• 90°

Black Belt’s potential is great

The potential is so great.

Each time we come together, I feel the potential.

Each time I talk with even one member, I perceive the potential.

Each time I think about it, I sense that the potential is so great.

I was powerfully reminded of these feelings and perceptions last week when we gathered for a retreat that ran from Sunday through Tuesday.

To be sure, there was a considerable sense of accomplishment.

The dominant sense, however, was that the potential is so great.

Few Alabama organizations have such a diverse membership: lots of blacks and whites; lots of women and men; substantial grassroots and not so grassroots; some young and others not so young; bankers and businessmen; students and educators; preachers and politicians; and so forth.

Anyone living in Alabama, especially the Alabama Black Belt, understands the obstacles challenging this achievement as well as the power and promise inherent in this diverse board.

The potential is so great.

The organization has a powerful vision of a transformed Black Belt where each contributes to the transformation and each benefits therefrom.

The organization has a challenging mission of forging a stream of giving from the community and other sources to help the people in the Black Belt to take what they have and make what they need.

The potential is so great.

The members have such commitment, such energy, such enthusiasm.

It is so infectious others are catching it all over the place.

The members are actually preaching that folks in the Black Belt know what is needed to help transform their communities.

More importantly, they are practicing what they preach.

I see the evidence in community meetings where citizens share accomplishments, hopes, dreams, commitments, energy and enthusiasm.

I see it in a grants process which says, “Tell us what’s really needed and let’s see how we can help.”

The potential is becoming performance.

This group was officially birthed on December 4, 2003.

It came to term at a retreat similar to the one we just had.

In truth, it started long before with two different groups pursuing two different visions of philanthropy for the Black Belt.

The initial footings were laid in September 2002 when Lanetta Gilbert of the Ford Foundation forged a marriage of the two efforts.

Potential was conceived shortly thereafter.

In such a short time, potential became performance.

This organization is far more than potential and promise.

It is an entity full of life, activity, growth and mushrooming accomplishments.

In two years of official life, much has been built on those early footings: a diverse and active 23 member Board; an appropriate office at 609 Lauderdale Street in Selma; an executive director and staff; functioning committees; and various initiatives.

In such a short time, the potential has become performance.

In these two years, this organization has forged relationships with the Ford Foundation, the Alabama Power Foundation, the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, the Jesse Ball Dupont Foundation and the UPS Foundation that resulted in significant resources.

In such a short time, the potential became performance.

The organization has established community associates in the 12 Black Belt counties it spans who help keep it firmly rooted in the grassroots.

It has joined in a forum on education and health with the Health and Education committees of the Black Belt Action Commission.

It has joined with groups such as the Demopolis School Foundation and Alabama Power Foundation to revitalize school foundations long lying dormant in all 12 counties.

In such a short time, the potential has become performance.

I see the power of our newest initiative to help everyone in the Black Belt and beyond to give of their time, talent and treasure.

There are the usual developmental approaches but utilizing giving circles that truly help everyone to give and get.

Then there are the grants, the frosting on the cake.

Just this year, this organization awarded some 55 grants ranging from $500 to $2,500 with several going above the range.

The total amount of the grants is about $120,000, and more is in the making.

The vision of a transformed Black Belt is taking root as the mission is being forged.

In such a short time, the potential is performance.

I think it’s about time that I told you that the organization that I speak is the Black Belt Community Foundation.

I should also tell you that as significant as the performance is, the potential is still so great.