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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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LIVE from 24th and Lake (Virtual) and Launch of First Fridays

Published:  December 4, 2020

Revive Omaha is excited to partner with Omaha African-American Employee Resource Groups, Black Employee Networks, the Empowerment Network and 30+ corporations, businesses and organizations, to announce the launch of:

LIVE! from The Village at 24th & Lake
A Virtual Event for African-American Professionals to Gather & Celebrate Black Culture


6 pm to 9 pm (ish)

The event is presented by Omaha African-American Employee Resource Groups, Black Employee Networks, African-American Professionals Networks, Empowerment Network, Revive Black Business Network and others.

Please register and join us for the introduction of First Fridays Omaha at 24th and Lake!  On Friday, December 11, we will gather virtually for a one of kind social event geared to African-American professionals.

We will also provide more information on First Fridays Omaha which will start in January 2021.  The events will begin virtually and evolve into in person events at 24th and Lake and other locations throughout the city.

Register here:

The event will feature three musical artists (Dani Cleveland, Big Wade and the Black Swan Theory and Maurisa Mansaray), a DJ, spoken word artist Felicia Webster, and interactive activities including games, art/painting, networking and much more.  (and maybe a bit of virtual dancing)

Register free for the event.  Order food from a black restaurant.  Then, join us for this amazing virtual event on Friday, Dec. 11th.

The event builds on the success of the Empowerment Network’s African-American Leadership Conference, African-American Professionals Network, Redefine the Game and partnership with AAERG’s, BEN’s and Diversity & Inclusion Groups from corporations and organizations in Omaha.

Live from 24th and Lake is sponsored by OPPD, the Chief Human Resources Officers Leadership Council and Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Roundtable.

The first thing to do is to register.

Register here:

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Aaron Austin, Chief Human Resource Officer & Senior Vice President, CHI Health

Published:  November 28, 2020

Aaron Austin joined the CHI Health Midwest team during the spring of 2019.  Austin has hit the ground running.  His innovative approach to human resources is responsible for measurable results in the area of diversity and inclusion at CHI Health.

“When I came to CHI, the CEO Cliff Robertson told me ‘we want to reflect the community’,” said Austin.  “Cliff said, ‘my challenge to the leadership team is this is important to me and we need to make this a priority’.”

“Commitment from leadership has to be the top priority,” emphasized Austin.  “Leadership must be on board to make this work happen and make sure things are getting done.”

As part of his initial work, Aaron has introduced the use of candidate slates for all positions at the Director and above level.  In just one year, the strategy has achieved 40% of positions having a diverse group of candidates.  His work is already making an impact as leadership in the company is on its way to increasing diversity and inclusion.

Aaron shared these insights at the recent African-American Leadership Conference.

“My first thoughts were to talk about and implement candidate slate.  In order to become more diverse in our leadership ranks, we need to slate.”

“Right now, we are at about 40% of our director and above positions are being slated.  We are making progress as our demographics are changing within the organization.  In the first year, we brought in six new diverse leaders.  This year, COVID has slowed us down, but we have brought in two more leaders.  In the next three years, we would like to get to 100% in our slating.”

Austin and his team are expanding initiatives to make CHI Health a more diverse organization and more closely resemble its client base and the community.  The group is also working with recruitment firms that have strong records of success in identifying and selecting talented minority candidates.  They are recruiting locally and nationally.

“When you talk about inclusion, you are really talking about courage,” said Austin. “You must have courage to take on this work.  You must also be intentional.”

Austin also became immediately engaged in the community by partnering with the 100 Black Men of Omaha and the Empowerment Network.  For the past two years, Austin has been a featured speaker at the Empowerment Network’s annual African-American Leadership Conference.

He’s also active with the Empowerment Network’s CHRO Leadership Roundtable.  Austin is helping to drive change and prepare a better future for young men in Omaha through his support and involvement with the 100.

Aaron is the Division Senior Vice President/Chief Human Resources Officer of Human Resources for CHI Health and St. Alexius Health, serving 18 hospitals in 3 states. He also serves as a key member of the Human Resources Leadership Council of CommonSpirit Health, which is the nation’s largest nonprofit, Catholic health system.

Created in February 2019 through the alignment of Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health, CommonSpirit Health is dedicated to advancing health for all people through delivering exceptional patient care, and ensuring every person has access to quality health care.

Aaron has a real commitment to helping people develop and grow into the best versions of themselves. That is the passion that drove him into Human Resources where he felt he could make real differences in the lives of those he served.

Aaron served his country for over 20 years in the United States Navy, where he obtained a bachelor’s of science degree in Workforce Development, graduating Cum Laude. During his service, he was responsible for promotions, recruitment, leadership development, employee relations and combat information systems, Aaron retired and went to work in the banking industry. Aaron later transitioned into healthcare and later earned an MBA with a concentration in Health Care Administration, again graduating Summa Cum Laude. He has served healthcare systems across the Midwest.

Aaron is forward-thinking and accomplished, particularly in the areas of employee engagement, talent acquisition and leader development. He and his wonderful wife Janice have three adult children and seven grandchildren. When he’s not working, he enjoys family time, sports, jazz and urban ballroom dancing.

Source:  Revive Omaha Magazine

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Revive Q&A: Jessica “Jay” Warren-Teamer, Director of Equity & Diversity, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska

Published:  November 14, 2020

Congratulations Jessica “Jay” Warren-Teamer.  Thank you for your commitment to racial equity, diversity and inclusion.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska recently announced the appointment of Jessica “Jay” Warren-Teamer as director of diversity and inclusion.

Warren-Teamer has more than 10 years of experience in community outreach.  Her recent work experiences include key roles serving as the community affairs coordinator at Mutual of Omaha and the director of community investment and workforce readiness with the United Way of the Midlands.

Warren-Teamer simultaneously has been very active in the community as co-founder of I Be Black Girl Omaha,  a number of Young Professional networks and other change focused initiatives.

In her new role at BCBSNE, she will direct and develop the company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives and programs.

Revive! had the opportunity to ask Warren-Teamer seven key questions regarding her new role and the current environment related to race, equity, diversity and inclusion in Omaha.

Congratulations Jay and thank you for sharing such powerful, important and timely insights with us.

What interested you in the new role at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska?

“I wasn’t actively searching for a new role at the time, but saw the job posting and it piqued my interest. I loved how the role was framed to not only support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) internally at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE), but also in the community. A lot of job descriptions for these roles tend to focus on more compliance or legal requirements around this work, but this one seemed very different.”

“As Director of Diversity and Inclusion, I have the awesome opportunity to lead DEI efforts for the company at a time when it is more important than ever. I’ll be creating and driving strategy, knowing the work I do will create real impact for our employees, our members, and our community.”

What attracted you to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska?

“BCBSNE has a strong brand, and that certainly extends to us as an employer. While exploring a potential job change as a working mom in the middle of a pandemic, it was important to me that if I made a move, it was the right one.  I had conversations with a few former/current employees to get their perspective on their experience, and they had great things to share. As I progressed through the interview process, I was continually impressed about the commitment to DEI and the community. I’ve been in my role since August 31st and it feels like I’ve been here much longer. My team and the various stakeholders I work with welcomed me with open arms and got me up to speed quickly. I’m glad I took the leap – it is a great fit.”

What are your goals for the position?

“All too often in some companies, DEI tends to be something that lives off on the side of someone’s desk or feels like an afterthought. I will be working to proactively integrate DEI into all functions of our business so that we are thinking about it early and often as we develop products, design processes and make decisions.”

“Before being appointed to this role, BCBSNE’s Diversity Inclusion Group (DIG), in partnership with Malorie Maddox, chief marketing, communications and strategy officer (and D&I executive sponsor), and employees from across the organization, did an incredible job of keeping this work moving. It was completely volunteer led by people who care deeply about this issue. I am committed to honoring the work that’s been done – and to taking it to the next level.”

What will be your initial areas of focus?

I’ve identified four primary areas of focus:

  • Attracting, hiring, and retaining talent from underrepresented populations
  • Growing and sustaining our ERGs
  • Solidifying our commitment to DEI as a part of our brand
  • Equipping leaders with the tools they need to be inclusive

What are your general thoughts about equity, diversity, and inclusion in Omaha?

“Omaha has gotten tons of recognition as a best place to raise a family, best place for startups and lots of other accolades. On face value, our unemployment is low, and we have strong economic performance. However, when we pull the layers back and disaggregate the data, not all Omahans get to experience “The Good Life.” For our city and state to continue to grow and truly become a place where all people have equal footing regardless of their zip code or color of their skin, DEI is a moral, business, and ethical imperative.”

What impact has the last six months had on your approach?

“Unfortunately, for many of us from marginalized communities, the events of the last six months are nothing new. The impacts of racism and “other” -isms have impacted our lives in real ways. What this moment in time has solidified for me is that we all come into our own awareness about these issues, and it is a journey, not a destination. I have become more committed to using my voice to educate others. I’ve also started to acknowledge the emotional labor and psychological toll that engaging in this work takes on you. I intentionally carve out time to do things that bring me joy – and unapologetically unplug when I need to.”

Anything else you would want to share?

“I’ve always been committed to making sure that all people – especially those who have been impacted by systemic and systematic inequities – have what they need to reach their full potential. However, I became a mom in December and that became much more important to me. I hope that through this role and my work in the community, my son grows up in an Omaha that allows him to thrive.”

Source:  Revive Omaha Magazine

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