Published: September 27, 2020
The Empowerment Network’s 9th Annual African-American Leadership Conference was held virtually on Thursday and Friday, Sept 24th and 25th.
Hundreds of leaders and influencers convened with the understanding that the economic progress of African-Americans has a direct and positive impact on people of all races and ethnicities.
Research conducted by MAPA shows that in the Omaha/Council Bluffs region, the area would experience an increase of $4 billion in economic activity by addressing racial inequities and maximizing its diversity.
The AALC event has grown into one of the largest gatherings of African-American leaders in the nation focused on economic progress and closing wealth, health and educational gaps.
The theme this year was “The Turning Point and a New Path Forward.”
“After an unprecedented year of addressing what can be considered as four pandemics, including health, economics, police/community tensions and racial justice, African-American leaders and allies from across the country gathered virtually for two days of inspiring and results-oriented discussion, strategy and action,” said Willie Barney, President of the Empowerment Network.
“We believe this year, even with all of its challenges, can be a year of transformation for African-Americans and others.”
“We really focused attention on ownership, wealth and career advancement,” said Vicki Quaites-Ferris, Director of Operations for the Empowerment Network. “This was one of the best groups of national, regional and local speakers we’ve ever had for the conference.”
National strategist and thought leaders joined local and regional experts to focus on solutions including career advancement, entrepreneurship, home ownership, revitalization, reducing violence, educating and preparing our youth, improving access to health and healthy foods and building stronger communities.
Thursday night kicked off with a powerful presentation by Dr. Randal Pinkett, CEO of BCT Partners, on the benefits of racial equity and diversity. And, for the first time, the conference featured a special regional panel.
Leaders from Minneapolis, Ferguson/St. Louis, Kansas City, Madison, Quad-Cities and Cleveland discussed the racial disparities faced by African-Americans in the Midwest and the innovative solutions being implemented on the ground in those cities to address the gaps.
Mayor Melvin Carter, the first African-American mayor of Saint Paul, Minnesota participated in a lively and informative session focused on public policy to directly address poverty and building wealth.
Teresa Hunter, CEO of Family Housing Advisory Services and John Ewing, Douglas County Treasurer, shared briefly about the collective and collaborative strategies that resulted in measurable outcomes for African-Americans in Omaha, pre-Covid, and new recommendations to maintain and accelerate progress during and beyond the crisis. Cities from across the nation have expressed an interest in replicating models developed and implemented in Omaha to reduce unemployment, decrease gun violence, improve educational outcomes and catalyze large scale revitalization.
Hall of Fame business leader, George Fraser, CEO of FraserNet along with Dr. Pamela Jolly, CEO of Torch Enterprises and Jaylen Bledsoe, 22 year old CEO of Bledsoe Collective, closed out the evening with a national panel examining how the simultaneous pandemics are impacting African-Americans across the country and outlining strategies to transform this moment into a turning point.
Friday was a full day of large group keynote presentations from the main auditorium and interactive breakout sessions featuring national and local speakers focused on addressing poverty and closing gaps by building wealth. The virtual conference web-site was designed by Michael Young of Technology Consulting Solutions and Jonathan Chapman of the Empowerment Network and Church on Purpose. Chapman also managed the production of the two days of interactive media and speakers.
The day started with a historical look at how policies and systems have impacted African-Americans and created some of the issues faced today including tension between police and black communities and the large and growing wealth gap.
Barry Thomas, Director of Equity and Inclusion at Omaha Public Schools and former Director of Social Studies, gave a compelling presentation on the history of African-Americans in the state including the parents of Malcolm X. Thomas pointed out that the state of Nebraska came in to existence partly because of the Haitian revolution which caused France to sell land to the United States known as the Louisiana Purchase.
Morning presentations and panels followed focused on building wealth, scaling black-owned businesses, advancing careers, and implementing effective equity and diversity plans.
Dr. Pamela Jolly delivered an insightful piece on key aspects for building wealth and announced the launch of 2nd cohort of the Omaha Legacy Wealth Initiative. David Stevens, Senior Financial Consultant and Certified Financial Planner at TD Ameritrade provided an insightful overview of key considerations for making strategic investments.
Pastor Martin Williams, pastor of Ambassador Worship Center and CEO of Barak II, LLC, a real estate development and investment company, provided attendees with the ACCESS code for scaling black businesses. BC Clark, manager at Nebraska Enterprise Fund, gave 12 key elements and secrets to help black businesses create jobs. Candice Price, owner of two businesses including HomeTeam Auto, highlighted important solutions to help black business with growth.
Dr. Randal Pinkett and three members of the Redefine the Game cohort gave a stirring, challenging and empowering presentation on the topic bringing our authentic selves into the work environment. Pinkett played a video clip featuring the late Chadwick Boseman as he played one of his most memorable roles, Jackie Robinson in 42. “God made me to last,” Robinson replied after being challenged by racists as he broke the color barrier in the major leagues.
Dr. Strong, Director of Inclusion at UNMC, sent a special message for women in the audience in recognition of the decision regarding Breonna Taylor. Dr. Chris Whitt, Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion at Creighton University, reminded attendees that they cannot leave their identity and who they are at home. And, LaKeisha Gatson-Dunham shared wisdom about advancing in the corporate Omaha while still being authentic. All said the Redefine the Game Institute was a great place to network, build a cohort of strength and helped them to confirm their purpose.
For the fourth year in a row, a panel of local CEOs highlighted their personal and professional commitments to support African-American led initiatives and strategies.
The conference included announcements of Big and Bold Commitments and Actions from CEO’s and other leaders as part of the next phase of the Transformation 2025 plan.
One CEO gave a preliminary report of partnering with the Network and others to bring as many as 200 jobs to North Omaha. A formal announcement is coming soon.
Another CEO provided an updated on the innovative partnership with the Carver Legacy Center and a commitment to assist with community revitalization efforts.
The final CEO on the panel gave an overview of his companies commitment to do more business with black-owned and minority-owned businesses.
These are just a few examples from three of 15 CEO’s that have made Big & Bold Commitments. More announcements are coming in the next few months.
Participants were encouraged to purchase lunch from black owned restaurants. In addition, throughout the day attendees participated in online networking sessions, interacted with speakers and attended a virtual black business expo. A number of businesses presented their products and services in a virtual environment.
John Beasley, a North Omaha native, was recognized with the African-American Legends Award for his international work and success in the areas of acting, directing and producing.
The afternoon featured well-attended sessions on: addressing racial unrest and the health pandemic; preparing youth to lead; creating new models for black-led revitalization; developing districts and spaces where African-Americans and others can gather socially for arts, culture and entertainment; and mobilizing voters to impact policy.
National leaders and Strategic Advisors included: George Fraser, CEO – FraserNet; Dr. Randal Pinkett, CEO –BCT Partners; Dr. Pamela Jolly, CEO – Torch Enterprises; Marshawn Evans-Daniels, CEO – FaithPreneur; Jaylen Bledsoe, CEO – Bledsoe Collective; Shawn Dove, CEO – Black Male Achievement and Mayor Melvin Carter, first African-American mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota.
Regional speakers and panelists included: Tawanna Black, CEO and Founder – Center for Economic Inclusion; Dr. John Odom, Founder of Charles Hamilton Houston Institute; Dr. Lance McCarthy, Founder – Ferguson 1000; Klassie Alcine – Executive Director – KC Common Good; and Tracy Singleton, Director Quad-City Empowerment Network.
Local leaders included: Dr. Cheryl Logan –Superintendent-Omaha Public Schools; John Ewing, Jr. – Douglas County Treasurer; Ben Gray – City Councilman – District 2; Richard Webb – CEO – 100 Black Men of Omaha; and 30+ speakers and panelists.
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
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!