In celebration of Black History Month, the Trust is featuring insights from philanthropists and leaders who are making a difference in the Chicago region. Be sure to take a look at our social media channels for more stories throughout the month.
African American Legacy (AAL), an initiative of The Chicago Community Trust, is a philanthropic and educational initiative led by African American civic and community leaders who share the common goal of improving the quality of life among African Americans throughout metropolitan Chicago. AAL engages African Americans in philanthropy, collectively and individually, and provides support to grassroots and nonprofit organizations working on the ground to solve community problems.
AAL is driven by its mission and committed to supporting innovation that influences real change in the community—innovation that influences a positive shift toward sustainability, longevity, and prosperity of Chicago’s African American community.
Outgoing AAL Chair Baronica Roberson and incoming AAL Chair Troy Boyd, Jr. recently shared reflections on the meaningful work of the initiative:
Why is African American Legacy important to you?
Baronica Roberson: AAL is important to me because its goal of improving the quality of life among African-Americans throughout metropolitan Chicago aligns with both my personal and professional goals. Through the transformative power of collective giving, AAL consistently improves the quality of life among African Americans in Chicago. And AAL has been strategic in its focus of raising awareness and advocating on issues affecting Chicago’s African-American community, developing civic leaders, cultivating donors, funding grass-roots community focused organizations, and building philanthropic assets.
Troy Boyd, Jr.: AAL is important to me because of the mission and impact it has on Chicago’s African American community. I was born and raised in this city; I grew up in a community that felt the ramifications of lacking resources. I witnessed the economic disinvestment in businesses and schools in my neighborhood. AAL’s work is a direct response to these struggles. It’s all about providing support, resources, and solutions that address many of these problems. I’m honored to be a part of the work to bring about change for so many people who need it.
Share your proudest moment involving the initiative.
BR: AAL makes me proud in the work we do, and there have been several moments that made me excited to be a part of such a great initiative. One of my proudest moments involving AAL was in our development of the bi-annual “Reaching Forward and Giving Back” philanthropy award. This awards celebration bridged the gap between seasoned philanthropists and emerging next generation philanthropists. This event followed very closely with our development of the Donald Stewart Fellowship award—it’s purpose is to highlight Black community leaders who embody Donald Stewart’s legacy, whose leadership and dedication to the fields of philanthropy and education have left a last impacting on the Black community. Being charged with developing an awards program for someone as pivotal to the African American community was truly an honor.
TBJ: When I think about what makes me most proud involving AAL, my mind immediately goes to the moment I was selected to be a member of the board. AAL’s board is comprised of women and men who are community and civic professionals with a wide range of experience across various industries. They are leaders in their respective fields with a deep commitment to addressing the needs of the African American community in Chicago. I have so much respect and admiration for each and every one of them.
Another moment that makes me incredibly proud of AAL is our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the start of the pandemic, no one would have predicted what the next two years would look like. It was a time of great uncertainty and fear in so many ways. I remember having an emergency meeting with the Grants Committee and while we didn’t know exactly what we could do, we were determined to do something to assist our grant recipients. We ended up distributing emergency grants to organizations in our portfolio. That moment truly illustrated just how impactful the work of AAL really is.
What are you hopeful for in the future of African American Legacy?
BR: I am most hopeful for the legacy of collective giving being passed like a baton to the next generation to carry the message forward. Not just the giving of financial treasures, but also of time and talent.
TBJ: I’m hopeful about the opportunity to continue AAL’s legacy of positively shifting Chicago’s African American community towards sustainability, longevity, and prosperity. We have made so many strides since AAL’s inception, but there is still so much work to be done. I’m excited to lead that charge.