Published: Tuesday, May 3, 2022
The Carver Legacy Center, an innovative collaborative approach to building black businesses and thriving communities was publicly announced on August 30, 2020 and formally opened on April 4, 2022.
Carver Legacy Center Owners and Partners with Elected Officials and Strategic Collaborators (April 4, 2022 Soft Opening)
After nearly five years of behind the scenes work to develop formal partnerships, the collaboration is bringing new life to the historic Carver building located in the village at 24th and Lake.
Co-founders and co-owners Willie and Yolanda Barney and Martin, and Lynnell Williams have created a joint venture with American National Bank to make it happen.
The focus of the Center is creating wealth for African-Americans and North Omaha residents through business ownership, home ownership and community ownership.
“18 months ago we stood before the community and promised to renovate the historic Carver building and launch a new financial center, develop a Hub and Accelerator for small businesses where they can launch, scale and grow, and create a store and pop-up incubator where Black businesses and North Omaha entrepreneurs can feature their products and services. Today, we are back to have you experience it for yourself. Welcome to the Carver Legacy Center,” said Willie Barney, co-owner and co-founder.
“For over 22 years, Yolanda and I have worked to launch, support, promote and expand black businesses.”
“We are excited to partner with Martin and Lynnell Williams and American National Bank. To be able to do this in the historic building where the first Black-owned financial institution in Nebraska was opened 78 years ago, the place where Whitney Young launched a program to increase Black homeownership and the building that housed the offices of some of Omaha’s history-making black leaders is especially meaningful to all of us.”
The Carver Legacy Center will have several components.
Carver Legacy Center Co-owners and Co-Founders: Willie and Yolanda Barney and Lynnell and Martin Williams. Carver Savings and Loan, the first Black-owned financial institution in the state of Nebraska opened in 1944 and closed in the mid 1960’s. The Carver Legacy Center owners purchased the building and partnered with American National Bank to bring financial services, hubs and accelerators and wealth building systems back to 24th and Lake.
CARVER LEGACY FINANCIAL SERVICES
The Carver Legacy Financial Services Center, a joint venture with American National Bank, will bring banking services to 24th and Lake, and provide increased access to credit and capital for Black businesses and North Omaha residents.
With the joint venture with American National Bank, individuals, families, organizations, churches and businesses can open accounts and make deposits at any American National Bank location by designating a Carver Legacy Account. American National Bank is a member of the FDIC which means deposits are insured.
Loans leveraged by these deposits will benefit Black businesses and individuals, and North Omaha residents and businesses.
In Phase III to come later, the Carver at 24th and Lake is working to become a full service branch which will allow all banking services to be provided at that location.
“We are excited about partnering with the Barney and Williams families to make this happen at this historic location,” said John Kotouc, Co-chairman of American National Bank. “We are bringing our banking experience, expertise and considerable investments to this collaborative approach.”
“American National Bank is committed to supporting this Black-owned business and initiative and we want this to serve as another catalyst for further community-based development in North Omaha.”
Kotouc also emphasizes that this is not an exclusive situation. “We will play a role, but we challenge and encourage other financial institutions to also get involved with this project. It will benefit the entire community.”
In addition to the financial center, the Carver Legacy Center will house three other important components: Hub & Accelerators; Revive Omaha Store and Pop-Up Incubator; and Legacy Wealth Center.
HUB AND ACCELERATORS
The Hub will be the new home for Revive Omaha and the Revive Black Business Network. It will also feature shared office and meeting space for the DreamBusiness Accelerator and other business collaborators.
“Nine years ago, we created the Revive Black Business Network which has connected with over 300 black owned businesses,” said Yolanda Barney, co founder and Vice President of SMB Enterprises.
“One of the things we have heard most consistently is we need more funds to launch and expand our business. We can’t get loans. Entrepreneurs have also told us they would like support with finance, sales, technology, admin, marketing and branding.”
While the Financial Center will help bring funding together, the Hub will be a place to help entrepreneurs with connecting with other business owners and resources, launching their vision and provide technical assistance to help take their businesses to scale.
The Accelerators run by the Barneys and Williams will also connect black businesses to supplier diversity and procurement opportunities with major companies.
“We are excited to be open for business at the Carver Legacy Center. The process of building and introducing this financial services center was a work of passion and commitment to our community,” said Martin Williams, co-owner and co-founder.
“We have worked for the past 30 years on cultural approaches to launch and grow successful businesses.”
He and his wife Lynnell are founders and strategic leaders of Ambassador Worship Center and have established several businesses nationally and internationally, including Barak II which is the partner with the Carver.
“Using what we have learned by helping others to launch million dollar businesses, we are blessed to be a part of bringing the Carver back to life and helping families to build generational wealth.”
The Hub will utilize a collaborative approach that all three families have dedicated themselves to over many years. The Revive Black Business Network will operate a start-up accelerator and the Williams will facilitate a scale-up accelerator through their DreamBusiness program.
Other businesses will bring their specific expertise to the table. Hayes and Associates and Advance Tax Solutions will support businesses with finance, accounting and tax services. Technology Consulting Solutions and others will assist with technology.
Business Seals and others will assist with business plans and financial forecasts. PPRP Innovations will support market research, pricing and market growth strategies. Other black owned businesses will assist with social media, branding, marketing, HR and operations.
“We wanted to create one place where an entrepreneur can go from idea to launch and then to scale and expansion,” said Willie Barney.
“We are also finalizing partnerships with other specialists and organizations who will offer services at the Center.”
REVIVE OMAHA STORE AND POP-UP INCUBATOR
Another key component to the Center will be the Revive Store and Pop Up Incubator. The space where Big Mama’s sandwich shop operated will be multi-use.
It will feature products created by African-Americans and North Omaha residents. The space will also serve as a pop-up incubator for businesses that would like to introduce their products to the community.
“It’s a perfect space for a small business to host an event to showcase their products while also giving them a chance to test market and gather valuable experience” said Yolanda Barney.
“Our goal is to help them step out into their entrepreneurship journey and then hopefully locate a business in the 24th and Lake District or another key corridor in North Omaha.”
LEGACY WEALTH CENTER
The final piece of the four part strategy is the Legacy Wealth Center. A core element in the vision is financial empowerment and community ownership. The team wants to see residents save, improve credit scores, purchase insurance, invest in stocks, purchase land and homes, become business owners and pass wealth to future generations.
The Legacy Wealth Center will feature workshops, special events and classes to help residents with accomplishing their financial goals. We will have guest speakers and experts in their fields share their time and talent with members. Participants will learn more about turning their gifts and talents into revenue producing businesses and multiple streams of income.
“This is the part that gets me most excited,” said Lynnell Williams. “We want to teach families everything we have learned about building wealth. That starts with breaking cycles and implementing discipline in the areas of finance.”
“Carver Legacy Center is committed to bridging the gap for all ages and ensuring that our young ones get a head start on understanding money matters! Our future depends on how well we financially prepare our youth.”
The Carver Legacy Center will also house the Revive Black Business Network which has national strategic advisors, including Dr. Pamela Jolly, Dr. Randal Pinkett and Tawanna Black. They will also support and offer wealth building classes and sessions.
As the Carver Legacy Center moves through the phases, the team will also work with local and national partners to create collective investment opportunities. This will be a platform to pool and leverage resources.
“We believe the reopening of the Carver is like digging up the wells that made North Omaha a great place to live, worship, work and own homes and businesses,” said Martin Williams. “As we move forward, we will work with others to help residents to create wealth and ownership.”
Other local collaborators include: Omaha Economic Development Corporation, Nebraska Enterprise Fund, Family Housing Advisory Services, Omaha 100, Shift Omaha, Creighton University, Metropolitan Community College and the University of Nebraska – UNO.
“American National Bank is committed to helping to develop strong communities and we are very supportive of many organizations in North Omaha,” said Wende Kotouc.
“We have worked with Willie and Yolanda and Martin and Lynnell for many years and they have consistently worked with others to produce measurable results. They have shown again and again they know how to make things happen. We are excited to be involved in this effort. Earnest White who has a long history of community involvement will be our ambassador to Carver.”
Willie Barney added, “We want to specifically thank Michael Maroney, Ben Gray, the City of Omaha Mayors Office and Planning Department, Lorie Lewis, Ernest White, Ryan Meyer, Steph Gould, Jackie Vinci, Patti Kuhre, Pamela Jolly and Katie Weitz for their support as we have worked to develop this Center.”
“We believe the Carver will be an important piece of accelerating progress at 24th and Lake, in North Omaha and for African-American communities.”
“Omaha is known for wealth, we want it to be known for creating Black wealth as well and rebuilding a thriving North Omaha.”
We Choose to Build Together…300 leaders convene for Summit & Business Expo
The Empowerment Network’s African-American Leadership Summit and Revive Black Business Expo held at the Hilton Omaha on November 6th were both highly successful. Over 300 local and national leaders from every sector convened for a day of inspiration, development, networking and capacity-building. The theme of the event was “We Choose to Build Together.”
“We normally have a Leadership Conference in the fall but decided to switch things up this year because of so many major things happening in the community,” said Willie Barney, CEO & founder of the Empowerment Network.
“Our goals were to build on our collective work, encourage the tangible support of Black-owned businesses, introduce our national partner cities and launch the next round of capacity-building cohorts,” said Barney. “We choose to do business together. Build community together. Intentionally.”
Thirty small businesses and organizations were visible at display tables and most reported doing great business during the Summit generating thousands of dollars in sales collectively. A new tool was utilized through a Summit app to track sales during the day.
“I did very, very well,” said one of the small business vendors. “It was an exceptional day for my business.”
“The attendees at the Leadership events always do a great job supporting the small businesses,” said Yolanda Barney of Revive Omaha and manager of the Revive Black Business Expo. “Many of them typically sell out of merchandise. We need to keep this going year-round.”
The Summit also featured a panel of small businesses discussing the impact of intentional support from the Empowerment Network and other organizations. Gladys Harrison, owner of Big Mama’s Kitchen and Catering; Jason Fischer, CEO of Surreal Media Lab; Lewade Milliner, national musician and artist based in North Omaha; and, Don McPherson, owner of Styles of Evolution, all shared specific examples of how the Network and its partners have supported their businesses.
All of the small business owners also highlighted their vision for the future and the number of jobs they could create in the community with additional support.
“Imagine what we could do if all of the churches, organizations, neighborhoods and corporations supported these businesses in the same way,” said McPherson.
In addition to the small businesses and panels of local and national speakers, the Empowerment Network introduced representatives from Kansas City, Missouri; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Lansing, Michigan; and Columbus, Georgia. These are cities in the process of starting Empowerment Network and 360 initiatives in their communities. New Orleans, Louisiana and Davenport, IA/Quad-Cities are also part of the national partnerships.
Klassie Alcine, Executive Director of KC Common Good (KC 360 in Kansas City)
City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, Tulsa, OK
“I really want to thank the Network team for the incredible amount of work they put into pulling this off in less than four weeks,” said Barney. “And, thank you to the sponsors, speakers, volunteers and all in attendance. We need to build on this momentum.”
Capacity-Building Cohorts Launched at Summit
The Empowerment Network’s national strategic partners were present to help launch or continue capacity-building cohorts regarding career advancement, leadership development, storytelling, fund development and wealth building.
Dr. Randal Pinkett opened the registration for the 5th cohort and a national edition of the Redefine the Game Institute. Pinkett shared insights regarding the changes in the field of diversity and inclusion and what it will take to be successful with career advancement moving forward.
Dr. Pamela Jolly is working with the Network to launch the 3rd cohort of the Legacy Wealth initiative. Jolly challenged attendees to build on the closed loop economy that has launched in Omaha.
Suzan Hart’s cohort will leverage her internationally recognized approach to strategic, collaborative leadership and storytelling. Hart shared her personal journey towards full empowerment as she found purpose by unleashing the power of her own story.
Anna Barber is launching a cohort to help leaders with fund and donor development strategies to make visions a reality. Barber shared insights from her experience of developing hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions including the African-American History Museum in Washington D.C.
Obama Foundation and Department of Justice Attend Summit
Dr. Adren Wilson, Executive Director of My Brother’s Keeper and Vice-President of the Obama Foundation, was present to celebrate Omaha as one of four model communities.
Karhlton Moore, Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance representing the Department of Justice, attended the Leadership Summit to learn more about the Empowerment Network’s approach to addressing root causes and mobilizing sectors of the community.
Dr. Will Moreland, one of the Network’s national strategic partners had the crowd fully engaged as he emphasized the key message of the Summit: “Be Intentional!”
Dozens of Local Leaders Highlighted Their Commitments
Local speakers emphasized the importance of collaboration and supporting black businesses.
Kimara Snipes, new executive director of One Omaha, highlighted the role of neighborhoods in using asset-based development and specific ways neighborhoods support small businesses.
Pastor Brian Page, Senior Pastor of Pleasant Green Baptist Church, represented churches and highlighted the impact local churches continue to have in serving the community and providing leadership in partnership with community-based organizations.
Tamera Spurlock and Andrea Walker, co-leads with Amplify, PayPal’s Black Employee Resource Group provided powerful examples of what they do to help employees achieve success while also serving and volunteering in the community. Amplify is also very intentional about supporting Black businesses.
Deputy Chief Sherie Thomas of the Omaha Police Department illustrated the power of working together to make change happen in the community. Thomas also noted the way the Black Police Officer’s Association supports small businesses and hosts impactful events with youth and the community.
Barney and State Senator Justin Wayne, Willie Hamilton, President of Black Men United and Leo Louis, business owner and board chair of the Malcolm X Foundation, shared perspectives on what it takes to get past divisions to make a positive impact in the community.
Jonathan Chapman, Vice-President of Community Collaboratives for the Empowerment Network hosted a panel with State Senator Terrell McKinney, Aja Anderson, Executive Director of the LiveWell Partnership, Racquel Henderson, Navigator at Metropolitan Community College and Marisa Hattab, Director of Diversity, and Inclusion for Douglas County. The panel focused on ways to build on the foundation of collective work in Omaha to create the future desired by the community.
The final session of the day featured Nadia Spurlock, a recent graduate from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and the newest member of the Empowerment Network team and Denzell Dial, a senior at the University of Nebraska Omaha, majoring in aviation.
Both Spurlock and Dial spoke about the impact of their families, the community organizations they were a part of while they were growing up in North Omaha and their hopes for the future as they both lead efforts to help the next generation. They were joined by other young men and women who are working to build out the MBK Omaha initiative for young men and Empowered Young Women’s groups.
“We encourage everyone to stay engaged throughout the rest of the year and into 2024,” said Jonathan Chapman, Vice-President of Community Collaboratives for the Empowerment Network. “Stay connected via our website and Facebook page. There’s something for everyone to do.”
Saturday, Dec. 2nd…Get ready for 13th Annual Christmas in the Village at 24th & Lake
Tis the season to join in the holiday spirit at the 13th Annual Christmas in the Village at 24th and Lake on Saturday, December 2nd from Noon to 5 pm.
The Empowerment Network and Omaha Economic Development Corporation in partnership with dozens of community partners are inviting residents to attend this one-of-a-kind cultural community celebration and holiday tradition.
Christmas in the Village is the largest holiday event in North Omaha and draws thousands of visitors from the region to the historic 24th and Lake district each year. Attendees have come from as far away as Lincoln, Kansas City, St. Louis, Minneapolis and other cities.
The event will kick-off at noon with Santa and Mrs. Claus on a horse-drawn carriage. “We encourage the community to come out early and line 24th Street for a special kick-off with Santa and Mrs. Claus and all of our cartoon characters,” said Vicki Quaites-Ferris, Vice-President of Community Development for the Empowerment Network and Event Manager for Christmas in the Village.
Come Play, Sing and Enjoy! There will be plenty outdoor activities for children and adults, including: holiday music featuring local recording artists, choirs and dance groups; live nativity scene including a camel; free carriage rides; free toys, gifts and candy while supplies last; face painting; balloon artist; cartoon characters; interactive games and activities, handmade pottery; and, much more.
Come ready to Shop and Eat! The Holiday Boutique will return this year with over 30 different vendors showcasing unique merchandise. Vendors will serve the community under a heated BIG TENT on the southwest corner of 24th and Lake next to the Family Housing Advisory Services Building. Plus, businesses in the district will offer special discounts and holiday items for sale. Food trucks and local restaurants will have food for purchase.
“We’re excited to bring back the Holiday Boutique, which has always been one of the most popular attractions,” said Aisha Conner, manager of the Village Empowerment Center and coordinator of the Christmas in the Village Holiday Boutique. “We have some amazing vendors that you will want to check out and support.
Major sponsors for Christmas in the Village at 24th and Lake include: American National Bank, Mutual of Omaha, Douglas County Visitors Improvement Fund and Nebraska Arts Council. Media sponsors include KETV and Revive! Omaha Magazine.
Get Ready to Shop, Play, Eat, Sing, See and Enjoy! 70+ small businesses, organizations, ministries and artists have teamed to make this the largest and best ever!
The Christmas in the Village partners want to remind the community that street closures will take place at the following major intersections beginning at 10 am:
- 25th to 22nd and Lake Street
- 24th & Maple to 24th & Burdette Street
Streets will reopen @ 5:30 pm.
Christmas in the Village is part of the on-going re-establishment of an arts, culture, business and entertainment district at 24th and Lake envisioned in the North Omaha Village Revitalization Plan facilitated by the Empowerment Network, OEDC and community partners over 12 years ago. It has served as one of the major catalysts for the development occurring in the historic 24th and Lake district.
Christmas in the Village is one of the largest events in North Omaha and is part of the ongoing North Omaha Village Zone Revitalization Plan and rebirth of the arts, culture, and entertainment district at 24th and Lake. Christmas in the Village started as a vision from Willie Barney and was initially designed in partnership with Vicki Quaites-Ferris, Empowerment Network Arts and Culture Co-Chairs Deborah Bunting and Stacy Henry; and Michael Maroney and the OEDC (Omaha Economic Development Corporation) team.
Urban League presents African-American Leadership Awards on Nov. 2nd
Congratulations to the 2023 Class of African-American Leadership Award Winners presented by the Urban League of Nebraska.
Join The Urban League of Nebraska and Honorary Chairs Othello & Tulani Meadows as they honor the leaders in our community who have made a difference. Since 1989, the Urban League has convened individuals from across the City of Omaha and from different professional sectors to honor exemplary African-American leaders.
The Urban League of Nebraska (ULN) seeks to build resilience in the North Omaha community by dismantling the wall that stands between our underserved community members and a more prosperous future. Our AALA honorees have achieved milestones that help us in this noble endeavor. Because of their efforts, Omaha is a better place to live and North Omaha is stronger and more resilient.