CoThinkk supporters and honorees gathered virtually on Oct. 14 to celebrate local African American and Latinx community leaders and the work they do in Western North Carolina. The ceremony opened with DJ Cousin TL greeting attendees with inviting sounds and the option to dance. Warm greetings filled the chat as attendees expressed their excitement to be in community with one another again.
The event began with Cenzontle Language Justice Cooperation orienting attendees on how to use Zoom.
Tracey Greene-Washington, CoThinkk founder and author of the recent leadership book Choosing Purposeful Alignment: The Messy Middle of Transformation, hosted the event. She set the tone for the night, centering focus on multigenerational leadership and innovative ideas that are collectively catalyzing bold and audacious movements to interrupt and reimagine systems through centering equity, creativity and voices of Black and Brown communities in WNC.
The keynote was an intergenerational discussion between Libby Kyles, newly appointed A-B Tech trustee; Rob Thomas, Racial Justice Coalition Liaison; and London Newton, activist. The conversation covered topics including dismantling systems, direct action to produce changes, interrupting trauma, healing, sustainable change and the power of imagination.
CoThinkk, a philanthropic organization, continues to advance social change. This year’s event marked the group’s fifth annual presentation of community grants and leadership awards. CoThinkk’s theme — “Reimagining the Future” — invited us all to reimagine the future for our region. It builds upon previous years’ themes and provides an explicit message to amplify efforts that are moving from the moment of 2020 to everyone being engaged in a movement for transformational change.
CoThinkk’s Leadership awards went to Renee White, Rob Thomas, Yvette Jives and Tamarya Sims, while Kimmy Hunter, Ginger Web and Meta Commerse received community ally leadership awards. Next-generation leadership awards went to Miranda Williams and Seth Bellamy.
“These awards continue to highlight the leadership of invisible leaders in our communities that are doing amazing work and heavy lifting that often goes unrecognized,” Greene-Washington explained.
CoThinkk also gave awards to the following projects:
- A Therapist Like Me by Catie Beaulieu
- COVID-19 at Home Learning by YTL
- Colectivo Tierra Fertil by Delia Jovel
- Operation Gateway (OG) by Philip Cooper
- Semillas Counseling Y Consulta tu Compa Collaboration by Bianca Gragg
- Solidground by Alice Dixson
- Mentor/Intern Program by Rob Thomas
- Slay the Mic Multimedia by Elizabeth Garland
- Change the Rubric by Niconda Garcia
- HERS by Yvette Jives
- Change Your Palate by Shaniqua Simuel
After a big night for the giving circle, CoThinkk’s total investment has reached well over $200,000. Funds are given to organizations and initiatives that shift the narrative and create economic and social well-being for communities of color in Asheville and WNC. This year’s giving represented a commitment of $104,000 in the form of grants, coaching and capacity-building to community leaders.
In addition to the grant awards, for the third year in a row CoThinkk acknowledged the life and legacy of founding member Kelly Goins, who lost her battle with cancer. In Goins’ honor, her husband, her brothers, and her son each congratulated grantees as they received an additional $500 self-care stipend. Additionally, all applicants, whether or not they were awarded a grant, will receive coaching support from a certified diversity coach.
In closing remarks, CoThinkk member Niconda Garcia invited the attendees to commit and engage in support of the continued work of CoThinkk. The community ended the night with fellowship, dancing and enjoying the soulful sounds of DJ Cousin TL in usual CoThinkk fashion. To learn more about CoThinkk, visit cothinkk.org.
Aisha Adams is the founder of Aisha Adams Media, and the founder and program developer of Lenoir-Rhyne Equity & Diversity Institute.