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‘Do Black people give?’ Christal Jackson, founder of Mosaic Genius, says yes!

Christal Jackson addressing the crowd at her annual gathering on Martha’s Vineyard (Photo Credit: Head & Heart Philanthropy)

Christal Jackson is the founder of Mosaic Genius and Head and Heart Philanthropy (HHP), social impact agencies focused on improving social, economic and educational outcomes for communities of color. She’s been recognized for her ability to convene and curate the best and brightest in this sector and has been well-noted for making a lasting impact in the venture philanthropy space by being a connector. Jackson attributes her success to having been groomed for leadership by the church, from serving as an intern with the Children’s Defense Fund to creating a marketplace for multi-million dollar initiatives focused on solving complicated social issues.

Having spent over two decades in the impact sector and providing access and opportunities to people that don’t necessarily have “access”, Jackson is well versed in giving. When asked the question “Do Black people give?,” her answer was a resounding yes!  The following is what she shared:

“I’ve worked in the impact sector now for the past 20 years and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked the question, “Do Black People Give?” My answer has always been “yes,” followed up with “We give differently.”

The traditional philanthropy model has rarely been our model. Two years ago, during my signature gathering on Martha’s Vineyard, we started an important conversation about the way we give. Two weeks ago, the richest African American in the country showed that, indeed, we do give and yes, we give differently.

What do you mean by giving differently? Robert Smith chose to give to an HBCU and black students at their commencement ceremony. The gift that he and his family gave to these young men paid for their education. His gift spoke of the value we as a community place on achieving a higher education. More importantly, he recognized what it means to be debt free.

Many African Americans make career decisions based on their need to start employment immediately after college in order to pay off student loans. However, Robert Smith’s investment has put many of the students of the graduating class who would have likely deferred graduate school or entrepreneurship like their white counterparts in a better position.

He literally leveled the playing field and likely shifted the trajectory of families for generations with the next generation of black fathers.

Robert Smith’s gift reflects what I’ve hoped philanthropy would learn for a long time:

  • Philanthropy is cultural. African Americans believe in investing in people and seeing the direct impact of our investment is important to us.
  • We give to people with a journey that reflects our own. Robert Smith, with all of his success, understands that the road to success for these young men will be difficult but succeeding in life is possible.
  • We value education!
  • We know the importance of HBCUs and the quality students that they produce.

Robert Smith’s investment is reflective of what philanthropy should look like. It can be personal and impactful. It should have a systemic impact and not just tickle our need for “feeling good” about our deed for today. It should meet a real need.

I’m so happy African American’s like myself who have decided to make a career in social impact, can answer the question that we are asked, “Do black people give?” I answer with a bold yes and direct people to the New York Times article about an African American business man who wasn’t a household name, but was able to have a huge impact on young African American men, their families and ultimately their community for generations to come.

Thank you, Mr. Smith…”

Christal Jackson holds a dual degree in Psychology and Religion from Spelman and a Masters of Theological Studies from Duke. Her work in the social impact sector has garnered numerous awards and recognition. She’s also the author of “Women of Color Pray: Voices of Strength, Faith, Healing, Hope, and Courage,” and serves on multiple boards including Harlem Tech Fund, Motown Museum National Leadership Council and Howard University School of Divinity – Board of Visitors. Learn more about Mosaic Genius and Jackson’s philanthropy efforts by visiting her website: 

Mosaic Genius’ annual gathering on Martha’s Vineyard (Photo Credit: Head & Heart Philanthropy)