It’s 8:45AM when I arrive. It’s a familiar place to me, one that I’ve visited a few times during my two years at Berkeley, often for the occasional conference or academic lecture. I’ve grown accustomed to what this space at International House looks and feels like: interactions sanitized by professional formality, and rows of chairs positioned on the floor lecture style, all looking towards the “authority” on the stage.
Not this time, however. This time it feels different. Love is here. Both for the community and its individual members, but also for the work the members are involved in. This is the work of the Latino Community Foundation.
When you step up to the check-in table, there awaiting you are two smiles. Two staff members eager to take your name, give you a badge, and direct you to the next table of two smiles, warm greetings, and program materials. These brief moments of warm and personalized engagement set the tone for what is to come.
Inside the hall are about 16 large circular tables that sit about seven or eight people. Together, folks interact and talk about their lives and their work. It’s Latino Giving Circle (LGC) Retreat Day, so folks are eager to share about their experiences and, most importantly, to reconnect with friends and family.
I saw many things during my time at the retreat. For nearly six hours, I heard discussions of voter mobilization and citizen engagement; I heard topics of growth and support for Latino-led organizations; presenters shared about the history of philanthropy in America; and I saw community members – family – showing what philanthropy truly means.
One of the most poignant parts of the day for me came in the morning. Participants were asked to share with others who they are, who is the most generous person in their life, and what brings them joy. Perhaps the most memorable response for me came when one woman stood up to share who was the most generous person in her life. She spoke passionately about her mother, who was in attendance, standing right beside her. Hearing her story of the generosity that her mother displayed overwhelmed her and the audience. I personally found myself nearly moved to tears. The woman spoke in Spanish, and though I am void of fluency, I understood every word – the emotional meaning behind her remarks translates across language barriers. Everyone understood. I left saying to myself, “This is philanthropy.”
In today’s society, organizations like the Latino Community Foundation are important. I saw people working to provide an essential service to their 500 members and to the thousands who will be impacted by their work. It’s hard to be in a space like the LGC Retreat and not feel a call to action. Sure, the call to action is a political one – getting out the vote and building census awareness were at the top of the agenda. But the call is also a deeply personal one: what is your purpose and how are you living it out each and every day?
Core to the Latino Community Foundation’s purpose is to encourage members to think beyond popular notions of giving. Indeed, the guiding themes of Love, Culture, and Power require broader conceptualizations of philanthropy and community that aren’t captured simply by counting dollars and cents. Yes, money matters, but so does change. And so do people.
Written by Jeremy Martin, Ph.D. Student at UC Berkeley