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Derek Lewis II unlocks the legacy and impact of Black philanthropy in Arkansas

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Derek Lewis II unlocks the legacy and impact of Black philanthropy in Arkansas


By Viktoria Capek — When Derek Lewis II found himself at the helm of his family’s foundation 15 years ago, he had no idea where to begin. “My dad passed everything over and was like, ‘This is our legacy,’ ” he recalled. “Go do something with it.”

So, he did.

Guided by mentors,spent the next decade and a half expanding the influence of the Derek Lewis Foundation. He made significant strides as the executive director of the Arkansas Medical, Dental & Pharmaceutical Association. He also established D2L Consulting; a specialized healthcare consulting firm focused on enhancing client performance.

His latest venture as a founding member and chairman of the Arkansas Black Philanthropy Collaborative further showcases his commitment to creating a new legacy of change.

Established in 2020, ABPC has become a driving force for Black-led social change in Arkansas, connecting organizations with the resources needed to uplift Black communities across the state.

This initiative was born from visionaries such as Lewis and Cory Anderson and Sherece West from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, who recognized the urgent need to channel Black philanthropic efforts towards community empowerment, especially in Arkansas, where philanthropic funding is scarce.

“We became someone organizing dollars, but we also became a voice for nonprofits that were Black-led and Black-serving,” Lewis said. ABPC isa bridge between funders and grassroots organizations doing critical work, often unnoticed.

The collaborative’s importance surged in 2020, amid the racial justice movements following the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black Americans and the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The societal call to action led corporations to invest in Black-led initiatives, with Arkansas receiving a $1 million grant to aid local nonprofits. This moment underscored ABPC’s vital role in directing support where it was most needed.

Assisting organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and Philander Smith College, ABPC’s success lies in the power of collective effort, supported by the strong Black leadership guiding crucial conversations and collaborations.

“It’s really being thoughtful, deciding not just the organizations in the community [to work with], but the organizational leaders and how we collaborate,” Lewis said. “I think challenging some of the social issues, the equity issues we face has to be a collaborative movement versus one person trying to do something. It’s just too complex.”     

Lewis believes philanthropy can manifest in many forms, beyond traditional monetary giving. He draws inspiration from Civil Rights icons like Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Mahalia Jackson, who contributed significantly to the movement by bailing out protestors and supporting initiatives like the National Urban League Guild. 

Their contributions were pivotal, yet they were not labeled as philanthropists. This perspective underscores that philanthropy encompasses a wide range of actions to promote social change, not just those commonly recognized or labeled as such.

“Philanthropy in itself is the love of humanity,” Lewis said. “So, to me, that’s the simplest definition. I’m using my time, talent, and treasure to love humanity, regardless of your race, creed, or ethnicity.”

The goal is to create a system of giving that impacts the generations of Black communities for many years to come. This will be Lewis’ legacy.

“I think my next 20 to 25 years is really going to be dedicated to that,” Lewis said. “And I think the [Derek Lewis] Foundation and ABPC are vehicles to really garner that sort of sentiment.”


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