Changing the Game with Cathy Hughes


11th Annual Empowerment Conference a Huge Success

“This is amazing. Over 500 people at an Empowerment Conference. This would not have been possible when I was in Omaha.” —Cathy Hughes

Cathy Hughes, North Omaha native, and founder and Chairwoman of Urban One, Inc., delivered an awesome keynote at the 11th Annual Empowerment Network Conference on Friday, May 18, 2018, at the Hilton Omaha Downtown. Hughes was in town to attend a street dedication in her honor and agreed to serve as the keynote speaker at the Network’s luncheon. It was a historic, one-of-a-kind moment.

Comments from attendees said it all.

“She was real, down to earth and absolutely amazing. Everyone in North Omaha needs to hear what she had to say.”

“She made it so personal, it made it seem like I was sitting in her kitchen listening to stories about what it was like to grow up in North Omaha and what it takes to be successful.”

“Always better your best.”

The audience was fully engaged, laughing, cheering, gasping and applauding throughout the forty minute conversation between Hughes and Willie Barney, President of the Empowerment Network. She started by thanking God for her blessings. Hughes recognized Johnny Rodgers, Vickey Parks and the other team members responsible for the Street Dedication. She was in awe of the whole Empowerment Network Conference and the collaboration happening in the community.

She then shared a wide range of experiences: working for her father and traveling on the railroad to Idaho; her first job at the Omaha Star working for Mildred Brown; starting at KOWH in Omaha and then eventually launching Radio One; turning the business over to her son; recommendations to support black business; and then closed with what it takes to be successful.

Attendees were glued to every word from Hughes, one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurial stories. Her talk was a compelling mix of wisdom from launching and growing a $500 million media empire and the lessons learned from being raised in North Omaha. Her story started in the projects in North Omaha but led to one of the most powerful examples of what’s possible with faith, determination, persistence and the support of the “village” and family.

Hughes challenged those in attendance to continue working together to make positive change happen in North Omaha. She shared her passion for seeing the rebuilding of North Omaha moving forward at a more rapid pace. She specifically pointed to the differences she noticed along North 24th Street and South 24th Street.

Hughes was a perfect speaker for the 11th Annual Empowerment Network “Rebuilding the Village” Conference. She emphasized many of the key points the Network has focused on over the years. The importance of the village. Preparing the next generation to lead and then knowing when to hand over the baton while still being there for support.

Teaching kids about entrepreneurship and work ethic by allowing them to use their skills early. Homeownership and leveraging assets. The significance of learning black history and the impact it had on her life. The critical need to support black-owned businesses. The principles of investing in one another and never letting obstacles turn you around. “You can only be successful if you work together,” said Hughes. “No one can do this alone. It takes everyone doing their part.”

The conference included three national speakers and over 30 local experts. The EmPowerTalks delivered by local leaders were inspiring and powerful. The breakout sessions were incredibly well-attended. Businesses and organizations were represented at vendor tables. The entire day was focused on Economic Empowerment…Changing the Game through Collaboration and Capacity-building to accelerate the pace of change in North Omaha.

Speakers highlighted progress made towards the Transformation 2025/North Omaha Collaborative Goals and successes that could be taken to scale with more investment. Attendees were encouraged by the positive steps forward while also acknowledging the work ahead.

Hughes had this to say at the end of the event; “The city wants and needs for this effort to be successful. Keep pushing forward. Keep working together. Always better your best.”

The Empowerment Network recognized Hughes with the North Omaha Legends Award. Others recognized at the event were: Phyllis Hicks – Publisher of the Omaha Star – Community Impact Award; Alvin Goodwin – Retired CEO – Omaha Economic Development Corporation – North Omaha Legacy Award; Rose Ann Shannon – Retired News Director from KETV – Media Partner of the Year; CHI Health – Strategic Partner of the Year; and Palistene Gray-Moore – Volunteer of the Year.

See photo highlights from the 2018 Empowerment Conference »