Preserve or Rich History of Philanthropy

Article excerpt

I've always had a love for history, spending countless hours in museums and libraries, and devouring history books and biographies on business, politics, and presidents, among other topics. I've found that past reference has proven invaluable in providing guidance for current actions and future planning. It offers constructive lessons for business and life.

That's why I attended the groundbreaking ceremony of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture in late February--an event that brought out the President and First Lady and roughly 600 business leaders and influential citizens--with our Director of Photography Lonnie C. Major and Senior Producer/Correspondent Shannon Lanier (see their photo gallery and video, respectively, on BlackEnterprise. com). At that event, I gained insight into the effort to create a monument to black achievement as well as a chance to speak to one of the few living legends of the civil rights movement, Rep. John Lewis. "I think as this museum is being built, all Americans will come to appreciate the contribution of African Americans and see their own history," says Lewis, who fought 12 years to gain authorization from Congress to build the institution on the National Mall.

I also met Lonnie G. Bunch III, the noted historian and visionary founding director who is creating this bit of history by developing the most expansive repository of black life in the world. In arguably the largest private fundraising effort directed by African Americans, Bunch has managed to gain the support of corporate leaders and business elite--including Citigroup Chairman Dick Parsons, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, American Express CEO Ken Chenauh, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell--as well as HBCU alum, community groups, and even schoolchildren.

His example demonstrates that we can come together not only to preserve our history but to propel our communities. …