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BPM 2013 | A conversation with David L. Howard
August 15, 2013
In observance of Black Philanthropy Month,Valaida Fullwood, local idea whisperer and co- author of Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists, interviews, in a multi-part series, a number of Charlotte African Americans engaged in multiple facets of philanthropy and focuses on interests and concerns, 50 years after Dr. King’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech.
David L Howard: Senior Vice President of Special Projects and Community Affairs, The Housing Partnership
Years as a Charlottean: 43 years
Education: University of North Carolina at Charlotte, with BA in Sociology
Philanthropic Involvement: Board Member, African-American Community Foundation and member of various scholarship selection committees of the years
(Finish this sentence) Black Philanthropy is . . . The participation and efforts of African-Americans to collectively focus their resources and time in supporting individuals and organizations that strengthen the community overall, with a particular emphasis on their own community. The ultimate goal would be to lead by example in promoting higher levels of participation for the broader African-American community in such vital efforts.
What is your first memory of generosity?
Probably my grandmother’s support of my mother when I was younger. As a single parent, my mother worked hard to provide for my sister and me. My grandmother, or Mama Jake as we affectionately called her, was extremely helpful in making sure we had the basics we needed, and some of the extras we wanted. Being a nurse, I also saw her kind heart as it related to others in her neighborhood. She was the unofficial neighborhood nurse.
How does that memory influence your philanthropy and your work in the field of philanthropy?
My grandmother’s dedication to serving and helping others became a part of who I am. I have spent the majority of my career on the grant seeker side of philanthropy, which has given me a greater appreciation and respect for the need for more individuals to get involve. Philanthropy is important and necessary to support and undergird the social fabric of our community. Government and business cannot do it all. Philanthropy provides the community the opportunity to participate.
Tell us about The Housing Partnership, including its history and mission.
The Housing Partnership was created out of the efforts of a community task force in the mid-1980s to promote the development of more affordable housing. Since being established in 1988, the organization has grown from a small two-person shop, to an organization of more than 35 employees. The Housing Partnership has either developed and/or financed over 2,500 housing units. The organization has also led the efforts to revitalize six inner-city communities. The goal has always been to fill the gap between the housing provided by public housing and housing provided by the market.
What does your position at The Housing Partnership entail?
As the SVP of Special Projects and Community Affairs, I oversee the community affairs, public relations, marketing and fundraising efforts of the organization. I am also currently overseeing the redevelopment efforts of the 90+ acre Brightwalk at Historic Double Oaks community, which is a mile from the Center City.
When the housing crisis struck five or six years ago, what was the impact on your work?
Interesting enough, because so much of the public funding and private philanthropy funding was focused on non-profits, especially in foreclosure prevention, we saw some growth in our housing ownership program. However, the financing and underwriting of real estate development deals has gotten more difficult to do.
How have issues from the housing crisis affected Black families and communities of color?
The effects of the housing crisis definitely affected minority families more directly than others. The unemployment rate continues to be stubbornly high as it relates to the minority community. So the lack of employment and even under-employment has affected all aspects of family’s well-being, including housing.
What are some of your thoughts on where America stands 50 years after Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech?
The election of President Obama twice obviously says we’ve come a mighty long way since Dr. King’s speech. My fear is that too many people feel that this accomplishment should be enough. Yes, we have more minorities graduating college and finding success in both the public and private arenas. But the goal should be complete parity. I think Dr. King would be pleased with our progress, but would guard against slowing down.
When it comes to society or our community, what is your “dream” or aspiration?
One where my children can be assured that opportunities will be open to them any place and at any time throughout our country.
In terms of your philanthropic endeavors, what’s your “mountaintop” or highest achievement to date?
Constant and consistent support to my church. This speaks to my commitment to charity and my faith. Having now achieved more in my career, I have also begun the process of supporting more community-based efforts. The most significant in social value would be my efforts to help Project L.I.F.T.
Name a book that has shaped your philanthropy.
I know it sounds cliché, but probably The Bible. The concept of charity and doing for others is a spiritual tenet.
How can readers have a positive affect on the issues of housing and homeownership? And how can they support people struggling with these issues?
Housing has several tiers of service delivery and needs. The range of needs go from homelessness all the way to foreclosure prevention. There are government agencies and non-profit organizations such as The Housing Partnership working to address these issues. I would ask that individuals find the niche on the housing continuum that most interest them and either volunteer and/or contribute to those efforts.
Please leave us with a favorite quote that characterizes an aspect of your philanthropy.
"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no person can sincerely try to help another without helping themselves." — Ralph Waldo Emerson
For more information visit BlackPhilanthropyMonth.com and follow the hashtag #BPM2013
CV thanks Johnson C. Smith, our sponsor for this series.