For local businessman James V. Page Jr. it was the influence of his great-great-aunt Alma that put him on the right path as a troubled teenager, and more than 30 years later it is still her influence that inspires his work as a philanthropist.
“What compelled me to get into philanthropy was my great-great-aunt. She was the one that taught me a lot about money and the value of money and my education,” said Page, president and founder of Page After Page Business Systems, Inc. (dba Page Global).
He says he’s been in philanthropy most of his business career in Washington, D.C., and has given upwards of $2 million to various causes in his 29 years of business.
“I’ve given in ways from someone who is homeless and looking for a job, to donating thousands to the Alexandria Philharmonic Orchestra [with the focus of bringing orchestra music to local schools in the District].”
“Then it just kind of grew to local charter schools in Prince George’s County, the National Baptist Convention, USA and now we are looking forward to supporting Jackson State University (JSU) in Mississippi and their athletic department.”
Page says he’s in the planning process of starting a scholarship or a fellowship program at JSU, for athletes who achieve high academic success.
“It only exists if you create it,” he said.
Getting involved with higher education came about when Page decided to return back to college a few years ago.
A hard fought rejection letter from Georgetown University motivated him to keep going. He pivoted to support the goals at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), but things didn’t quite pan out how he hoped philanthropically.
“I decided what school could benefit from not only my over 25 years of being a local executive but also a scholarship program? So I decided to enroll into UDC’s school of business, only to find out they weren’t interested in an executive MBA program at that time,” he said.
For Page, being a Black philanthropist means being met with a certain level of skepticism others don’t typically face.
“Philanthropy in the Black community is somewhat of a mystery because I don’t think that we see African Americans as being philanthropist,” he said. “We see them as robbing from someone and giving to the poor.”
“Whenever you see somebody giving you try to look to see why? Either they’re short here or stealing here or there’s a quid pro quo. Or they’re not very good parents or they’re not very smart people with their money.”
“I don’t think that it comes across as you really have some very honest, wealth-building, well-meaning people that want to support others and the community and continue to grow and give back at the same time.”
Even with a few road blocks along the way Page is excited about his blooming relationship with JSU for many reasons, chief among them is his own Mississippi roots.
“My great-grandfather was from Gulfport, Miss., he was stowaway on a train and went up to New York. He ended up being a bartender for Truman’s administration,” he said. “My great-great-aunt Alma was a maid servant for the late Zsa Zsa and Eva Gabor.
“My story is full circle if you read the signs. My current house is on 19th Street. I bought two houses in Arlington, one on 19th Street and one on 19th Road. My grandmother lived on 19th street in Mississippi.”
Page says with more and more neighbors struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic and now the pressures of the holiday season, he’s inspired to do more.
“I feel an appreciation in philanthropy being able to give, cause I found that in my giving I get. I get a sense of supporting my brothers and sisters; I get a sense of clarity of what’s going on in the world and individuals that are struggling,” he said.
“It’s also inspirational in thinking of new ways to grow our business personally and professionally. It makes me continue with a stronger work ethic, a stronger focus in terms of what can I do, to give even more.”