Central Dallas Ministries Urban Engagement Book Club hosts years first discussion

cdm-logo2.jpgLarry James and Central Dallas Ministries hosted their first Urban Engagement Book Club meeting of 2008.  The discussion was held at Highland Park United Methodist Church.

This month, the group discussed two books: 

The Foundation: A Great American Secret How Private Money is Changing the World by Joel Fleishman

The Revolutions Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex by Incite! Women of Color Against Violence

Most of the folks at the meeting (including yours truly) had not read the books.  Fortunately for us, Randy Mayeux had, and he gave participants a recap of each book.

There was quite a bit of contrast between the two books.  Foundation was about philanthropic organizations and how they distribute their money.  The book was very supportive of foundations while challenging them to create better oversight and ease restrictions on groups that they fund.  Revolutions was pretty much anti-foundation, suggesting that movements are compromised when they begin to accept money from these types of groups.  One of the quotes to that effect:

Foundations have been directly involved in squelching revolutionary movements in the Third World.  The Ford Foundaions was actively involved through its various programs in diverting the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa from an anti-capitalist to a pro-capitalist movement. 

This was all interesting.  Meetings in the ivory tower are necessary, and many of the people in the room were directly involved with the subject matter discussed.   The whole time I was driving to the lunchtime meeting I thought about the irony of an urban engagement discussion in Highland Park.   The group will hold one of these book club meetings each month.  I'd like to see at least a couple of them held in the areas they are looking to engage.

This is in no way a shot at Mr. James or CDM, who do on the ground work in communities every day.  But Mr. Mayeux made an interesting point during the discussion of why some philanthropists give. He suggested that many of them give because they are guilty about how they made their money. I think this is true even for those who don't have large sums of money.  They give money from a distance rather than "putting boots on the ground."

I was encouraged by the potential of the book club, and I'm looking forward to discussing at least two other books on the list.  Those books are Come on People by Bill Cosby (reviewed here by Dallas South) in September, and White Metropolis by Michael Phillips in November.  Mr. James and Central Dallas Ministries continue to lead by example.  I thank board member Wilton Hollins for inviting me to today's event.

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