When I was in college, Toni Morrison’s recently-published novel, Beloved, was assigned reading for an American Literature class. The professor wanted us to read from a wide array of authors who would challenge our perspectives on the world, class and identity. She did all of that with Beloved.
As a young white male from an almost all-white suburb of Detroit, Morrison opened my eyes to a world of pain, suffering, redemption, hope and grace like I had never experienced before. Other novels like Sula, Song of Solomon, and The Bluest Eye were quickly devoured, and I became a dedicated Morrison reader.
It was quite a sad day earlier this month when I read of Morrison’s passing. I was taken back to vivid recollections of her writings. One of my good friends, Deb Taft, a national nonprofit executive search leader, shared this quotation from Toni Morrison on LinkedIn:
“I tell my students, when you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”
Morrison’s legacy is beautifully summed up in this simple declaration.
I have returned to these words each day since her passing, thinking about the role that The San Diego Foundation can play in our County. Morrison gives us a clear directive. The Foundation needs to be very intentional in its everyday work to be a change-maker for those who feel they are not free, powerless and do not belong. Throughout the American Experience, philanthropy, I believe, has done the most sustained good when it is focused on providing a hand-up.
As I start my fourth month at The Foundation, I look forward to meeting and coming to know as many of our fundholders and donors as possible.
For those who have an interest in hearing information and learning of new ideas to influence their grantmaking, we will focus on helping people attain their freedom, feel empowered and gain a sense that they belong here in San Diego County.
If you don’t have a fund at The San Diego Foundation, but Morrison’s words call you to act, please reach out to me at the email below. My team and I will be more than happy to talk with you about becoming a change-maker right here at home.