Our Story

Our trips began in 2014 as a class that brought together students, faculty, and members of the community for a pilgrimage to powerful historic locations in Selma, Montgomery, Jackson, and Memphis with Civil Rights foot soldiers like Bernard and Kate Lafayette, Bob Zellner, and Dr. Carolyn McKinstry.

In 2019, we gained 501(c)3 status as a nonprofit organization called Project Pilgrimage with Felicia Ishino as our Executive Director. At this time, trips became more accessible to our broader community through scholarships, and intentional efforts were made to support Black-owned businesses.

Today, after 13 successful trips, dozens of engaging events, and thousands of lives impacted, we continue the work of inspiring everyday people to become everyday activists committed to justice.

Our Collective Memory

The history of America resides within our collective memory through stories. Some stories that we have read or watched, others that we have only heard about. Many vital stories are hidden. For most of us, the version of American history we learn offers narratives consistently written by white people, centering white heroes. The truth is that there are a multitude of stories in our shared history and Sankofa Impact intentionally chooses to center the Black American freedom struggle.

The Black American Freedom Struggle

The Black American freedom struggle begins the moment the first enslaved African touches soil in Virginia and wants to be free and that movement for liberation continues today. From our inception as a Civil Rights class with the University of Washington, we have focused on Black stories and that effort continues through our nonprofit work today. Many narratives of Black history, both traumatic and triumphant, have been either whitewashed, watered down, or entirely hidden. We find this unacceptable.

Profound Identities, Powerful Harm

We recognize that many communities hold an endless set of profoundly important identities and that many of them experience a powerful harm in this country. Systemic racism and other forms of oppression are baked into our institutions and individuals are often tasked with overcoming challenges for simply being who they are. Our choice to focus on Black history is a strategic one that holds ourselves accountable to a set of stories that we believe are central in dismantling white supremacy. We work alongside many different communities and often that solidarity can be found in our work. We all must be free.

Centering Black History

Our community is committed to fighting systemic oppression through the creation of collective historical memory, especially through the lens of the Black American freedom struggle. Sankofa Impact rejects the notion that centering Black history rejects other histories. We welcome all people in the timeless fight for justice and liberation. We are from different places, various class structures, education, spiritual beliefs, sexualities, genders, abilities, and we value each and every one of you committed to creating a better world.

Our Team

Felicia Ishino
Executive Director

Felicia brings over 20 years of experience in Seattle area schools, higher learning institutions, and nonprofits to her work at Sankofa Impact. She combines her loves of history, education, and social justice with her belief in the power of community. Felicia’s favorite teacher was Ms. Kim, who helped shape young minds into becoming compassionate leaders while an elementary school student at University Heights in Seattle. Felicia imagines breaking bread with Toni Morrison, over hot, buttery biscuits with jam that Morrison describes in the book, Beloved. Outside of work, Felicia enjoys discovering places to camp throughout the beautiful landscape of the Pacific Northwest, cooking for family and friends, and listening to the likes of Nina Simone, Jazmine Sullivan, Mac Miller, and Mos Def.

Nathan Bean
Community Relations Manager

Nathan wears a lot of hats for Sankofa Impact, including fundraising, programming, community relations, communications, and anything else the team might need on a given day. Nathan’s favorite teacher was Ms. Rief, who taught 8th grade Language Arts and was the first person to take his writing seriously and see him as more than just comic relief. Nathan would have liked to break bread with Otis Redding and maybe sing a duet for dessert. Outside of working hours, Nathan enjoys traveling off the beaten path, watching Boston sports, and spending quality time with his loved ones.

Jorge Rivas
Outreach & Recruitment Coordinator

As part of a small and incredible team, Jorge focuses primarily on community outreach and recruiting people to be a part of our programs. He also does anything else that is needed to help keep the Sankofa Impact ship on course. Jorge’s favorite teacher growing up was high school theatre instructor, Mr. Lopez, who helped shape the trajectory of Jorge’s life through kindness and grace. Jorge would break bread with Kobe Bryant because it would be amazing to speak with a man like him and absorb his wisdom. Outside of the office, Jorge enjoys watching Russell Wilson throw the football during the NFL season, Steph Curry rain 3’s during the NBA season, and Fernando Tatis, Jr. hit homer after homer during the MLB season.

Board of Directors

Sasha Duttchoudhury
Co-Chair

Sasha works in the greater Seattle community and beyond to create learning experiences at the intersection of equity and well-being using mindful compassion and playful curiosity. Their approach holds emotions, stories, and culture as critical guides in navigating change systemically, interpersonally, and internally. Sasha’s work has spanned non-profit, higher education, philanthropy, arts, and community organizing contexts, offering clients a wealth of perspectives and connections across silos and disciplines. Sasha is currently a graduate student at the University of Washington School of Social Work. 

Kad Smith
Board Member

Kad is a native of Berkeley, Kad is a self-described “bay-destrian.” His family hails from Texas and across the southern United States. Kad is passionate about racial justice, prison reform, civic engagement, and the liberation of all marginalized people across the globe. Today, he is a lead designer and co-facilitator of CompassPoint’s B.L.A.C.K Team Intensive and trains frequently in our public workshops. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for Berkeley’s Ecology Center and has previously worked on the board of the Berkeley Community Fund (now called the Berkeley Community Scholars). Having grown up in Berkeley, Kad has tried to live into his values around civic duty by showing up in roles as a City Commissioner on Berkeley’s Community Health Commission and Police Review Commission.

Sharon Chism
Treasurer

Sharon Chism is the Senior Manager of Corporate Services with Russell Investments. Prior to joining Russell Investments Sharon spent five years at Amazon where she helped broker relationships with many of the firm’s external service and systems providers. Sharon believes in the power of equity-focused community engagement. The contributions that have been most impactful to her, involve knowledge sharing and relationship building that lead to the empowerment of others. Sharon is an active member of Black Girls Run! and Leadership Tomorrow. She is also on the steering committee for Russell Investments’ Black Associate Resource Group. Sharon holds an M.B.A from Case Western Reserve University and a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida A&M University.

Tamarack Randall
Secretary