Speaker Sneak Peek: Valaida Fullwood & Charles Thomas


 Valaida Fullwood and Charles Thomas

Valaida Fullwood – Author, “Giving Back” and Charles Thomas  Photographer, “Giving Back”

Valaida Fullwood is a true multi-hyphenate: writer, project strategist, and award-winning author who together with Photographer Charles Thomas, created “Giving Back,” a book of stories and images that reframe portraits of philanthropy, which won the McAdam Book Award in 2012. The two have known each other for five years and speak together around the country.

In addition to being the Photographer of “Giving Back,” Charles Thomas is the Executive Director of Queen City Forward, which works to help socially conscious entrepreneurs meet what he calls their triple bottom line: people, planning, and profit. The start-up turns one year old this month and Thomas has big plans for the future.

Here is a sneak peek of their TEDxCharlotte talk on Feb. 15.

Interview with Valaida Fullwood

TEDxCharlotte: What will you be talking about at TEDxCharlotte?

Valaida Fullwood: I’ll be sharing some of the experiences in collaboration with Charles Thomas on developing the book. We’ve been giving lots of book talks around the country and so we often co-present, which I always enjoy. It’s kind of like jazz in how we improvise and play off of each other.

TEDxCharlotte: What is the one thing that stops people from becoming more creative and chasing their dreams?

VF: Just a very closed perspective on what they can be and small thinking about what they can do. I don’t think there are any external factors. It’s all within and working through that and all kinds of things can happen when you break free of that. There are reasons why you can pursue something or accomplish something, [but] we focus on all the potential barriers and reasons why it’s not a good idea.

The things that have helped me are family, friends, and faith – and yoga. I probably make it a couple of times a year if I’m lucky. Sometimes I’ll get really intense and I’m there every day. I do try to integrate the practice just wherever I am through meditation or through a few poses.

TEDxCharlotte: What was your dream for yourself as a child?

VF: Living and traveling around the world, that’s what I aspired to do as long as I can remember, especially being from a small town in Western North Carolina. I couldn’t wait to see what the world held.

Interview with Charles Thomas 

TEDxCharlotte: What do you and Valaida plan to talk about at TEDxCharlotte?

Charles Thomas: We’ll be sharing elements of our journey with the process. I came at it from a photographic perspective and hers is more from the idea of it. It was two different angles that worked out well.

TEDxCharlotte: What has been your proudest accomplishment so far with Queen City Forward?

CT: Serving over thirty social businesses and enterprises over the past year. The dream is we move from the infancy stage to being a grown-up a little bit and from that level be able to grow the programs that we offer to work with social entrepreneurs, to work as a catalyst for innovation across the city, social innovation across the city, so working with entrepreneurs, working with everyday professionals, [and] working with grassroots innovators.

TEDxCharlotte: How can more entrepreneurs become more socially conscious?

CT: The step is to go beyond just the idea of generating profits and becoming rich. We think about how the work they are doing can include and incorporate serving the community in unique and creative ways. How we can create a more inclusive economy so it is inclusive of those that are “marginalized” whether they have a prison record or dropped out of high school. The key is for business owners to think about opportunities in communities that are overlooked.

What we ask companies to do is instead of considering a single bottom line, to consider a triple bottom line of people, planning, and profit. It is possible to do good and make money.

by Joanne Spataro