CoThinkk honors leaders and organizations making social change

Phillip Cooper, Tony Shivers and Michael Hayes
CHECK IT OUT: Change Agents Phillip Cooper, Tony Shivers and Michael Hayes speak at the CoThinkk awards night. Photo by Rafrica Adams

Article contributed by CoThinkk. Words by Aisha Adams; photography by Aisha Adams Media (Rafrica Adams)

On Oct. 20, local giving circle CoThinkk held its third annual community award night at The Collider in downtown Asheville. “Standing In We: Rooted in Collaboration” celebrated the region’s work toward ensuring more equitable outcomes for communities of color, particularly the efforts of African American and Latinx leaders to cultivate change.

Founded in 2014 by Tracey Greene-Washington, CoThinkk recently concluded a six-month leadership series focused on alliance-building and collaboration, with opportunities for participants to form robust collaborative partnerships that amplified emerging and innovative ideas through small innovation grants. That work complements the circle’s ongoing efforts to demystify granting processes, create access to grant dollars, promote healing, build capacity and support systems change.

Word On The Street/La Voz de Los Jovenes, a bilingual magazine led by young people of color, opened up the award ceremony with a poem titled “Becoming We.” Later in the evening, the group celebrated as Serenity Lewis, one of the magazine’s founding members, accepted CoThinkk’s inaugural Next Generation Award.

Other recognized community leaders and allies included Sekou Coleman with Word On The Street, Julio Tordoya with community TV channel JMPRO, Carla Lopez Cervantes with the Centro Unido Latino-Americano in Marion, Leslie Council Lake with My Sistah Taught Me That, Mary Snow with Equitable Community Strategies, Jackie Fitzgerald with the Cenzontle Language Justice Cooperative and Shauntey Yvette with the Asheville Youth League.

In the midst of the celebration, CoThinkk took a minute to recognize the life and legacy of founding member Kelly Goins, whom the group lost earlier this year. In Goins’ honor, CoThinkk has added $500 to all of its grant awards for recipient self-care and established scholarships to attend the 2019-2020 CoThinkk Blue Print Leadership Program.

“We know that our community leaders are taking on complex problems, and they rarely have the resources to take care of themselves,” Greene-Washington explained. “We wanted to honor Kelly and the way she took care of our community. Also, we want to make sure community leaders know we see them, we care about them, and we support them.”

The keynote speaker at the event, Tepeyac Consulting founder Marisol Jimenez, spoke to the souls of the social justice advocates in the room. She shared both the challenges and beauty of fighting for liberation with high hopes and low resources.

On the night of the awards, CoThink invested over $36,000 in African American- and Latinx-led community organizations, surpassing last year’s giving by more than $10,000. Organizations that received funding include Blk Girl Affirming, HERS, BeLoved Asheville, ade’ Project, La Escuelita, the James Vester Miller Historic Foundation, C.A.S.E. Management and Gentle Mothering Multicultural Family Care & Educational Services.

During closing remarks, CoThinkk member Nicole Townsend challenged everyone to leave the room as philanthropists and boldly stated the group’s goal to reach $100,000 in giving in 2019. The community ended the night with the soulful sounds of Lavon Davis and The Movement Band.

“I really appreciate the way CoThinkk gives to and celebrates the important work that is happening in our communities,” said member Daniel Suber. “Asheville would not be the same without it.”

More information about CoThinkk and this year’s grant candidates is available through this video.

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