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Member Perspectives
August 2020 | Black Philanthropy Month

Philanthropy Starts at Home
By: Latoya Lewis, Founder + Executive Director, EnventU

Black Philanthropy Month. I imagine most people are unaware of its existence. I would guess that National Pancake or Slurpee Days get more attention. Philanthropy is an act that I am intimately familiar with; not only as the Founder of a nonprofit that serves youth living in marginalized communities, but also as a Black woman who has practiced the actions of philanthropy before I knew what the word even meant.

It all started with Tommy and Aletheia Lewis. Every day I remind myself how blessed I am to be their daughter. And every day throughout my childhood (or so it seemed), my Father would say “When you ‘make-it’, you make sure you reach back and help others the way someone helped you.” My Dad would go on and on about the importance of family and personal responsibility to make sure that every generation does a little bit better than the one preceding it. These words were repeated to me so often I silently mocked them in my head.

I always thought to myself “Hold up! Why should I want ‘them’ to do better than me? I’m not living my life for ‘them’. I have things to do. Dreams to chase!” And chase my dreams I did! From starting college in Los Angeles to the offices of Universal Music Group; back to college and across the country to Washington, DC to make my mark on the East coast. In the District I finished up my Masters degree at George Washington University (GW) and landed my dream job planning and managing fabulous events. Life was not just good…it was good GOOD! Life was a dream…my dream.

My first step towards philanthropy began in 2009 at GW when I was encouraged to design without limits by creating a business plan for my “dream business”. It was then that the seeds for EnventU were planted. But was it really?! My Daddy’s words were so deeply ingrained in my character that as an adult they became my value system…my True North. Even being 3,000 miles away, I couldn’t escape them. A desire to make a positive impact in the lives of young people by sharing opportunity and access is exactly what my Dad preached to me for so many years. The seeds were planted but it would take another six-years before I would shift the focus from myself and nurture their growth. In 2015, EnventU was incorporated and officially born.

Now, as EnventU celebrates 5-years, our work with youth living in marginalized communities is needed now just as much as it was upon our founding. When I observe this current environment, we once again bear witness to the deep rooted atrocities of systemic racism, oppression, and social injustice. Like a tattered unwanted quilt being handed down from generation to generation these practices are weaved into the fabric of America. In this moment, I find myself understanding my Dad’s teachings in an entirely different way. The necessity and urgency of them becoming so evident to me.

Originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, Tommy Paul Lewis is a man that was subjected to the segregated South and witnessed first-hand the revolution of the Civil Rights Movement. A product of Martin and Malcom, he has experienced endorsed racism via a system that has failed his mother, father, and all three brothers. A system built to fail his uncles, aunts, cousins, and us as an entire people over and over and over again. He quickly grasped that as Black people living in America, life will not be fair for us. The lesson learned and to be handed down to me and my sisters? That the first law of nature must always be self-preservation. And when you “preserve” yourself, you should then reach back and help others do the same. Generational change, through Black Philanthropy, was the only way because in this country, “we all we got”. As I watch the “change agents” of today’s movement, I am hopeful this statement is losing some relevancy.

For me, Black Philanthropy started at home, is desperately still needed, and so deserving of a month, a year, a lifetime dedicated to its work. I can’t say that I was aware of this outcome while on my journey and building my career, but today I have committed my life to the acts of Philanthropy, Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity. And each day that I can make a positive impact in the lives of others through an industry I love, I feel very honored, blessed, and proud to do so. I know Tommy and Aletheia Lewis are pretty proud too. After all, EnventU is my father’s words in action.


ABOUT ENVENTU
EnventU is a workforce development program that creates a pipeline to professions™ in the event industry for high school students. Through various career tracks, custom curriculum, and training, we give industry experts the opportunity to help cultivate the next generation of event professionals through hands-on learning experiences both inside and out of the classroom. Our focus is reaching young people at a critical stage in their lives where personal and professional development must be cultivated and encouraged to ensure productivity in society.

EnventU values Education, Service, Community, and Philanthropy. These are universal to the human experience and can be far-reaching in their practice no matter your race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. To learn how you can support our student’s development, please follow @EnventUOrg or visit us at www.enventu.org.




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