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Published:  June 15, 2020

By:  Willie Barney, Co-Publisher Revive Omaha

Beyond the Flames:  Why I Believe 2020 is a Turning Point

Where Do We Go From Here?

Harlem.  Watts.  Newark.  Detroit.  Omaha.  Los Angeles.  Ferguson.  Baltimore. Minneapolis.

“If we don’t learn from history, we are destined to repeat it.”
– Philosopher George Santanya and Winston Churchill

In 2014, as I watched the fires burning in Ferguson, Missouri, I wrote a piece entitled “Beyond the Flames:  Will We Get It Right This Time?”  Ferguson was burning in response to the devastating scenes following the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer.  I was so impacted and moved that I had to write down on paper what became a speech I gave at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

This followed the 2012 vigilante killing of Trayvon Martin and preceded the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody which ignited the flames in Baltimore.   The frustrating and devastating list goes on and on and continues today.

There have been other shootings of unarmed black men and black women when police officers received no repercussions from their crime.  This list also includes Omaha after the officer-involved shooting of Vivian Strong in 1969 that resulted in the destruction of North 24th Street.  The once thriving corridor is just now in the process of being rebuilt.

No justice for Eric Garner, New York, 2014.  No justice for Sandra Bland, 2015, southeast Texas.  No justice for Philando Castile 2016, suburban Minnesota.   No justice.

African-Americans have tried to send a message for decades that we are suffering.  Suffering from the lingering impacts of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation effects that were never fully addressed.  Suffering from unemployment, lack of investment, neglect, poor educational outcomes, low access to capital, over policing, poor housing conditions and so much more.  There have been small attempts to fix the situation, but nothing substantial and sustained.

A temporary reconstruction period followed the abolishment of slavery where some progress was made, but abandoned just at the time when freed slaves were finally starting to become integrated into American life.  No Justice.

There were promises made beyond the elimination of slavery.  Promises for land, property and finances for the freed slaves to get a new start at becoming full citizens.    Policies were changed to finally recognize African-Americans as being 100% human, correcting the Constitution which had declared us as 3/5ths of a man.

The original constitutional declaration allowed America to benefit economically for over 250 years from free labor through inhumane conditions.  It is referred to as the worst form of enslavement in modern history.  African-Americans helped build this country and were paid nothing for it.  No Justice.

What’s happening today is not new.  Racial tensions have raged before. There has always been a spark which kindled the flames.

These flames have come as city after city and community after community across the nation have been destroyed.

Before Richard Nixon was elected in 1968 on the promise to be a law and order president, President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) commissioned a group to find out why the cities across the country were burning.  The commission produced a document which became known as the Kerner Report.

Rather than identifying African-Americans as the cause, the report shined the light on white America.  The Kerner Commission presented the case that the blame for the riots should be placed squarely on the shoulders of underlying conditions of injustice, neglect, disinvestment, unequal treatment and systematic racism.

The report clearly states the priorities that must be addressed:  1. Unemployment and low wages.  2.  Poor educational systems.  3.  Poor housing conditions.  4. Bad relationships between police and the community.  5. Lack of services for those in poverty and the structure of welfare system.

The most important conclusion to address the injustice?  America needed to make a significant investment to right the wrongs of the past.

Little did I know until recently that the former Mayor of Omaha, A. V. Sorensen, had reached the same conclusion in 1968.  He said then that Omaha needed to bring together people from all sectors to form a coalition that would oversee a massive investment to address African-American poverty.  Nothing was done.

He left office realizing the city did not have the will or appetite to fully address the issue.  The city and nation continued redlining and driving interstates through the heart of black communities under the guise of urban redevelopment.

America chose to make small investments to address the injustice, but with a costly Vietnam War occurring at the same time, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared that the nation had given black America a blank check.  He said the easy part of the Civil Rights Movement was getting legislation passed for voting rights; the hard part was securing the funds to address the economic issues.  This was going to cost the nation money, King said.

For a time, mostly through programs enacted by President Johnson, some investments were made through the so-called War on Poverty.  The investments were not sustained and were not implemented anywhere near the level required.

One of the most significant statements and conclusions from the Kerner Commission was “to mount programs on the scale equal to the dimension of the problems.”  “These programs will require unprecedented levels of funding and performance…”

The report emphasized that if America didn’t respond on a large scale, we would see the creation of two America’s.  One black. One white.  Separate. Unequal.

Across the nation, we have inherited the promise.  Two Americas.  One white.  The other, everyone else (black and brown).

I wrote in the speech, after watching the flames in Ferguson, that in 1968, the nation had a decision to make.  Do we finally invest in helping African Americans become economically sound and full citizens or do we invest more in police, expanding the criminal justice system and building more prisons?

President Richard Nixon answered the question for America.  Law and order.  No Justice.

For decades, African-Americans have asked for additional investments to address employment, education, housing, health and other needs.  Funding was never available at the scale of the problem.  Communities were not rebuilt.

African-Americans asked for the promised 40 acres and a mule.  African-Americans presented plans such as the Freedom Agenda under Dr. King which proposed to end poverty in 10 years. African-Americans asked for reparations.

It is important to note reparations have been granted across the world after a specific race, ethnic group or nation was on the wrong end of injustice. The answer to these requests for African-Americans?  No funds available.  No justice.

Where would America ever come up with trillions of dollars to right this wrong?  We were always told, it would be absolutely impossible. We were told there is absolutely no way America could ever come up with trillions of dollars to address its original sin.  It’s been over 400 years since enslaved Africans were brought to these shores.

But, no recompense.  No Justice.

Instead we are told, pick yourself up by your bootstraps and help yourself.  Instead we are told, forget about slavery.  Instead we are told, you’ve had a black President.  Instead we are told, it’s a post-racial society and racism doesn’t exist.  Help yourselves, we are told.  There will be no hand up, we are told.

Cue the Coronavirus.

The virus may not be racist, but the impact surely is disproportionately destructive to African Americans and other people of color.  Health and economic inequities have been laid bare. Consequently, the virus called for a critical response.  A national response.

What does COVID-19 have to do with this justice and systemic racism?  As soon as the nation began to experience the negative economic and health impacts of the virus, immediate legislation was drafted and approved by Congress.  The Treasury Department rewrote the rules.  Trillions of dollars were miraculously found and infused into the economy to address suffering corporations, small businesses and most U.S. citizens.

In a moment of crisis, leaders can find the money.

The message this sends is that it matters who is suffering.  African-Americans have been suffering for centuries. Native Americans have been suffering for centuries.  However, when the unemployment rate for white Americans hit the same level as the African-American unemployment rate which has languished for decades, Congress and the Treasury department have taken actions to produce what is estimated at seven trillion dollars of economic activity.

The question is where did the money come from in this instance?  It’s been made abundantly clear that the nation could have made the right decision in 1865.  We could have made the right decision in 1918.  We could have made the right decision in 1968. We could have made the right decision in 1992 after Los Angeles and Rodney King.  We could have made the right decision after Ferguson in 2014.  We could have made the right decision after Baltimore in 2015.

No justice.   No peace.   Fast forward.

Cue the final spark.

Watching an unarmed black man, George Floyd, die a horrific death with the knee of a white police officer on his neck, and 2 other officers on his prone body behind the car, the image was finally too much. African-Americans have experienced police brutality and violence for decades, but this was filmed, became a viral moment on social media, and impossible to ignore, deny or cover up.  Breaking point.

In the midst of a pandemic which has killed over 100,000 Americans and disproportionately impacted African Americans and people of color, we once again are face to face with injustice and racism.

After being locked away in their homes for nearly three months and watching the video from Minneapolis and dozens of other racial events within a few weeks, cities across the country and internationally have erupted with protests and flames are once again burning in America.

What to do now?  Where’s the hope?

We know what needs to be done.  We have known for decades.  Case study after case study, commission after commission and book after book, have boiled down to economics, education, housing, equal access to health care and people working together to address poverty and systemic racism.

 Be sure to check out Part II:  Moving Forward with Solutions

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Careers

Shavonne Washington-Krauth inaugural Director of Culture & Inclusion at Children’s Hospital

Published:  January 19, 2022

Shavonne Washington-Krauth is the inaugural Culture and Inclusion Director for Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.

In mid-2018 Children’s Hospital & Medical Center began intensive conversations about their desire to do more focused and intentional work related to diversity and inclusion within the organization.

By July 2019, Children’s had hired its inaugural Culture and Inclusion Manager, Shavonne Washington-Krauth. Since that time, Children’s has been working to provide a more diverse and inclusive workplace experience for employees by focusing on programming, systems, and policy concepts.

They have also been working in the realm of creating a more inclusive experience for their patients and families. Due to the success and level of influence she was having in her role, Children’s promoted Shavonne to the Director of Culture and Inclusion one year after she joined the organization, and is now adding a new member to her team.

Children’s is proud of the progress made in the past 2 ½ years and looks forward to seeing how much more they will accomplish.

Ms. Washington-Krauth’s responsibilities include the creation and revision of systems, policies, opportunities, and environments in which everyone can not only work, but thrive at a more equitable rate without feeling excluded or marginalized.

She also leads the development and implementation of a culture, diversity, and inclusion strategic framework; supervision of six employee resource groups and serves as an advisor or subject matter expert on topics regarding the organization’s culture, diversity, and inclusion efforts.

Ms. Washington-Krauth holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, a master’s degree in health education, is a Prosci-certified Change Management Practitioner, and a trained Bridges Out of Poverty facilitator.  Washington-Krauth is also a graduate of the Empowerment Network and BCT Partners’ Redefine the Game Institute.

She is a self-proclaimed “Air Force Brat” currently living in Omaha with her husband, two sons, two dogs, a fish, and three chickens.

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Careers

Redefine the Game celebrates completion of 3 cohorts and launch of the 4th

In 2021, The Empowerment Network and BCT Partners completed the 3rd and started the 4th Cohort of the nationally recognized Redefine the Game Institute.

A graduation ceremony for the 2nd and 3rd cohorts was held in June of 2021. The 4th cohort held its first class in November 2021 and will finish in September 2022.

Launched in 2018, by the Empowerment Network, BCT Partners and WDB Resultants, Redefine the Game is a highly interactive, career advancement and leadership development program.

It brings together African-American professionals from all sectors and engages them in a year long development experience which helps them to prepare for the next phase of their career.

Participants have the opportunity to rediscover their passions, purpose and ground themselves by reviewing their core values. From there they complete an assessment which helps them to understand how they make decisions, ways to interact with others more effectively and provides insights on how to use their strengths to maximize individual and collective work.

Over the period of the program, the class walks through the ten game changing strategies identified in the best selling book, Black Faces in White Places, written by Dr. Randal Pinkett and Dr. Jeffrey Robinson.

Pinkett and Robinson co-facilitate Redefine the Game, along with Willie Barney of the Empowerment Network and WDB Resultants and Damita Byrd with BCT Partners. Barney and Byrd worked together to develop the vision for the the cohort program and partnered with Pinkett and Robinson to bring it to reality.

It has made a measurable impact after just three cohorts. Over 40 corporations, businesses and organizations have sent employees through the program.

“We had thought about creating a course based on our book, but didn’t get around to doing it,” said Pinkett. “Then, Willie and Damita came to us with the vision and made it happen in a very short amount of time. Now, corporations and organizations across the country are inquiring about RTG.”

Including this cohort, 125 Black professionals and community leaders in Omaha will have participated. Of those who have completed the course, 70% have been promoted on their job.

“They were already doing great work and now have earned advancement and leadership opportunities through their own abilities, relationship building and utilization of their unique skill set,” said Barney.

“Alumni tell us that RTG helps provide them with an edge and the insights they need to better navigate their environments successfully,” added Byrd.

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NEWS

Revive Black Business Summit connects entrepreneurs to capital, resources & opportunities

“This was the best and most informative business summit event that I have ever been part of,” said Chef Wilson Calixte, owner of Le Voltaire French Restaurant, one of Omaha’s top restaurants.

“What’s happening in Omaha is the prototype for the nation,” said George Fraser, CEO of FraserNet, the PowerNetworking Conference and member of the National Black Business Hall of Fame. “Join this local and national Network, keep building and stay the course.”

Fraser is known across the world as one of the top experts on building highly effective and productive networks.

He joined Dr. Pamela Jolly, a nationally recognized thought leader on wealth building and a strategic advisor for business accelerators, as keynote speakers for the virtual Revive Black Business Summit.

Both Jolly and Fraser, along with other nationally known Black business leaders and entrepreneurs, have agreed to join the Revive Black Business Network Board of Advisors and to extend special offers to its members.

The Business Summit was hosted on Saturday, January 15th by Willie and Yolanda Barney, co owners of Revive Omaha!, Revive Center and Carver Legacy Center.   2022 marks 14 years since they launched Revive Magazine and 9 years since they formed the Revive Black Business Luncheon.  January 15th also marked the 93rd birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We have talked for years about launching the formal Business Network, but put it on hold as we worked on other community projects and businesses,” said Willie Barney.  “We believe now is the time to move forward and build on and expand our local and national partnerships.  To launch the Business Network on Dr. King’s birthday is incredibly significant.  2022 will be a breakthrough year.”

Jolly kicked off the Summit with an insightful presentation on the State of Black Business, emerging opportunities on the national level and the importance of working together.

“My research shows the benefit of building wealth together and elevating the standard of how we do business,” said Jolly.  “We need to be prepared for the current and future opportunities.”

If the response from attendees is any indicator, the Black Business Network is an idea whose time has come.

“The experience was absolutely amazing and very informative.  It was like I stumbled upon a high-level business master class led by owners and subject matter experts that were so willing to share their personal best practices and success strategies,” said Tim Clark, CEO of Clark Connection Group.

Clark also delivered a powerful message of his own during a session on Effective Networking.  “Be intentional.  Be credible.  Build trust.  Listen.  Listen.  Listen.”

“The information presented was extremely valuable for business owners,” said Marcella Dial who attended along with her husband, Howard.  “We got started with our business, but felt stuck.  This event helped us to see ways to move forward.”

The Summit featured some of Omaha’s most successful Black business owners and entrepreneurs.

Carmen Tapio, CEO of North End Teleservices, has grown from 0 to 400 employees in just over five years.  She shared her journey and how she overcame initial rejections from banks to secure the funding she needed to expand.  Tapio said she is aiming to create jobs for 1,000+ and continue changing lives through her business. She also encouraged attendees not to give up.

Candice Price, a serial entrepreneur including co-ownership of Home Team Auto Sales and Sapphire Grill, offered insights on generating multiple streams of income and highlighted the services available through the new non-profit she leads, Grow Nebraska.  “Having multiple streams of income was a blessing for us during the pandemic as we had to put our food truck in storage.”

Richard Webb, probably best known as the former CEO of the 100 Black Men and current CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands, shared his experiences as a successful business owner and real estate investor with his firm, Abundant Living.  “You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars attending seminars, it is possible to make money by investing in real estate.  Develop relationships.”

Gladys Harrison, owner of Big Mama’s Kitchen and Catering, spoke about being innovative and reinventing your business in the midst of challenges.  With most Black businesses struggling and 41% closing during the pandemic, Gladys reported that 2020 was their best financial year in the history of the company as they expanded on partnerships.  “It was the partnerships that allowed us to grow when others were closing down.”

Calvin Jones, CEO of Lions Gate Security, shared some best practices for establishing relationships and doing business with corporations and public entities, including some of Omaha’s largest organizations.  “Persistence.  You can’t be afraid to knock on the door and keep knocking.”

“What I experienced at the Summit was powerful, educational and dynamic,” said Bridget Hadley, Economic Development Manager for the City of Omaha.  “The depth of experience among all of the panelists makes Omaha and our community rich.  The exchange of information and nuggets of wisdom shared were practical, yet invaluable, and ready for implementation.”

“It was incredibly inspiring to hear from these successful business owners,” said Yolanda Barney.  “Being in business, especially during a time like this, can be challenging and you can feel isolated.  This let’s you know that you can still move forward and staying connected is vitally important.”

That is one of the main goals for formalizing the Revive Black Business Network.  The group keeps businesses connected, shares information about resources and opportunities, identifies funding sources and provides a platform to communicate successes and best practices.

The Revive Business Network will host meetings, summits, workshops, luncheons, conferences, expos and other events throughout the year.

In addition to business owners and entrepreneurs, the speakers and panelists on the summit included a wide range of service providers and support organizations available to assist with information, access to credit and capital, training and technical assistance.

BC Clark – Nebraska Enterprise Fund, Candice Price – Grow Nebraska, Manne Cook – Spark Capital, Bridget Hadley – City of Omaha, and Ernest White – Carver Legacy Center all highlighted different forms of funding including grants, loans and equity.  All of the organizations also offer training and special events.  Karine Sokpah, founder of the Midlands African Chamber also highlight opportunities for entrepreneurs to win $10,000 through the Pitch Black competition.

“When we started the Revive Black Business Network, we wanted to make sure business owners and entrepreneurs knew what resources and opportunities were available to them,” said Willie Barney.  “We have updated the Roadmap to Entrepreneurship in Omaha and we will have a consistent location for these activities to happen at the HUB inside the Carver Legacy Center and also at the Revive Center Markets.”

Two other sessions focused on helping businesses to get prepared with a solid foundation.  Malinda Williams, financial advisor with MVEST Partners shared tips for getting personal and business balance sheets in order.

Martine Quartey, owner of Advance Tax Solutions with 20+ years of experience, walked participants through key aspects needed to manage taxes professionally.  “Too many business don’t handle their taxes correctly, but we can help them build a solid foundation.”

Dr. Martin Williams of Martin Williams International and DreamKeepers focused on existing business owners and presented key concepts he has used over the years to help businesses scale.  “Creating successful businesses is about culture.”

The final session included specific opportunities to do business with corporations and public entities.  Winsley Durand from the Greater Omaha Chamber/REACH, Gerald Kuhn from the City of Omaha and Cameron Gales of Jacobs Construction all provided valuable contacts and pathways to  get in the door.  James Wright from Congressman Don Bacon’s office also discussed ways the office could be helpful.

“I thought the meeting was excellence in motion.  So much good information and resources within our own community,” said Sophia Jordan, owner of Black Bottom Biscotti.  “I am inspired to keep going and do business on purpose within our own community even more so.”

Fraser who closed the day off with a powerful keynote and an extended “post conference” session, emphasized some final key points.

“We can create jobs, build our communities and prepare the next generation,” said Fraser.  “If you do not have a system, you do not have a business.  What is your promise?”

He added, “We must connect, grow and prosper so we can learn, earn and return. Omaha has the opportunity to show the way.”

It was the perfect ending to the Summit. Creating moments like this on a consistent basis is one of the main goals for the Business Network.

“When do you ever have an opportunity to have George Fraser, a living legend, on a live zoom for an hour personally answering questions and sharing his experiences and insights?” said Calvin Jones.

The Black Business Summit was hosted by Revive! Omaha, Revive Center and Carver Legacy Center.  The virtual event was managed by RealQuick Solutions.

Learn more about the Black Business Summit here.

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