When I started my fellowship a little over 3 months ago (wow time flies!) it was right in time to get myself engaged in the Council’s planning activities for its Annual Conference. After all the meetings, emails and checklists were complete it was execution time!! -and we all headed to Dallas, Texas for 5 days. This was undoubtedly one of my most memorable conference experiences, the resulting production brought sheer delight!

The opening plenary at the Council on Foundations Annual Conference (click link for video highlight) was such an inspiration and a truly unforgettable experience for me!- a major highlight of my fellowship experience so far.

With over 1000 philanthropy leaders in attendance the ‘star-studded’ line-up of the opening plenary was most fitting. The presentations from the 43rd President of the United States- George W. Bush and acclaimed Director and Filmmaker – Ava DuVernay were truly powerful and surprisingly hilarious!

Former President Bush, who I now have a whole new level of respect for by the way, spoke passionately about his work in Africa and the U.S. to support women’s health and veterans respectively. Through his presentation I learnt so much about the admirable work of the Bush Institute and even how his own desire to start painting (veterans he had met) was developed.

Are you familiar with the films – The Middle of Nowhere, Selma or 13th? Well those are all Ava’ DuVernay’s work! If that doesn’t help to paint a clear picture of how renowned she is Ava has this year been named one of Fortune Magazine’s 50 Greatest World Leaders! – that’s a big deal!

That said, Ava truly inspired me as a youth black woman as she spoke openly during the plenary about her journey as a black female filmmaker in Hollywood (having grown up in Compton). Her very candid remarks highlighted the ongoing struggles for black people in the United States but also placed the spotlight on how the arts are being used to inspire and unite people of color and women directors throughout the U.S.


One of the things I have enjoyed about the U.S especially is the cultural experience and the vast array of museums that exist. Well similar to Washington D.C, Dallas certainly delivered last night with very intriguing exhibitions inside the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. I am definitely not a ‘science geek’ but I could not help myself from being amazed by the vast array of scientific and natural resources that were on display on all 4 floors at the museum! So if ever you visit Dallas the museum is a must see.

That said, the Council arranged a visit to the museum for its opening night reception and it was definitely a good choice in my opinion. With added features (some personalized for the conference) such as music, food and even a photo booth it was a great networking environment. I had the opportunity to meet some really engaging persons and hear about some very interesting works that are happening both domestically and internationally in the philanthropic space.