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Based on data provided by the Douglas County Elections Commission, over 21,000 North Omaha residents cast their votes in November, the highest total in the last four election cycles.

The vote total was even higher than the number that turned out when President Barack Obama was elected.

The People of Color Convention, which was planned and hosted by a number of organizations in the Voter Registration, Education and Mobilization Collaborative (VREM), seeks to build on that momentum, not only in North Omaha, but around the city.


“We know we had a historic vote here in North Omaha.  It’s vitally important that we participate at the same level in the city elections,” said Precious McKesson, president of the North Omaha Neighborhood Alliance and the host moderator for the event.

“Local elections are very important and impact all of us instantly.  We want to have the same level of success going forward as we did last fall when we were able to elect people up and down the ballot.”

The event attracted current elected officials and provided the platform for candidates to share their vision, goals and plans virtually to the 300 plus in attendance through Zoom and Facebook Live.

All candidates were invited to submit videos highlighting their priorities.  Participating City Council candidates for District II included Ben Gray, Jonathan Lathan and Cornelius Williams.  Cammy Watkins running to represent District 3 also shared a video.  Naomi Hattaway, Candidate for District 6, was also in attendance.

Mayoral candidates Jasmine Harris, Kimara Snipes, RJ Neary and Mark Gudgel also shared their platforms via video presentations.

State Senators Terrell McKinney and Tony Vargas provided important updates on a number of legislative bills that are under consideration at the Nebraska Unicameral.  Both advised attendees to stay informed and engaged by connecting with them on Facebook and tracking the bills on the state website.

Brad Christian-Sallis, with Civic Nebraska reminded everyone of the importance of their vote and reaching out to elected officials.

“State Senators are state senators.  They don’t just represent their district…reach out to them all,” said Christian-Sallis.

He also spoke about the importance of stopping the disenfranchisement of ex-felons by restoring voting rights immediately instead of the current two year waiting period.  “We are over represented in these systems, so when we are not allowed to vote, it’s hurting our community.”

Another critical topic discussed was the number of attempts nationally to restrict voter participation. Republican lawmakers across the country, including in Nebraska, are attempting to reduce voter participation with a series of bills and legislation.  It appears to be in response to the outcome of the national election and highly focused on reducing the impact of the black and brown vote in urban communities.

“The issue in 2021 is voter suppression,” said Preston Love, Jr. of 4Urban.org and Black Votes Matter.

“There are 43 states, who have legislation, over 200 pieces of legislation to suppress the vote, that includes Nebraska.  In Nebraska, there are a number of voter suppression bills and others that are trying to make voting easier and more successful.”

The convention included breakout sessions where attendees could interact with key leaders and elected officials on topics including criminal justice, education and advocacy.

Breakout panelists and speakers included:  Edward Ventura – Nebraska Education Association; Lisa Fricke – State Board of Education; JaKeen Fox; Chris Carithers, Douglas County Election Commission; Preston Love, Jr., Krystal Fox; Mark Foxall; Alex Mitchell; Dr. Franklin Thompson; and others.

McKesson took time to recognize the lead organizer behind VREM, Barry Thomas, and the heroic work going on behind the scenes by many organizations.

“The goal is to educate our community locally so that we are recognized as a political force to be respected and adhered to throughout,” said Barry Thomas, Political Action Chair for the Omaha NAACP.

Thomas continued, “We have too many examples, in the modern republic and throughout all history, to ignore the power possessed when the fingers realize they are actually on the same hand.   And that hand is a needed part of the body.  North Omaha and the Black community can become the fist that powers change for our people.”

McKesson recognized a number of organizations including the Heartland Workers Center, led by Sergio Sosa.

Gabriela Pedroza, community organizer representing the Heartland Workers Center, had this to say:  “This is an amazing collaboration.  We are working to get out the vote, increasing voting in areas where we see voter turnout is low.  We are phone banking and we will start canvassing when the weather permits.  It’s a lot of work but it pays off.  If people want to volunteer, they can join our team.”

Also instrumental in planning and executing the event was Alex Mitchell, a student at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

“It’s great to see the next generation leading the way,” said Preston Love, Jr.  Love has dedicated his life to engaging generations in the political process and now focuses on helping youth to understand the significance and importance of their role.

The event was presented by the Voter Registration, Education, and Mobilization  (VREM) collaborative. VREM is made up of a number of organizations including UNO’s Black Excellence, the League of Women Voters, NAACP, Black Votes Matter, North Omaha Neighborhood Alliance, Heartland Workers Center, the Omaha Pan-Hellenic Council, Civic Nebraska and others centered on civic engagement.

Watch the full event here.

If you would like to stay connect and receive information, please email us at voterem@gmail.com

Community Features

2024 Revive Omaha Black Business Guide

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Community Features

New cohorts prepare to launch…Leadership, Fund Development, Wealth Building & Career Advancement

OMAHA, Neb.

Great News!  After announcing four cohorts late last year, the Empowerment Network decided to delay the launch of the initiatives as they ran into the holiday season, received formal notice of their award of $10 million through the North and South Omaha Recovery Plan and continued the national collaboration with their partner cities introduced at last year’s African-American Leadership Summit.

The Network is now prepared to move forward with the four capacity-building cohort opportunities and their national strategic partners and advisors will be in Omaha for the Rebuilding the Village Conference.

Keys to Fund Development to Make Your Vision a Reality & Intro to Cohort

Anna Barber, fundraising expert that has helped to raise hundreds of millions of dollars including for the Smithsonian’s National Black History Museum in Washington D.C., will lead a six-month cohort on Fund Development:  building a donor base to make your vision a reality.

Barber will share insights gained through her work with major universities, the Museum, Obama Foundation and other national clients.  Participants will develop a comprehensive step by step plan to build and maintain a strong, diversified donor base.  In this session, Barber will provide an overview of key elements to fundraising success and share an overview of the upcoming fund development cohort.

 

Collaborative, Transformation Leadership and Powerful Storytelling & Intro to Cohort

Suzan Hart, one of world’s top storytellers and presenters, will launch a Collaborative Leadership and Storytelling cohort:  Maximize Opportunities with the Power of Your Story.

Participants will learn more about the transformational power of collaboration and enhance their presentation skills by defining purpose, understanding their value, and releasing the power of their story.  In this session, Hart will share key concepts to help you develop a mindset to maximize your leadership opportunities and provide an overview of the new cohort.

 

Advancing Your Career with Key Principles from Redefine the Game & Intro to Cohort

Dr. Jefferey Robinson of BCT Partners will return to Omaha to help launch the 5th Cohort of the Redefine the Game Institute, an innovative career advancement and leadership development program. Over 150 have participated with most receiving promotions and increased compensation, expanded career opportunities or leadership positions within new organizations.

In this session, Dr. Robinson will guide you towards growing and making the most of your network and provide an overview of the next RTG cohort. You will also hear from RTG Alumni regarding their own path career paths and stepping into impactful leadership roles.

 

Understanding Your Wealth Building Code and Developing Your Plan & Intro to Cohort

Dr. Pamela Jolly a nationally recognized wealth-building strategist returns to launch the third cohort of the Legacy Wealth Initiative.  Graduates of Legacy Wealth have developed wealth plans, saved thousands of dollars, become homeowners, launched and purchased businesses, invested individually and collectively and made contributions to their community.  Dr. Jolly will review the key elements to develop and implement your own wealth building plan and provide an overview of the upcoming Legacy Wealth Cohort.

Register for the 17th Annual Rebuilding the Village Conference and come join us for the introduction of the new cohorts.  Learn More and Register here

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Community Features

Dream Big! Eric Thomas coming to Omaha June 7th

OMAHA, Neb. –  On June 7, the Empowerment Network will take over CHI Health Center Omaha & Hilton Omaha Downtown for the 17th Annual Rebuilding the Village Conference and Luncheon. This year’s event also features the highly anticipated Revive Omaha Black Business Expo, highlighting the importance of supporting and empowering black-owned businesses in the community. The conference kicks off at 8:00 am.

Big Dreams and Collective Visions!  The luncheon will feature an energizing session from keynote speaker from New York Times best-selling author, educator, motivational guru and international business phenomenon, Eric Thomas, Ph.D.

As an inspirational speaker, Thomas has made a successful career working with and coaching Fortune 500 companies, top athletes, students and audiences around the world. A visionary, Thomas helps others walk in their purpose. Through a thorough examination and application of these same principles, his conference attendees continue to maximize their successes both in the workplace and at home. As a husband, father and philanthropist, Thomas aims to improve the lives of others through self-empowerment, self-assessment and consistent execution.

The Rebuilding the Village Conference and Luncheon has long been recognized as a premier gathering for community leaders, activists, entrepreneurs and stakeholders to come together to address key issues facing underserved communities. With a focus on career advancement, leadership development, DEI, wealth building, entrepreneurship, community building and more, the conference aims to foster collaboration and drive positive change in Omaha and beyond.

“The Rebuild the Village Conference and Revive Omaha Black Business Expo continues to evolve,” said Willie Barney, CEO and founder of the Empowerment Network. “Through this year’s event, we are focusing on the best ways to build economic strength and equity, support business owners, encourage homeownership, and invest in economic development and revitalization. Our community wants to be a part of the development of our city. Our Conference and Black Business Expo will equip attendees with the tools needed to thrive.”

Dream Big video from Eric Thomas

Central to this year’s event is the Revive Omaha Black Business Expo, a dynamic showcase of black-owned businesses from across the region. Attendees will have the chance to network with entrepreneurs, learn about innovative products and services, and support the local economy.

Backed by the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, the Empowerment Network works to build a safer environment for all residents by increasing educational and career success and reducing violent crime. The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance leads a cross-sector national call-to-action focused on building safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color where they feel valued and have clear pathways to opportunity.

In 2023, the Rebuild the Village Conference attracted more than 1,100 attendees. Of those attendees, nearly 40 percent were students. With the help of last year’s keynote speaker, businessman, NBA legend and philanthropist Erving “Magic” Johnson, Rebuild the Village was able to raise $90,000 during an unexpected auction at the end of Johnson’s speech. Last year’s event also drew in leaders from across the nation, including key cities like Atlanta, Ga., Chicago, Ill., Denver, Co., Kansas City,  Mo., New Orleans, La. and Tulsa, Okla.

In addition to the Black Business Expo, the conference will feature keynote speeches, panel discussions, workshops, and interactive sessions led by industry experts and community leaders. To learn more about the event, including ticket prices and sponsorship opportunities, please visit https://www.rtvomaha.com/. Registration closes Monday, June 3.

 

About the Empowerment Network

The Empowerment Network is a nonprofit organization committed to advancing economic, social and civic progress within Omaha’s African American community, North Omaha and the region. Through collaborative efforts and innovative initiatives, the Empowerment Network strives to create opportunities for empowerment and transformation in every zip code and neighborhood in the City of Omaha and other national communities.

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