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Washtenaw United: The underrecognized history of Black philanthropy

"Giving Back" logo
"Giving Back" logo


Collin Mays

Collin Mays
Collin Mays

Mr. Mays has a long passion for public service. He has spent his entire career in the public sector and truly believes in the power of giving back. Most recently he served as Community and Economic Development for Delta Charter Township located in Michigan. He has been credited with assisting several small and minority-owned businesses with securing grants, and other means of capital for operation. Additionally, Mr. Mays has been recognized for workforce development program innovation. He received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Western Michigan University and master’s degree in Public Administration from Oakland University.

Mr. Mays has been featured in multiple publications and has received various awards for his professional work. He is a 2015 Michigan Chronicle 40 under 40 and a Crain’s Detroit Business 20 in their 20’s class of 2019. Collin is an active member of ICMA (International City/County Management Association) and NFBPA (National Forum for Black Public Administrators).

As Director, Mr. Mays is responsible for administering, enforcing, and monitoring the Living Wage Program, MBE/WBE/SBE certification programs, and Local, State & Federal Prevailing Wage laws as well as community outreach.

Janet Haynes

Janet Haynes
African American Endowment Fund
Janet Haynes

"I was born and raised in Chicago and moved to Ann Arbor in 1971 where I took a position at U/M Institute for Social Research. After graduating from the U/M School of Music in Chorale Music Education in 1975, I sought teaching positions in the Ann Arbor and surrounding area public schools. Unable to find a teaching position in the area, I took a position at Sycor, an engineering firm, as secretary to the Vice President. I discovered that I and the business field fit well together and remain in that field as my profession. The president and founder of the firm started another engineering firm called Irwin International and I was asked to assume the position of manager of the documentation department."

"Wanting to stay involved in music, in 1980, I became a member of the Willis Patterson Our Own Thing Chorale where I am still a member, serving as assistant director, as a Board member and where I continue to serve as Secretary/Treasurer of the organization. During that time, I also took the position of Music Director at Church of the Good Shepherd, United Church of Christ (U.C.C.) where I served for 10 years. It was here that I met and married my husband, Paul Haynes."

"I have also served as choir director for St. Andrews U.C.C. in Dexter, Choir Director of the Adult Choir at First Baptist Church and Youth Choir Director at First United Methodist Church. After the birth of our daughter, I chose to spend her first two years at home before taking the position of Office Manager of the Historical Society of Michigan (HSM). I remained at HSM until the death of the Executive Director and HSM moved to Lansing where it resides now. In 1995 I took a job with First Unitarian Universalist Church as Church Administrator and remained there until I retired in 2007."

"Throughout my years in Ann Arbor, I became involved in several organizations starting with the Ann Arbor Public School Title IX Committee. While my daughter was in grade school, I volunteered as a leader in her Girl Scouts Troup. I spent several years as a member of the Family Support Committee of Habitat for Humanity; the Planning Committee of the United Negro College Fund of Washtenaw County; Community Action Network (past Board Chair – 5 years); Scholarship and Recognition Co-Chair of the Ann Arbor Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; and for 24 years as a member of the Distribution Committee of the African American Endowment Fund, a Field of Interest of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (15 years to the present as Chair)."


David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and welcome to this week's edition of Washtenaw United. It is our weekly exploration of equity and opportunity in our community. I'm David Fair, and one of the underreported and underrecognized components of an improving quality of life in Washtenaw County and Southeast Michigan is Black philanthropy. Within communities of color, philanthropy has a long and historical tradition, and it comes in a variety of forms. The tradition is continuing and, in fact, growing. We are joined in studio today by two people dedicated to making those philanthropic investments today for the betterment of life quality in the future. Collin Mays is co-chair of the Soul of Philanthropy Michigan. And thank you so much for coming in today. I appreciate it, Collin.

Collin Mays: It's a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

David Fair: And our second guest is the chair of the African American Endowment Fund in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area. Janet Haynes invests time and effort in a variety of ways. And thank you for being here today.

Janet Haynes: And thank you very much, David. I'm enjoying this.

David Fair: Well, Collin, as I mentioned, the tradition of philanthropy and communities of color runs deep. Why is it that outside of those communities there's a general lack of awareness?

Collin Mays: Well, I think a lot of it, David, is just education. You know, the Black community has been very philanthropic for generations. I mean, you look at the methodology around philanthropy. It's not just giving money, but it's giving your time. It's giving your talent, giving your treasures. We have so many nonprofit organizations that give back to the community in a variety of ways. You think about churches. You think about teachers. So, all of them are forms of philanthropy. And it's just a matter of letting the world know that Black people are very contributive and give back to the community.

David Fair: And it is a process of generations. Janet, you have a lifetime of experience in investing time and effort in giving. What was the genesis of that commitment?

Janet Haynes: The genesis was the people that I grew up with, specifically my mom and the women in my church and the service that they provided. And our very, very strong belief in our teachings of what is required of us as Christians, and that is to love thy neighbor as theirselves. And so, watching these women give of themselves their time, their talent, and their funds was an impetus for me.

David Fair: Collin, how do you describe the mission of Soul of Philanthropy?

Collin Mays: You know, it's really awareness--providing awareness and telling stories of generosity through love. It's not just all about the dollars that you donate, but it's about the time that you put into a cause. It's about your love for an initiative, your love for all of mankind. And that's really what the Soul of Philanthropy is about.

David Fair: Janet, the African American Endowment Fund here in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area has its mission of investing in people. How are you putting that to work?

Janet Haynes: We receive--and I will say that we are a field of interests of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation--and so, we receive grant applications each year for programming from various nonprofit organizations that are doing very significant work in the Black and Brown community, specifically the African American community. And we look at those applications, and we make determinations on whether or not those applications fulfill our mission and then determine how much we are able to provide to each one of those. We've had wonderful, wonderful groups coming before us that are doing incredible work, and it's been fulfilling for all of us that are on the distribution committee to make those commitments and to fund those grants.

David Fair: You're now approaching the $1 million mark that you'll be able to distribute and invest in the community.

Janet Haynes: Yes. And we are very excited about that. We've had a group of ambassadors that have helped us in doing the fundraising that we are doing. And the very first year of our fundraising event efforts, we raised close to, or we brought the fund up to close to, $800,000. So, we're a little over $200,000 from our goal.

David Fair: This is Washtenaw united on 89 one WEMU, and we're talking black philanthropy with Collin Mays and Janet Haynes. And, Collin, you talked a little bit about the Soul of Philanthropy and its mission of educating people. Who exactly needs to be educated? The concept and the notion and the reality of Black philanthropy in the Black community is well-known. However, outside of that, on a national conversational level, the Black community is often considered or thought of as takers. So, who is it you're trying to educate?

Collin Mays: Well, I think we could all use additional education, David. I would say that this exhibit and beyond this exhibit is to showcase that Black Americans contribute tremendously to this country and beyond. And it has been the case for generations that maybe that grandmother that's parenting again. It's a matter of our divine nine organizations that give back. It's a matter of our our churches. Clergy is huge in the Black community. So, it's all of those things coming together and showcasing philanthropy in a different light than what you may typically see on the news.

David Fair: And, Janet, as you work out in the Washtenaw County community, do you often see wide eyes or surprised looks when people learn exactly how much is being done within and for the Black community?

Janet Haynes: Absolutely. Absolutely. People are astounded at what we have been doing. With the Endowment Fund, we're finding that we're not known enough. And so, when people do hear what it is that we are doing there, they're very excited about it.

David Fair: While we talk about direct investment and we talk about the change that it can made, Collin, is there a story that stands out to you has changed perspective for someone?

Collin Mays: Well, I think it's important to point out, David, that Black Americans are the most philanthropic minority in the country. It's actually a statistical fact. And I don't know if that's widely known or not, but organizations such as the Mayes Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy at IUPUI.

David Fair: And that is your family's foundation?

Collin Mays: Yes. It's an institute at the Lilly School of Philanthropy that's named after my family. The Mays Family Institute focuses on research, focuses in on education programming, partnered with all of our historically Black colleges and universities, and really showcases the true power of giving in the Black community. And, again, like I mentioned, beyond that, when you think of Black philanthropy, it's something that spanned generations.

David Fair: And, Janet, where have you seen tangible change as a result of the investment of the African American Endowment?

Janet Haynes: In some of the organizations that we have funded, such as Community Action Network and Girls Group, Mentor2Youth, the programming that Parkridge Community Center gives to our youth. We funded Alzheimer's organizations or programs for our senior citizens. Just seeing how each one of the programs that we have funded, what their effect is on the population that they are serving has just been enormous.

David Fair: Our Washtenaw United conversation with Collin Mays and Janet Haynes continues on 89 one WEMU. Later in the week, a new pop-up exhibit will open at the Morris Lawrence Building on the Washtenaw Community College campus. That will give us all the opportunity to better understand the tangible differences made by Black philanthropy. And, Janet, this is a cooperative effort to bring this to the Washtenaw County community between Soul of Philanthropy,Michigan and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. What are you hoping to accomplish with this exhibit locally?

Janet Haynes: We are hoping to expand the knowledge of what Black philanthropy is. Certainly, we are hoping to make people more aware of the work of the African American Endowment Fund and to help us grow that fund, so that we can continue to impact the organizations that we are helping to recognize Black philanthropy and how important it is in our community and what we have done--all of us have done.

David Fair: Collin, this pop-up exhibit is a precursor to a larger exhibition that will run in Detroit later this year. What exactly are we going to see that might shape new perception?

Collin Mays: Well, I think what you're seeing on this Friday is love and generosity.

David Fair: How do you want the work that you are doing today to be written into the history of Black philanthropy?

Collin Mays: You know, I would say for me, continuing to make an impact, continue to tell our stories, and continuing to let the world know that Black philanthropy comes in all different shapes and sizes. And there's still time to get registered for our event this Friday. You go to TSOP Michigan dot org. And our full exhibit, Dave, opens June 2nd at the Detroit Historical Museum.

David Fair: Janet, I'm curious as to if the manner in which I've approached this topic and this subject matter comes with a degree of ignorance, lack of awareness, lack of education, what can we learn from the manner in which a middle-aged white guy approaches a conversation on Black philanthropy?

Janet Haynes: I don't think that you have come with a level of ignorance, as much as you have come with a level of wanting to better understand and to be open to hearing what it is that we are saying. If everyone approaches that question in that manner, rather than bringing preconceived notions on what Black philanthropy is or isn't and what Black people do or don't, I think that that is the first step in having some conversation and understanding.

David Fair: I like to say that Black history is American history, and if we don't know the history, then we don't know our history.

Janet Haynes: That is absolutely correct.]

David Fair: I'd like to thank you both for making time to share with us today. I'm most grateful.

Janet Haynes: Thank you.

Collin Mays: Thank you, Dave.

Janet Haynes: It's been a pleasure. ]

David Fair: That is Collin Mays. He is co-chair of the Soul of Philanthropy Michigan. And Janet Haynes. She is the chair of the African American Endowment Fund in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area. Again, the Soul of Philanthropy and Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation have teamed up and are bringing "Giving back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited." That's going to run from March 10th through the 25th at the Morris Lawrence Building and the Washtenaw Community College campus. Washtenaw United is produced in partnership with another of the sponsors, the United Way of Washtenaw County. And you hear it every Monday. I'm David Fair, and this is 89 one WEMU FM, Ypsilanti.


The Soul of Philanthropy Michigan

African American Endowment Fund on Facebook

"Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited"

Report featuring Black giving by W.K. Kellogg


As a proud sponsor, United Way of Washtenaw County invites the public to celebrate Black Philanthropy through “Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited." Hosted by TSOP Michigan, this pop-up art gallery features stories of generosity among Americans of African descent.

A free opening reception will take place on March 10th from 6-8pm at Washtenaw Community College's Morris Lawrence Building (4800 Huron River Drive, Ann Arbor). Reserve a spot today. Tickets are required for this event – seating is limited!

From March 10th – March 25th, the art gallery will also be featured at the Morris Lawrence Building, presenting pieces that honor, celebrate, and sustain the rich traditions of giving within African American communities.

Additional sponsors include The African American Endowment Fund and Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.

WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area. And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services. It is a community voice. It is 'Washtenaw United.'

Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support.  Make your donation to WEMU todayto keep your community NPR station thriving.

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Contact WEMU News at734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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