Shifting the now: CoThinkk announces 4th annual grant award winners

Activist Nicole Townsend electrified the crowd at the Oct. 19 CoThinkk awards celebration by announcing her candidacy for Asheville City Council in 2020. Photo courtesy of CoThinkk

By Aisha Adams

The sounds of drums called CoThinkk supporters and honorees into Hi-Wire Brewing’s Big Top Taproom in Biltmore Village on Oct. 19. The rhythms of Jeremias Zunguze and Imhotep Dlanod reminded those present to enter the gathering in a spirit of intention to honor the land, ancestors and members’ commitment. 

Led by members of local African American and Latinx communities, CoThinkk is a philanthropic organization dedicated to social change. This year’s event marked the group’s fourth annual presentation of community grant awards. As CoThinkk’s new annual theme — “Shifting the Now: Shaping the Future” — suggests, the group is turning its attention to what comes next by deepening strategic collaborations, partnerships and investments for African American and Latinx community leaders who are doing innovative work across the region.

Hi-Wire Brewing’s Big Top location in Biltmore Village welcomed a large crowd to the 4th annual CoThinkk awards on Oct. 19. Photo courtesy of CoThinkk

“You have to understand that we are all being called into something that is bigger and greater than ourselves today,” said Tracey Greene-Washington, CoThinkk founder, in opening remarks. “We are all being asked to dig deeper, dream bigger and be unapologetically bold in our efforts … This is legacy building work that we have to do today in order to shape the future that we desire.”

Activist Nicole Townsend, who is also a CoThinkk member, challenged attendees to create sustainable change in her keynote address. She then announced her plans to run for Asheville City Council in 2020. The excitement generated by Townsend’s news carried forward into the awarding of this year’s grants.

Recognized for their potential to continue moving the region toward more equitable outcomes, community leadership winners included Tony Shivers, Lori Garcia-McCammon, Philip Cooper and Itiyopiya Ewart, while Nicole Hinebaugh and Janet Hurley received community ally leadership awards. Next-generation leadership awards went to Kamya Jackson, Pamela Ciru-Benejas and Doriyan Johnson.

The award winners were selected from among 28 video applications, a significant increase compared with the early days of the program’s inception.

“Tonight, we are giving a total of $32,000 to projects that are shifting the now and shaping the future,” Greene-Washington explained. To date, CoThinkk has given nearly $100,000 to organizations and initiatives that impact the economic and social well-being of communities of color in Asheville and Western North Carolina.

Organizations receiving awards included Word on The Street/La Voz Los Jovenes, Change the Rubric, Southside Community Garden, Artists Designing Evolution (ade’ PROJECT), AVL Hispanic Women’s Group, Nuestro Centro, Proud to be Brown and the Deaverview community.

In addition to the grant awards, for the second year in a row, CoThinkk acknowledged the life and legacy of founding member Kelly Goins, who lost her battle with cancer. In Goins’ honor, announced founding CoThinkk member and YWCA Asheville CEO Libby Kyles, each grantee received an additional $500 self-care award.

In closing remarks, CoThinkk members Carolina McCready and Tony Shivers challenged attendees to leave the room committed, engaged and in support of the continued work of CoThinkk. 

Additionally, the CoThinkk team acknowledged its ongoing partnership with the African Americans in Western North Carolina and Southern Appalachia Conference, an annual event that seeks to illuminate the true experience of African Americans, eradicate incomplete or false narratives and give attendees hope for the future. The organization also thanked Rayburn Farms, which donated 15 gallons of hibiscus tea as a part of a collaboration with Hi-Wire Brewing. The hibiscus was used to create a unique sweet IPA, and 15% of the profits from sales of the brew will go to support CoThinkk’s work. The beer is available at Hi-Wire Brewing’s Big Top location in Biltmore Village for a limited time. 

The community ended the night with fellowship, dancing and enjoying the soulful sounds of Lyric. To learn more about CoThinkk, visit


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