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Community Update: COVID-19 Trends, Testing, Masks, School, Housing & Food Resources and Job Opportunities

Published:  July 25, 2020

The Empowerment Network and COVID-19 Task Force host a weekly meeting to provide a platform for communicating, coordinating and collaborating to address the Coronavirus pandemic and long-term strategic initiatives.

Over 200 leaders and organizations are participating with COVID-19 relief efforts in North Omaha using the Network’s Village Strategy as the base.

Periodically, the collaborative partners will livestream the discussions to make sure the community is fully informed about trends, resources, opportunities and important events.

This week’s update includes information on:  Testing, Masks, Job Training, Employment, Rental Assistance, Mortgage Assistance, Home Ownership, Food, School Opening, Violence Prevention and more.

Click here to view the video update on Facebook

Careers

Groundbreaking Redefine the Game Institute featured on KETV’s Chronicle hosted by Julie Cornell

Published:  July 20, 2020

“This is a pivotal moment for our country,” said Dr. Randal Pinkett, CEO and Co-Founder of BCT Partners.  “If we work together, as the Network says, we can transform the country and transform Omaha.”

Three years ago, Damita Byrd and Willie Barney of the Empowerment Network and WDB Resultants worked with Dr. Pinkett & Dr. Jeffrey Robinson of BCT Partners to convert their bestselling book, “Black Faces in White Places,” into a year long curriculum and cohort.  The response and results have been overwhelmingly positive.

Pinkett is no stranger to Omaha.  He has been a featured keynote speaker and strategic partner with the Empowerment Network for the past five years.

“Omaha is like a second home for me,” said Pinkett.  “The Redefine the Game Institute is expanding nationally, especially with the racial equity and diversity issues facing our country, but it started in Omaha in partnership with the Empowerment Network, WDB and BCT Partners.”

One of the goals of the program is to help facilitate the movement of African-Americans into leadership positions within corporations, organizations and to the next level with entrepreneurial endeavors.  Over half of the original participants have received promotions or moved into new positions that are more aligned to their purpose and life mission.

The program has captured the attention of local and national media.  Julie Cornell, co-anchor for KETV Channel 7 in Omaha, featured the Redefine the Game Institute on Thursday, July 16th in a 2 minute news story.  Cornell was so intrigued and impressed by the program and the results that KETV decided to dedicate a 30 minute Chronicle edition to it on Sunday, July 19th.

The special segment includes interviews with Dr. Pinkett and two graduates of the program, Maurice Kimsey II, an Electrical Engineer with OPPD, and LaKeisha Gatson-Dunham, a Senior Director with Union Pacific.

“Redefine the Game can be whatever you need it to be,” said Kimsey.  “The program takes high potential African-Americans and helps them grow in managerial and leadership skills.”  In his interview, Kimsey focuses on building trust and creating pathways and pipelines for African-Americans.

“The group process allows you to learn strategies from others in different sectors and organizations who are like you that have similar experiences,” said Gatson-Dunham, who started with Union Pacific right out of college and has been promoted to Senior Director of Commercial Strategy and Pricing.  Gatson focuses on common voice, strategies and the classroom perspectives brought by different personalities.

Now headed into its third cohort, Redefine the Game works with African-American professionals, community leaders and entrepreneurs to maximize their gifts and strengths, enhance their leadership skills, build their network and advance their careers, businesses and communities.

“I believe it is more important now, than ever before, to teach black business professionals how to organize, strategize, network, plan and create a successful career plan,” said Damita Byrd, Sr. Director for Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at BCT Partners.

Applications for the 3rd cohort are open until July 31st.  To learn more or to apply:  Redefine the Game Application

Here’s the link to the 2 minute news story:  Redefine the Game Story

Here’s the link to the 30 minute Chronicle story:  RTG Chronicle

The Redefine the Game Institute is part of the Empowerment Network‘s Advance Omaha Racial Equity and Diversity initiative in partnership with BCT Partners.  To learn more more:  Advance Omaha

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Community News

Douglas County takes historic first step: Declares Racism as a Public Health Crisis with 22 Actions

Published:  June 20, 2020

Moving beyond the protests and demonstrations, the Douglas County Board of Health took a bold step on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 and declared racism as a public health crisis.

In the midst of a world-wide pandemic, national unrest and spirited debate regarding police brutality and excessive use of force, Douglas County is stepping up to lead the way to begin addressing racism head on.

(Commissioner Chris Rodgers, Chair of Douglas County Board of Health)

“We see this as a first step, an important, big and bold first step to educate the public, solve some immediate problems, but most importantly dismantle a structurally racist system and build a new anti racist system,” said Chris Rodgers, Douglas County Commissioner and Chair of the Board of Health.

Over the past few weeks major corporations have made public statements and some have pledged significant dollars to begin addressing systemic racism in the workplace and in the community.  This move by the county shows that public entities are also preparing to fight the battle.

Over the years, protests have generated headlines and attracted major media coverage, but after the smoke clears the demands for change are typically met with small incremental progress or in some cases increased resistance and backlash.  There are early signs that this time will be different.

The county resolution is just one example.  Within the resolution, twenty two specific actions are identified.  In order to make a real impact, each of the elements must be fully implemented.

“This provides a foundation to really begin addressing the issues directly,” said Rodgers.”  It provides us a way to assess everything we are doing as it relates to race.”

Some of the components of the resolution include:

  • Establishing and supporting an Office of Health Equity and Racial Justice
  • Including in any decision making the people most affected by heath and economic challenges
  • Advocate for relevant health policies to improve health in communities of color
  • Commit to conduct all human resources, vendor selection and grant management activities with a racial equity lens
  • Promote racially equitable economic and workforce development practices
  • Establish alliances and secure adequate resources to successfully accomplish the above objectives

Just last year, the county in partnership with the Council for Racial Justice and Reconciliation Committee, commemorated the 100 year anniversary of the lynching of Will Brown.  It was a memorable show of unity in the city as people of all races and ethnicities remembered the horrible lynching and burning of a Black man during the 1919 race riots, but leaders pledged to never let it happen again.

Participants also committed to working together to improve race relations and address long-term social, health and economic issues.

As the calendar turned to 2020, within three months the nation and world were dealing with the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.  Through the impact of the Coronavirus, underlying health disparities and economic inequities have been exposed at an unprecedented level.

African-Americans and people of color are once again disproportionately diagnosed with cases and are dying at an alarming rate from the disease.

After years of research and work to improve health conditions and some targeted efforts to address the social determinants of health, county officials started along the path of officially recognizing what many in the black community have known forever, racism is having a devastating impact.

(Photo:  Dr. Adi Pour)

“We have been tracking the health data since 2002 and there’s been very little progress and some measures are now worse than they were,” said Dr. Adi Pour, Director of the Douglas County Health Department.

“Coronavirus has further exposed health disparities, where 77 % of the COVID-19 cases in Douglas County impact the minority communities. It is time to address the underlying causes, i.e. the structural and institutional policies that have disadvantaged our minority communities. It’s time we work together.”

With the number of COVID 19 cases still escalating as the virus continues to spread and unrest locally and nationally persists regarding excessive use of force by the police, the county resolution and forthcoming actions should make a difference.  To be effective, influential and impactful, the group must sustain the effort, reform policies and align investments to directly address the problem.

This is a big first step and should be recognized and celebrated.  Now the real work begins.

(City Councilman Ben Gray, member of Douglas County Board of Health)

“There is a sense of urgency to finally do something about this,” said Ben Gray, City Councilman and member of the Douglas County Board of Health.  “The city and county have the opportunity to reform and change these systems and structures.  We must get it done this time.”

Click below to read the resolution and 22 action steps:

DC Resolution Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis approved and recorded

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Community

Pastor Portia Cavitt is making an impact: Community Serving Community Series

Published:  June 5, 2020

Revive! Omaha honors Pastor Portia Cavitt

Community helping Community
A new series from Revive! Omaha

During the pandemic we can get overwhelmed with negative news. In keeping with the mission of Revive! Omaha, we decided to highlight people who are doing great work behind the scenes.  

Pastor Portia Cavitt, or “Pastor P” as she is known in the community, is a powerhouse.  She’s not afraid to voice her strong opinion while representing the community’s needs and concerns. She speaks truth to power and is always ready to develop partnerships to solve an issue.

“Pastor P is one of those people we wish we had more of…she talks the talk, and walks the walk in terms of standing up for the community,” said Councilman Ben Gray.

She is the Senior Pastor of Clair Memorial United Methodist Church.  She has lived in Omaha for many years, and hit the ground running to make a measurable impact initially in South Omaha and then moved to Clair to lead that ministry. The community is blessed to have had Pastor Cavitt in her position now for 12 years, which is not typical for the UMC or AME denomination. The community takes a deep collective breath and exhales excitedly each time the decision is made for Pastor P to stay in place at Clair.

Jonathan Chapman, Head Coach at Church on Purpose and leader of the Empowerment Network’s Pastors and Faith Leaders Collaborative had this to say:  “Pastor Portia is an amazing example of the power of the Church to impact lives when we translate our command to love one another into practical action.  She leads by example in a way that make you want to be a part and her intimate knowledge of the obstacles facing those in need in our community positions her perfectly to advocate on their behalf. And every opportunity to do so, she takes full advantage of.”

Pastor Cavitt wears many hats. She is what some would describe as a throwback to a previous generation of pastors, with a servant leadership, community activist and hands-on style.  She always makes herself available when called upon by the community.  In addition to her frequent engagement with the school district board, city council members and county commissioners, Pastor P is extremely active in the community on a daily basis.  She moves with seemingly unbounded energy from one event or meeting to another.

Pastor P was recently elected as the president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance. The first woman elected to hold the position.   She continues to play key leadership roles with many organizations including the Village Zone Pastor and Faith Leaders Collaborative as a Village Champion; board chair of the North Omaha Area Health (NOAH) clinic, the North Omaha Community Care Council and the Great Plains Black History Museum; previous board chairwoman for the North Omaha Continuum of Care; and a member of many other organizations.

“Pastor Cavitt is dedicated to making Omaha a great place for everyone to live.  She always looks to help everyone reach their full potential,” said Eric Ewing, Executive Director of the Great Plains Black History Museum.

She is committed to the health of our community.  Much of her work impacts community health from hosting food pantries to encouraging members of her church and community to participate in health walks and healthy behaviors.  Pastor P has consistently had some of the highest numbers of participants in her health-oriented events and activities.  She also has a thriving health ministry in her church and partners with the Big Garden to maintain a community garden every year on the church grounds.

She is dedicated to social justice.  She co-hosts important community meetings and planning sessions at her church to address youth detention, racism, violence, fighting the expansion of liquor establishments and other critical topics.

“Pastor Cavitt is a tireless advocate for our community.  She has a no nonsense, get it done approach that is very effective.  She is caring and concerned about those less fortunate and at risk, and is willing to do all she can to improve their plight.  This includes health disparities, social justice inequities and economics inequalities. I count it a privilege to work with her,” said Pastor T. Michael Williams of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church.

“You can count on her to be the voice of conscious that does not have an agenda only a sincere desire to help those in need,” said Chris Rodgers, Douglas County Commissioner.

She is also devoted to future generations.  On a weekly basis, you will see Pastor P at a number of schools leading highly effective and well attended sessions with groups of students. She has been a major player and leader with successful community efforts at Wakonda and Mt. View Elementary, Nathan Hale and other schools.  She personally teaches and sponsors groups while recruiting other pastors and leaders to attend as guest speakers and mentors.

Lisa Utterback, Executive Director for Omaha Public Schools Office of Community, School and Family Engagement had glowing praise for Cavitt.  “Pastor Portia Cavitt has been incredibly dedicated to supporting students and families in the Omaha Public Schools. She serves as a positive mentor and role model, and volunteers countless hours serving others. Pastor P truly embodies servant leadership. It is a blessing to have her as an OPS advocate.”

She accomplishes all of these great things while helping foster children and her talented and impressive godson Kameron.

Pastor Portia Cavitt is well deserving of any honors that come her way and she has been recognized with significant awards.

Plain and simple, she is doing the work.

During the coronavirus pandemic she has expanded Clair Cares food pantry, partnering with other churches and the Empowerment Network to connect with residents of Benson and Crown Towers to help meet the needs of seniors and others.

And, did we mention she’s a proud and active member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority?

Vickie Young, President of the OmahaNAACP captured the essence of Pastor Cavitt:

“During the several years that I have known Pastor Cavitt, I’ve always known her to be an advocate for social change.  She’s always stood for righteousness and positive change in our community, never wavering from her stance.  She has a heart for the youth; serving as a positive role model for young girls and women.”

“Fondly known as Pastor P, Pastor Cavitt exudes leadership and goodwill via the diverse relationships established with her congregation, various schools, the court system and community at large. We’re blessed to have this mighty warrior fighting for North Omaha.”

Pastor Cavitt is an exceptional example of Community helping Community. A living legend.  Revive Magazine celebrates you!

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