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Black Philanthropy Month: Janice Jackson

During Black Philanthropy Month, we thought we’d take a moment to highlight not only one of our board members, but someone who’s made a huge impact on the future of education in Chicago. Former CEO of Chicago Public Schools Janice Jackson obviously played a role in shaping CPS during her time in their front office. Now,  she’s shifted gears to educational philanthropy with her nonprofit Hope Chicago, which made headlines earlier this year for funding scholarships for entire underserved high school classes. We talked with Jackson about the Black community’s relationship to philanthropy and her commitment to Chicago’s children through giving back. 

What does philanthropy mean to you?

Philanthropy is an important part of the social contract.  I believe that individuals who have more should find ways to support those who are less fortunate. My philosophy is that philanthropic dollars should reach those most proximate to the people that are being served. 

Why do you feel it’s important for the Black community to be involved in philanthropy? 

This is a great question, but first I have to dispel a huge myth related to Black philanthropy,  because it is a myth that Blacks are not involved in philanthropy in significant ways.  A study by The Urban Institute showed that black Americans give the largest share of their income to philanthropic causes compared to any other group.  Black giving is at 8% of income and has fluctuated higher during better economic times.  Giving by white Americans has remained constant at 2% of income levels. 

I think it is important that Black people continue the tradition that we’ve always had of supporting one another.  I also think this highlights the need for narrowing the wealth gap since we know that the more Blacks earn, the more likely Black communities will benefit. Most giving by black philanthropists is to higher ed, art, churches, and institutions serving Black communities.

Tell us about Hope Chicago. What has made you want to give back in this particular way, and what do you hope to do next with the organization? 

I believe Hope Chicago is the most transformational effort underway to address the wealth gap in Chicago.  We are ensuring that thousands of students and their parents/guardians have an opportunity to go to school and obtain a degree.  The research is clear that higher education is the best way to break cycles of generational poverty.  Through Hope Chicago, we intend to lift up families and whole communities.

What about ChicagoCAC keeps you engaged as a board member? 

ChicagoCAC provides a much-needed service to the community.  First and foremost, it protects children.  This is a cause near and dear to my heart.  Abuse is an area that people feel uncomfortable talking about, but the more things like this go unnoticed or are not talked about, the more the abuse persists. I also believe deeply in the leadership and staff at ChicagoCAC, and this is why I remain engaged with the organization. 

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