Q&A with Brittany Branch: Visionaries Member Focuses on Bolstering Black Community
Name: Brittany Branch
Hometown: Born in Rocky Mount, N.C., moved to Virginia at age five, grew up mostly in Virginia Beach and Portsmouth; now lives in Portsmouth
Education: Bayside High School, Virginia Beach, 2003; bachelor’s of science in accounting, Hampton University, 2007; master’s of science in accounting, Old Dominion University, 2008
Occupation: Certified public accountant and chief financial officer for Hampton City Schools
Family: Married to Jason Branch and stepmom to Jason Jr. and Ariyanna
Connection to the foundation: Founding member of the Visionaries for Change giving circle and co-chair of its grantmaking committee
How did Visionaries for Change begin? It was started in 2019 by Black business and civic leaders. Members donated money to a pooled fund in order to grow an endowment for charitable causes in the Black community.
Why did you join Visionaries for Change? A Black billionaire investor, Robert F. Smith, was the 2019 commencement speaker at Morehouse College. He announced in his speech that he gifted everyone by paying off their student loans. At the time, a friend told me about plans to launch Visionaries for Change, a Black giving circle. I wanted to be a part of that. If you have discretionary income, some of that should go to giving back to others. I saw that as a way of giving back to Hampton Roads in the Black community.
What have been the major tasks so far for Visionaries? We’ve reached our target of $500,000 in three years. The endowment will support our grantmaking, which will begin in 2022. We surveyed members about their interest in funding a range of needs – from education to mental health services to financial literacy.
What does philanthropy mean to you? It really means giving back. I think at the heart of it is generosity. It covers your time, your talent, and your treasure. Most of my prior giving had been through my local church, Calvary Revival in Norfolk. With Visionaries,
I have an opportunity to expand my giving.
What does racial equity mean to you? It impacts so much within our lives. We see the overt racism in the murder of our Black men and women. Another side is not as open, such as the unequal treatment of homeowners during appraisals. This impacts wealth-building in the Black community.
Aside from money, what are some ways people can give back to this community? Through time and volunteering. It can be helping out at local food drives. Philanthropy can even be seeing the person on the street without a home and food and helping out.
What’s something most people don’t know about you? Probably my sense of humor. I’m an introvert by nature, but I have a really good sense of humor.
If you had a chance to have a meal or conversation with someone, living or dead, who would it be? Michelle Obama. I admired her when she and her husband were in the White House. In her book, “Becoming,” Mrs. Obama details her early career in the corporate world and how she transitioned into something more meaningful for her. That really spoke to me.
What do you do for fun? I need to do something fun! Before COVID changed church attendance, I was in the choir. It was my favorite thing to do because I love singing. I love cooking – I’ve been researching cooking classes. And, I like watching sports.
Is there something really pivotal in your life coming up? I recently got married! We are both members of Calvary Revival Church in Norfolk, and we reconnected through the church.