Dr. Willie Thornton

“I can feel Him in my heart, feel Him in my soul, from the crown of my head, down to my toes.”

It is with a profound sense of sorrow and gratitude that we announce the passing of our longtime partner and dear friend, Dr. Willie Thornton. From our first trips almost a decade ago to our most recent trip earlier this year, Willie and the community at First Baptist Church in Montgomery have been like family to us. Our Pilgrimage cohorts have always been greeted with such loving kindness. There was simply nothing like getting off the bus and seeing Willie’s smile, ear to ear. This loss feels like losing a member of our family.

Over his 61 years on earth, one thing was made abundantly clear, Dr. Willie Thornton loved music. He was an accomplished musician, singer, conductor, and educator. A highlight for many groups came when we he would teach us gospel songs at a joyous and rapid pace. Many cohorts will recall Willie demanding, with love, to raise our voices and sing so proudly that God might hear our song. All of us were so eager to make Willie proud. And we did.

Dr. Willie Thornton touched so many lives. He is survived by so many in the Montgomery community, including his wonderful son, Nicholas, who is starting his sophomore year at the University of Alabama. Remarkably, Willie passed away exactly a year to the day after his wife, Carol. August 12th. We hold them all in our collective hearts.

As losses mount, we are reminded of the brief and precious nature of life. We are reminded of the legacy we all leave behind. We are reminded that while we are on this earth, we should raise our voices and sing so loudly, so that Dr. Willie Thornton might hear our song. 

Homegoing Information.

Sankofa Impact Executive Director, Felicia Ishino and Dr. Willie Thornton.

Hello Community,

I recently had a surgical procedure—nothing to be alarmed about—it was routine, but it was the first surgery I have ever experienced. Recovery has meant many things for me. Intentionally slowing down, sitting in appreciation of the countless times my body has carried me through, and reflecting on the process of healing and the reality of backsliding, making the journey unpredictable.  

Much of the healing has started with recognizing the times we are in. Collectively, we find ourselves at a place where the panic and common confusion of a pandemic has mostly subsided. Life, while forever changed, is going back to something that resembles normal.

Yet for me, the hole left by nearly three years of tragedy and loss means relearning how to heal. Relearning how to find joy and seek inspiration. Where is it that you find yourself again? Is it in family, in friendship, in community, in art? 

Read Felicia’s Letter.

After many requests over the years, we finally have a Resources tab on the Sankofa Impact website! Over the past few months we have been working to make this addition available to our community. We often claim that the work of collective liberation is both head and heart work. These resources represent the head part of the work. You may recognize some of the resources listed as part of our in-person and Virtual Pilgrimage program curriculum.

As of now, if you go to our website you will see the new Resources tab, with two options for viewing our resource pages.

  • Option one is the Resources by Media page. This page is organized by the type of media, such as books, movies, podcasts, and much more. This page encompasses a wide scope of resources meant to help propel your Everyday Activism.
  • Option two is the Resources by Topic page. This compilation of resources is organized by the type of topic you may be interested in learning about, including the Criminal Legal System, Finance and Wealth, and Black Excellence. 

Additionally, we made a mindful effort to link items for sale to Black-owned businesses like Estelita’s Library in the hope of supporting them. 

We hope that within these web pages, we are offering valuable resources to our community that uplift Black Voices, Black History, and tell the story of racism, resistance and the Black American Freedom Struggle.

SI Resources.

We are very excited to announce that we will be partnering with the University of Washington Foster School of Business for a second Race, Culture, and Business trip in March 2023. We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Foster and look forward to taking another cohort of MBA students to study the intersection of racism and business practices. These trips are designed to increase awareness of events that have both shaped and disrupted systems of racism and oppression in the United States. Watch this space.

Race, Culture, and Business.

Community Spotlight

Sasha brings over seven years of work at the nexus of equity and well-being spanning non-profit, higher education, philanthropy, arts, and community organizing environments. Currently, Sasha is a somatic therapist in private practice, a program manager at the University of Washington (UW) Resilience Lab, and a volunteer phone worker for Crisis Connections.

Sasha has experience supporting place-based learning through the UW Comparative History of Ideas Department’s “LGBTQ Communities, Public Health, and Migration in Mexico” study abroad program during the summers of 2017 and 2018. As an alumnus of the Spring 2020 pilgrimage, the last in-person trip before the pandemic’s start, Sasha is excited to see a safe return to in-person pilgrimages! Outside work, Sasha is a student with the Feminist Karate Union and a card/board game enthusiast.

Grace is a rising senior at the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!) who is studying Law, Societies, and Justice and Economics. At the UW, Grace is also a tour guide and a resident adviser. Outside of the UW, she has gained experiences in the field of social justice and was a previous legal advocacy intern at the Domestic Abuse Women’s Network.

As an individual dedicated to helping her community and those who have been systematically oppressed, Grace was inspired by Sankofa Impact’s commitment to racial equity and social justice. During her internship, she will be working on alumni outreach and is looking forward to getting to know the community members of Sankofa Impact. In her spare time, Grace finds joy in playing volleyball, reading, painting, and getting lost in the scenery of Seattle.

Feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments.

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