From “A History of Ida May” Broadsheet, written by John Albion Andrew, 1855.

From “A History of Ida May” Broadsheet, written by John Albion Andrew, 1855.

Mary’s Giving Circle

In the acknowledgements of Girl in Black and White, I wrote: "I plan to donate 25 percent of the proceeds of this book, and any future earnings from the telling of Mary’s story, to organizations that serve communities of color, and those that work toward liberation in our present moment." In honor of Mary Mildred Williams, we are forming a Giving Circle to redistribute profits from the sale of Girl in Black and White.

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Why a Giving Circle?

I vowed not to profit from Mary’s story. Profit motivated the enslavement that Mary and her family experienced, and greed combined with racial bias remains a pernicious problem. I have already benefitted in innumerable ways from taking on this project, so I want to make an honest attempt to redistribute any material wealth it creates.

In my research into photography and reform movements, I've learned that people are often moved, even to tears, by poster children. Mary's photo was circulated, and she was presented on stage, first, to raise awareness, but more urgently, to raise funds to free her uncles. Think of the photographs of suffering or threatened children you have seen this year, from our borders, from Syria, from Yemen. What do these photographs ask of us?

First comes awareness, and attention paid, but then after that. . .what is an appropriate next action? This issue plagued the abolition movement -- how to convert the vast readership of Uncle Tom's Cabin into activists? How can we make immediate & effective action for the enslaved without resorting to violence? Reform in the 19th century follows a recipe that works in the 21st century: to make necessary change, you agitate & march; you work for reform in the halls of power; you make changes in your business practices and spending habits; you research, criticize, and write/act/draw about the great wrongs of your generation; AND you give money to those people on the ground, doing the hard work in their own communities.

Giving money never feels like enough. But groups working in social justice often go underfunded. Oppression is often economic at its base, so giving is a good place to start. Transformational justice sometimes requires that we recognize where our own power lies.

Right now, I have the power of your attention, and I hope to convert at least some of that energy into an immediate boost to the network of people who are developing long-term solutions to the pressing problem of racial injustice in our time.

Who are we Giving to?

So far we have donated to the following organizations. Feel free to make a direct contribution using the links or the “Donate Directly” button at the bottom of the page.

  • $500 to the Institute for Women and Ethnic Studies, in honor of beta-reader Aundrea Gregg. “Founded in 1993, the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies (IWES) is a national non-profit health organization domiciled in New Orleans. Many people of color and their families in the Greater New Orleans area do not have access to programs that address their full mental, emotional and physical health. This prevents people in our city from living fully healthy lives and weakens our communities. Because of this, IWES works with communities, schools, individuals and organizations to provide tailored health and wellness services that address this lack of health options and access. We combine advocacy, health education, research and direct services to improve wellness in local communities. Ultimately, when New Orleans is a city that puts health first, our people live happier, more resilient lives and our communities will be stronger!”

  • $500 to the Cornell Prison Education Program in honor of beta-reader Lenora Warren. “Our work supports a regional collaboration that brings together Cornell faculty and graduate students to teach a free college-level liberal arts curriculum to a select group of inmates at Auburn Correctional Facility and Cayuga Correctional Facility. The credits can be applied toward an associates degree from Cayuga Community College. The Cornell Prison Education Program is dedicated to supporting incarcerated persons’ academic ambitions and preparation for successful re-entry. We believe that Cornell faculty and student engagement as instructors at correctional facilities manifests Ezra Cornell’s commitment to founding an institution where ‘any person can find instruction in any study.’”

  • $500 to Bard Early College in New Orleans in honor of beta-reader Denise Frazier. “Bard Early College in New Orleans (BECNO) engages bright, intellectually curious students through a tuition-free, immersive liberal arts curriculum. By promoting authentic and supportive undergraduate opportunities, BECNO faculty and staff prepare students of all academic backgrounds for further college success. BECNO runs a half-day college campus in partnership with the Louisiana Department of Education, enrolling over 100 students from public high schools across New Orleans. BECNO campuses are among the most rigorous and inclusive early colleges in the country. In the 2018-19 school year, students enrolled in our full-day, degree-granting program will have the opportunity to earn a Bard College Associate in the Arts degree.”

  • $200 to Project Butterfly New Orleans is an African-centered rites of passage program that provides mentoring and culturally-rooted programming to prepare girls of African descent for their transition from adolescence to adulthood.

  • $250 to Equip Mozambique, an educational faith-based mission in Beria, Mozambique, led my cousins Carla and Jon Reinagel and their community partners. Equip Mozambique is currently assisting in the relief effort in Beira and the surrounding communities after the landfall of Cyclone Idai.

  • $50 to Shakti, meaning strength, working to end violence and discrimination against women of color in New Zealand and Australia. This donation is made in remembrance of those 50 people who lost their lives to hate and white supremacy in Christchurch New Zealand, during the week of this book’s launch, March 2019. Shakti Community Council Inc., set up by ethnic women for ethnic women, works to overcome the barriers that come with migration, domestic violence in the community, and the intergenerational bonds of cultural oppression. 

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Donations TO DATE