A group of entrepreneurs, business owners, and philanthropist came to the city for the first-ever philanthropists conference in Trenton, New Jersey. They walked out with options, information, and inspiration to make their world a better place.
“Today is transformative,” said Tyrell Smith, Board Treasurer for the Smith Family Foundation. “This is one of the unique situations where we have a gathering of philanthropic leaders, funders and nonprofit leaders all coming together to discuss a topic on how can we move the culture of black philanthropy forward.”
Bridging The Gap: Blacks In Philanthropy was a conference hosted at the Smith Family Foundation. It was the first of its kind to be hosted in Mercer County. Behind it all was Katherine Nunnally, the Executive Director and CEO of the Smith Family Foundation; she has worked as a philanthropist in the City of Trenton.
“Some people ask why blacks in philanthropy, what are we talking about? My question or my response is always, why not blacks in philanthropy? Why not talk about, you know, the $11 billion the African American community is giving away each year to improve the lives of people in our communities? Right, why not have that conversation?” Nunnally said.
She continues, “Because most times we’re having conversations about African Americans being a consumer-based community. And we’re not having the conversation about us being a philanthropic community.”
Philanthropists came from the city and the state of learning by attending different lectures like Philanthropy in Capitalism vs. Philanthropy in Culture and Philanthropic Response to COVID19 and the Racial and Social Injustice during the Pandemic led by Dr. Valerie Arthur and Sharnita Johnson.
“I’m learning so much about the actual business of philanthropy,” said Eric Wall, owner of EB Fit INC and a Trenton resident. “I’m new to the whole sector of philanthropy. Just the idea of the vision and networking…It’s been it’s been amazing.”
Wall explained that he wanted to forge a way in this field. “Just knowing the experience of other people who have had success in philanthropy, what they’ve been through, the challenges that they face, the success that they had, and the things that they want to do moving forward. It just allows me to have a heads up on what to expect as I go through my journey in this field,” Wall said.
Ana Obika, Community Liaison with Camp Fire, agreed, explaining that this renewed her faith in her work with the community.
“It’s confirmed our work in Mercer County, especially for me. There’s a special place in my heart for Trenton, New Jersey. It’s just a confirmation of being purposeful in what you do in your mission and delivering the services, so it’s been a beautiful day sharing and hearing how we are all in this mission together, this journey,” Obika said.
This conference hosted over a hundred different seasoned and new philanthropists, then connected them with community and state resources. Smith said that they put conference goers in the room with funders.
“That’s something that may not have happened before. And now we’re giving these organizations a chance to, to be in a room with the people that they’re seeking funding from and build relationships with these people and cultivate relationships with the people so you can be able to be on the radar to receive funding from the organizations,” Smith said.
The Smith Foundation has been in Trenton since 2016 and has been on a mission to improve the quality of life for residents in their hometown of Trenton.
“If we all pull together, then we can make a big difference in the communities that we live in, “Nunnally said. “I’m a native Torontonian, and when we decided to do this foundation, it was on the heart of the Smith family to work in Trenton. And sometimes we have these conversations… I have to remind people. I have to remind people that the Smith family has been a Trenton for five generations. That’s a long time. So this is our home.”