Young African-American professionals organize Chattanooga philanthropy group

Deputy executive director Lakweshia Ewing of UnifiEd speak about public education during a meeting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Chattanooga.

If you go

› What: The inaugural Sankofa Fund for Civic Engagement community reception. The community is invited to meet the founding members of the Sankofa Fund and learn more about some of the organizations working to improve communities in Chattanooga. There will be live music and a short program.› When: Friday, Feb. 5, from 6-10 p.m.› Where: The Bessie Smith Cultural Center

photo Lakweshia Ewing

A group of young African-American professionals who kept running into each other around town are coming together to put their own spin on the "Chattanooga Way."

The Sankofa Fund for Civic Engagement, announced Monday by its founding members, will offer grants and support to groups, projects and efforts that are working to improve the city's black community.

"We are contributing to the great work that goes on with other groups and programs that are also helping the community of color," said Lakweshia Ewing, one of the fund's founding members

The group consists of 20 founding members who come from a range of professions. Ewing, a business owner who has lived in Chattanooga since 2003, said Sankofa Fund members would see each other at various community or nonprofit meetings and wind up having conversations about how to make a difference.

So they decided to use their diverse professional backgrounds, understanding of the city and their money to be a resource to supporters of Chattanooga and its black community.

"Since I moved here, I've heard a lot about the Chattanooga Way," Ewing said. "Well, the Chattanooga Way has to do with collaborating. And that's the spirit in which we came together, to collaborate and make a difference in communities with people that look like us."

Sankofa is an African word that means "go back and get what was taken."

"The idea of Sankofa is to look back," Ewing said.

"We all thought about all the programs that were available to us and all the people in the community who were there for us as we were growing up. We wanted to be those people here."

The Sankofa Fund is hosting its a community reception Friday, Feb. 5, from 6-10 p.m. at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.

"People have gotten really excited about the effort," said James McKissic, the city's director of multicultural affairs, who is a founding member of the fund.

"People don't always see images of people working together and funding together, but I want people to know there is a long history of that around the country and here locally, too. And this is going to continue that legacy."

Contact staff writer David Cobb at or 423-757-6249.