June Summit Recap: Celebrating Nine Years of Transforming the Westside

Transform Westside Summit began in 2014 as the brainchild of Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy. Created to bridge the gap between Westside residents and organizations with a true passion and desire to see the Westside grow, the audience includes longtime neighborhood residents, community and faith leaders, heads of non-profits and corporate executives. These diverse stakeholders come together to share success stories and discuss challenges that currently affect our Westside neighborhoods.

In recognition of the event’s ninth anniversary, new and long-time attendees were given the opportunity to reflect on their experience and the tremendous impact the Summit has made in transforming the Westside. Tameka Askew, Westside Future Fund’s Home on the Westside manager, led the blessing. 

John Ahmann, president and CEO, Westside Future Fund; Ebony Ford, director of Community Building and Engagement, Quest CDC; and Benjamin Earley, fourth generation Westside resident and senior correspondent, Redclay-Hill, led the discussion. Earley, who has co-hosted the Summit since January 2020, announced this would be his last as a regular co-host. He plans to pursue a different calling, but will attend future Summits as a member of the audience.

Panelist Reflections

Community Building

  • The most critical part of the work we do is bringing people with different life experiences together. The Summit has provided that safe space to build community and get to know one another. For me, the Summits have been an enormous opportunity to meet and engage with so many people that I never would have had the opportunity to otherwise.” — John Ahmann


  • They call it the Transform Westside Summit. In order to transform the Westside, you have to transform each individual. This Summit has transformed my life. — Ebony Ford

Level of Influence

  • One thing I’ve learned from interviewing people and speaking to different leaders is that it matters who is in position to make a change. I realize that I am in a position of a certain level of influence I can have in my community. That’s the added benefit, but it’s a very important benefit. — Benjamin Earley

Audience Reflections

Transformative Authority

  • When the power and authority meet the poor and underclass, and we have dialogue and have a public sphere where we can speak, that can be very altering. Westside Future Fund has altered the thinking of many because it has worked towards transformative authority. They gave us hope that our voices would be heard. — Reverend Leroy Wright, pastor, First Thessalonian Missionary Baptist Church

Success on the Westside

  • To be successful, you’ve got to develop a network, a group of people we can build trust in. A group to get through the hard times with. On the Westside, we were identified by what we didn’t have, how bad it was, how much we were left out. What’s happened over the last nine years is that we’ve turned that upside down. We have great things on the Westside. We have great assets in this community. Those assets are each other. We identify now as a place of power, a place we take pride in. A place where we trust each other. I don’t think we would have done that had we not gathered together. — Bill Bolling, founder, Atlanta Community Food Bank

Getting to Know Each Other

  • The self introduction is what makes this room what it is because that’s how we get to know each other and that’s how we are all on an even plane. I have described this room as the best of Atlanta. This is where all of Atlanta can come together, with respect. Where everyone gets to know one another. There are a lot of organizations in this town that could learn a lot about how we do things here at the Transform Westside Summit. — Maria Saporta, SaportaReport

Making a Difference

  • I wear a pin sometimes that says “Anybody can make a difference. Everyone should try.” There are those who are determined to make a difference and there are those who are destined to make a difference. I see that in this room. — Tillman Ward, long-time Westside resident


Miss the event? Watch the full Transform Westside Summit on YouTube.