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Miami civic leaders promote black philanthropy to strengthen community

A group of civic leaders met at Little Haiti Cultural Arts Complex Thursday, Feb.25, 2016, to discuss the state of black philanthropy in Miami. Pictured: Rebecca Mandelman, vice president for strategy at The Miami Foundation; attorney Marlon Hill; Charisse Grant, senior vice president for programs at Miami Foundation and Sandy Dorsainvil, Little Haiti Cultural Arts Complex manager.
A group of civic leaders met at Little Haiti Cultural Arts Complex Thursday, Feb.25, 2016, to discuss the state of black philanthropy in Miami. Pictured: Rebecca Mandelman, vice president for strategy at The Miami Foundation; attorney Marlon Hill; Charisse Grant, senior vice president for programs at Miami Foundation and Sandy Dorsainvil, Little Haiti Cultural Arts Complex manager. Miami Herald Staff

How can philanthropy address some of the most pressing issues facing the black community in Miami-Dade?

Tough question to answer, but one that a group of five civic leaders, led by attorney Marlon Hill, tackled at a State of Black Philanthropy conversation held Thursday night at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex. More than 150 people turned out to hear executives from the Miami Foundation, the Mourning Family Foundation, OneUnited Bank, UBS Financial Services and Greenberg Traurig discuss ways to grow philanthropy through collaboration, identifying needs and redefining its meaning.

Philanthropy, they said, is monetary but it’s also the giving of one’s talents to a community.

Since Saturday, urban violence in Miami has claimed the lives of a 6-year-old boy who was on his way to a candy store and a 17-year-old boy walking on a sidewalk.

“The black community faces a myriad number of challenges,” said Charisse Grant, a senior vice president at the Miami Foundation. “What might be the most pressing issue is a hard question to answer. . . . Currently, the issue of urban youth violence we are seeing, an escalation, is in many ways a top one of mine. We are talking about the tragic loss of lives and destruction of lives. The other is economic mobility and how that impacts education. Unless we figure out how to create new and better economic opportunities we tend to see the same problems from generation to generation. Philanthropy can play a big role.”

Identifying philanthropy is a start, said Hill, a partner with Hamilton, Miller & Birthisel. “The black community is growing, not contracting, more multicultural than it used to be, and it’s a community that has different views and perspectives on what it means to give and what it means to be a philanthropist. It’s important for us to follow what those trends are.”

The black community, Hill said, “has greater needs than the non-black community.” But giving is happening.

The black community is always viewed as receiving as opposed to giving and that has to change.

Marlon Hill, moderator of 2016 State of Black Philanthropy panel at Little Haiti Cultural Arts Complex.

At the hour-long panel, the group of five defined black philanthropy as “strong but subtle,” “non-traditional,” “under appreciated” and “emerging.”

Said Grant: “If you look at percentage of income, African-American households give a higher percentage of income. There’s clearly a lot of giving going on. The challenge of that is if you look at the raw wealth numbers . . . the assets of African Americans are much smaller. The upside of philanthropy is that anybody can give. It doesn’t have to have a lot of zeroes after it to qualify. It’s about generosity to move things forward.”

Teri Williams, president and chief operating officer of OneUnited Bank, which serves urban communities, said it is easy to become overwhelmed by the great needs. Rather, philanthropic success can be achieved “one step at a time, one need at a time. It’s important to have a portfolio of giving.”

Her recipe at OneUnited: “Try to touch areas where I feel our community has its greatest needs and recognize for some organizations even a small gift can go a long way.”

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen

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