really wanted to find away to get more involved.

November 17th, 2008 at 11:30 am Ingrid says:

This is just a great message for all of us!

November 17th, 2008 at 11:32 am Kettle Blk says:

This is how our ancestors healed the times they were in they got together and each one did their part to make their area better that is what’s up!

November 17th, 2008 at 11:56 am Bernadette says:

This is a fantastic beginning. I look forward to more of your thoughtful musings as we go forward with hope and optimism and a belief we can make an impact, even if it’s only one person at a time. Thanks also for letting me know how to mentor a high school student here in NYC.


November 17th, 2008 at 7:36 pm Stephanie says:

Welcome! This is a great start for a new year of changes. We gotta start giving back anyway we can.

November 17th, 2008 at 7:41 pm Sheldon says:

Great message and congrats on the blog!

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