America’s Leading Black Philanthropists

From education to health, African Americans pump billions into charities and causes, fueling their clout and mission to change the world

because they wanted to see the results of their giving during their lifetime.

“The biggest problem is not being able to give to more groups. And then there’s the frustration of not being able to give more money,” says Sylvia, noting that hundreds of requests are screened and narrowed down to roughly 35 for consideration. She holds dear a quote from the late Shirley Chisholm, “that service is the rent we pay for our space on this Earth.” —Carolyn M. Brown

CHRIS “LUDACRIS” BRIDGES A Good Rap on Charities People love rapper Chris “Ludacris” Bridges for his hits, such as Get Back and Stand Up. What they may not realize is that Bridges’ love for rap is only the tip of the iceberg. As a young DJ for Atlanta’s Hot 97.5, he began to take part in local community service projects. When Bridges noticed black children in his neighborhood without a sense of direction, he decided to concentrate on youth development. In December 2001, Bridges began The Ludacris Foundation (www.theludacrisfoundation.org) with partners William Engram and Chaka Zulu. “I wanted to give back. I wanted to help my community,” says Bridges. The foundation’s mission statement is “Helping youth help themselves.”

To date, the organization—run by his mother, Roberta Shields—has donated more than $500,000 to nonprofit organizations, focusing on educational programs for music and the arts. The foundation also targets the needs of abused, neglected, or homeless children and supports I’ndigo, an organization that awards two annual four-year scholarships of $10,000 to high school seniors.

Bridges does not just shell out cash and walk away. He takes a vested interest in every recipient of his foundation’s grants and scholarships. “My most memorable moment would have to be the time that I took this girl to her prom,” says Bridges, who made headlines when he escorted a wheelchair-bound teen living with cerebral palsy to the prom. For his tireless efforts, Bridges received the key to the city of Atlanta and a declaration proclaiming June 7 as Ludacris Foundation Day. Bridges is determined to make an impact in the lives of young people who have no hope or opportunity. “The youth are our future,” he says. —Sheiresa McRae

Making The Cut: The methodology behind our selection process
Emmett Carson, president of The Minneapolis Foundation, described it best: “Philanthropy is the giving of money, time, talent, or goods.” And we agree with him. For the purposes of this article, however, we chose to focus on philanthropy in terms of dollar amount. Our staff spent the last eight months in search of philanthropists from within our community. Some prospective candidates, however, didn’t want to reveal their charitable giving. Others had made pledges but not actual donations. Here’s how these philanthropists made the cut for our inaugural list:

Individuals For our list of individual philanthropists, we reached out to more than 300 entrepreneurs, professionals, executives, and lawyers who appeared on our top lists: Top 50 African Americans on Wall Street, America’s Top Black Lawyers, Top 75 Most Powerful Blacks in Corporate America, and

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