Sankofa CDC is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that approaches health-centered development practices as they build a model for community revitalization for under-resourced low socioeconomic communities. Their neighborhood of focus is the Lower Ninth Ward area of New Orleans. Sankofa’s ultimate goal is to support the creation of a local environment that promotes positive health outcomes and builds healthier communities for generations to come. Sankofa transforms blighted land into wetland ecoparks that improve stormwater management. They build market and wellness center facilities, lead programs on chronic disease prevention education, and lead healthy food distribution work.
Naish Williams, Ronni Johnson, & Rashida Ferdinand
Naish is a native Northern Californian who moved to the Lower Ninth Ward in 2017. They are a state licensed horticulturist with a college background in agriculture and racial and ethical relations. Naish serves as the horticulturist and coordinator for Sankofa’s community gardens and wetland nursery. Their focus is sharing sustainable and biodynamic farming methods with communities in areas that are designated food deserts. Naish, along with Sankofa, is currently developing their wetland nursery with the goal of supplying native trees and perennials for restoration projects to aid in flood control and prevent subsidence in the New Orleans area.
Tricia LeBlanc serves as the Park Director for the Sankofa Wetland Park & Nature Trail. She has over 25 years of environmental education experience, working with partners such as The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, the BBC, the National Park Service and various university, non-profit, and governmental agencies at the local, national and international level. As the Wetland Park Director, she oversees the development and operation of the 40 acres site as well as the creation and implementation of the Wetland Park’s educational programs and partnerships.
Rashida Ferdinand is the founder and executive director of Sankofa. A fifth-generation homeowner, Rashida comes from a family of community health practitioners and social justice leaders. She founded Sankofa with a team of community stakeholders in 2008 to create a local environment that promotes positive health and environmental sustainability. Her efforts are designed to ensure resilience, community empowerment, and equity.
Ronni Johnson is a New Orleans native and graduate of Louise S. McGehee School,
Howard University and Tulane University’s Master of Business Administration/Master
of Health Administration program. Ronni is a fellowship-trained healthcare
administrator with experience in practice management, quality control and strategy
management. Most recently, Ronni served as Executive Director of Atlanta’s Jewish
Home Life’s private duty-care entity. Ronni is now translating her operations experience
to Sankofa CDC as the non-profit’s Chief of Staff where she is responsible for ensuring
operational efficiency and providing project management leadership. This career shift
has not only afforded Ronni the opportunity to utilize her operations experience but also
to serve her hometown in a meaningful way.