Working Together for Black Male Excellence

Update on the Omaha African-American Male Achievement Collaborative

In 2013, Omaha was one of eleven cities selected to develop a comprehensive African-American Male Achievement Initiative. The launch was timely and strategically connected to events happening on the national scene.

With former President Barack Obama’s announcement and launch of his “My Brother’s Keeper” (MBK) initiative, the interest in Black Male Achievement was at an all-time high. And, on the heels of the Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and Michael Brown tragedies and verdicts, the awareness of the challenges and issues facing African-American boys and young men was elevated to the center stage across the country.

The National League of Cities with the support of the Open Society Foundation, Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA) and PolicyLink created the eleven city cohort referred to as the Black Male Achievement Initiative. The local initiative became the Omaha African-American Male Achievement Collaborative (OAAMAC). Though the formal technical assistance period with the National League of Cities has passed, the OAAMAC continues to move forward.

The focus of the initiative is five-fold: strengthening African-American families; improving educational outcomes; improving access to quality health care; connecting African-American young men and men to employment; and reducing involvement in violence.
The Empowerment Network Collaborative, a ten-year, nationally recognized initiative, includes these goals and has active teams and measurable results in each area identified as priorities by the National League of Cities. The Empowerment Network, Urban League of Nebraska, Boys and Girls Club of the Midlands, 100 Black Men of Omaha, Charles Drew Health Center, City of Omaha, and Omaha Public Schools (OPS) have provided the core leadership for OAAMAC along with steering committee members.

From 2013 to 2016, the Omaha team worked with the National League of Cities via teleconferences and attended three national best practices summits in Seattle, Washington; Oakland, California; and, Portland, Oregon. Over 50 organizations have participated in the plan as it continues to move forward and others are joining in each month. The group has made measurable progress on the implementation of the plan. The Omaha collaborative has been highlighted nationally in publications, webinars, and conferences.

The Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA), led by Shawn Dove, is the largest network and leading authority in the country for nurturing the success of African-American boys and men. As the CBMA moves forward nationally, OAAMAC, MBK of the Heartland, Black Men United, Families First and other agencies are working to better integrate their efforts locally.

MBK is a regional effort focused on Boys and Men of Color in a three-county area. OAAMAC is the collaborative focused specifically on African-American boys and men. When CBMA developed their first comprehensive national report on black male achievement efforts across the country, Omaha received a score of 47 out of 100. Many of the local initiatives were not identified and recognized in the initial report. In addition, new programs and strategies have been launched. CBMA’s second Promise of Place report will be released in January 2018 and Omaha is expected to have a significantly higher score because of the great work happening in the city and region.

Collectively, these efforts and others like them are producing positive results. The graduation rate for African-American young men has increased from 49% to 68%. The goal is to increase to a minimum of 95% by 2025. The gun violence rate in North Omaha has been reduced by 60% between 2008 and 2016 and an 80% reduction during summer months. The percentage of African-American males taking Advanced Placement classes and attending post-secondary schools/college has increased since 2008. In addition, the number of young men engaged in summer employment, internships and accessing health care have all increased. Much work lies ahead, but progress is finally happening at a level not achieved in nearly 40 years. There are still significant gaps in academic performance and AA young men are significantly over-represented in the areas of suspensions, expulsions, and juvenile justice involvement. OAAMAC partners are committed to achieving the aggressive goals outlined in the plan.

The first phase of the OAAMAC plan was to complete assessments on the current levels of youth engagement; gather data and develop a comprehensive analysis of the state of African-American boys and young men in the city of Omaha; identify and recruit other key stakeholders; and, develop a comprehensive structure. This phase was completed in 2013–2014.

The second phase of the plan was to recruit more men, fathers, parents, and mentors to participate. This work was expanded in 2014 and continues today. Over 400 men have participated. The third phase was to begin piloting programs to specifically connect a pilot group of 865 young men with mentors, programs and resources. The Village Zone Mentoring program in partnership with the Empowerment Network, Midlands Mentoring Partnership, and OPS, was launched in 2015 and has connected fifty young men with mentors. The next group of fifty will start in 2017–2018.

Collectively, OAAMAC partner agencies serve over 2,500 African-American young men each year. The next phase will include the expansion of successful programs and the launch of new partnerships. The group is developing a data system to capture and maintain important information across programs. OAAMAC consistently hosts monthly communications and strategy meetings with partner organizations.

Another critical element is the on-going active engagement of African-American young men and their families in all areas of decision-making. An African-American young men’s leadership group is in development. The goal is to get young men prepared for leadership to host youth summits, participate on advisory groups, boards and commissions and eventually manage youth guided initiatives, policies and funds.
Teams in the areas of data, policy, communications, youth engagement and community engagement are in the process of reconvening. OAAMAC will also expand collaborative teams focused on community-building, safety and health, early childhood, K-12 education, post-secondary/college and careers.

To learn more or to get involved, please go to empoweromaha.com or call (402) 502-5153.