T'Sey-Haye Marie Preaster

Praxis Internship and Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Research

"Philanthropy is about ideas and values as well as action [. . .] it is always an effort to blend the ideal with the practical." — Robert L. Payton

In spring 2009, I was awarded a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship to conduct independent research in consultation with my faculty mentor, Professor Riché J. D. Barnes. My research examines Black women's leadership in philanthropy in the U.S. (c. 1896–1950). I chose this topic because while history shows that Black women have worked for the uplift of their sex and race, scholars have not fully examined nor clearly articulated the meaning and impact of their philanthropic labor.

During my first summer of research as a Mellon Fellow, I conducted a literature review of scholarship related to Black women&##39;s patronage over time and across socio-economic and political sectors. I was also compelled to give back by putting my study of Black women's philanthropy to work within my community. So, I combined my Praxis summer internship with my Mellon fellowship. For twelve weeks, during the summer of 2009, I served as a grants program intern at The Rhode Island Foundation (RIF) in my hometown of Providence. As an intern, I engaged my research from multiple perspectives—as a scholar, community volunteer, and first-time donor.

In the grants program department at the RIF, I researched funding initiatives in education and presented my findings before senior staff, and at the conclusion of the internship, I helped to organize a cultivation event for the RIF's Black Philanthropy Initiative (BPI)—a $1 million campaign to establish the state's first permanently endowed fund to address the needs and aspirations of the state's Black community. The cultivation event was geared toward young professionals of color and generated over $15,000 in new gifts and pledges to the fund. Most importantly, it rallied a previously untapped community around a historic cause and engaged first-time donors, like myself, to the RIF and BPI.

This past summer, 2010, I focused my research on the early history and leadership of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACW). I conducted archival research on the NACW's history and philanthropic work at the Sophia Smith Collection here at Smith and the Moorland-Spingarn Archives at Howard University. I reviewed original papers and manuscripts on the NACW and its first president, Mary Church Terrell (1896 to 1900). Through archival research, I learned a great deal about the ideological perspectives on charitable giving and race and gender uplift for and by Black Club Women.

Currently, I am continuing my Mellon research and working on a special studies project with Professor Barnes to examine the activist and reformist nature of Black women's philanthropy. I am also building a corresponding theoretical framework that incorporates critical race, culture, and Black feminist theories to help articulate the unique nature of Black women's philanthropic work. Through each of these projects, I have had a unique opportunity to explore what it means to "blend the ideal with the practical," and enhance my studies within the AAS major.

T'Sey-Haye is a senior with a double major in Afro-American studies and sociology