The can, its white label adorned with clasped hands and the words "Yes I Can, " looks out of place atop the graceful baby grand piano.
That's why actress Kim Fields put it there.
Fields, 16, who has starred as Tootie on NBC's "Facts of Life" for seven seasons, wants guests in the living room of her parents' Burbank home to ask about the "Yes I Can" can.
Alternative to United Way
Creating opportunities to talk about charity in one's own community, volunteering and self-respect are central to the "Yes I Can" campaign being launched today by the Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade/Black United Fund, the largest of 15 black-run alternatives nationwide to the white-dominated United Way movement.
"I think it's a great idea," said Fields, the Brotherhood Crusade's honorary chairwoman, "because like everything else the Brotherhood Crusade does, it is helping people help themselves, it is giving back to the community and those are key factors in making the Crusade work."
The "Yes I Can" cans also signify the Brotherhood Crusade's effort to broaden its fund-raising techniques in the face of continued conflict with the United Way movement over access to workplace fund raising through payroll deduction, which widely is regarded as the most inexpensive way for charities to raise funds.
The local United Way consistently has opposed the Brotherhood Crusade's efforts to get equal access to solicit workers for donations via payroll deduction. Workers in factories and offices where United Way has a monopoly on soliciting workers can designate their gifts to the Brotherhood Crusade, however.
Little Direct Solicitation
Eighteen years after its founding, the Brotherhood Crusade can solicit workers directly at only 12 government agencies, a handful of nonprofit organizations and one corporation, The Boys supermarket chain, which depends heavily on black families for business.
Today a luncheon at the Sheraton Premiere in Universal City will launch the Brotherhood Crusade's "Yes I Can" campaign to get 1,000 middle-class and affluent black families to place "Yes I Can" cans in a prominent place in their homes.
Those families taking the cans will have to sign a pledge committing them to encourage friends to become givers and volunteers.
"I pledge to teach my children the value of giving to help one's self and one's people as a fundamental principle in their lives," one part of the pledge reads, "for without understanding the value of helping one's self there can be no real strength, dignity and motivation to go forward and help others."
Goal of $365,000
Each of the 1,000 families will be asked to put $1 per day in its can, helping meet a one-year goal of $365,000.
If the goal is met it would increase the Brotherhood Crusade's cash contributions by about one-third in a single year.
In addition, organizers said, 2,500 cans will be distributed to merchants to place near cash registers. The Korea Town Development Assn. has agreed to place dozens of the cans, each with slogans printed in Korean.
"The problem is not getting black people to give," Danny J. Bakewell, the Brotherhood Crusade president, said. "Black people give generously, but they don't give to themselves. They give to organizations that are not controlled by the community and that often take money out of the community to benefit others at the expense of the community."
Bakewell contends that the Los Angeles area United Way, which is seeking $86 million in pledges in its current campaign, will spend just $3 million this year on service to the black community.
However, the United Way Inc. disputes those figures. "United Way is an organization for the total community," said Francis X. McNamara Jr., president of the Los Angeles area United Way, adding that "of the direct services rendered by United Way agencies some 22% were provided to citizens of the black community, based on data from an internal 1984 survey."
Various United Way services benefit everyone, McNamara said, and in addition the Red Cross and United Way's 14 health partners also provide services "for which no statistics on ethnicity are maintained."
United Way will allocate about $36 million to its 350 member agencies this year, indicating that with 22% going to the black community, nearly $8 million of that would directly benefit blacks.
United Way Inc., responding to internal debate over the adequacy of services to various areas of Los Angeles County and western San Bernardino County, has created a task force to examine expanding support of nonprofit agencies in these "underserved" areas. Much of the task force's nearly completed work has focused on predominantly black areas, such as Compton.
Bakewell said the "Yes I Can" effort will focus on middle-class and affluent blacks and that he hopes, eventually, to broaden it to include Latinos and Asians as donors and as recipients of services.
Difference in Income