Omaha one of 11 Cities selected for comprehensive African-American Male Achievement Initiative
In 2013, the National League of Cities with the support of the Open Society Foundation and PolicyLink created an eleven city cohort referred to as the Black Male Achievement Initiative. During the spring of 2013, the Empowerment Network and City of Omaha made an application to the National League of Cities to become part of their Black Male Achievement Initiative. Omaha was notified in May of 2013 that it was one of 11 cities selected to move forward with a technical assistance grant to develop a comprehensive plan focused on the success of African-American boys and young men in Omaha. The Empowerment Network Collaboration, a seven year nationally recognized initiative, includes all of these goals and has active collaborations and measurable results in each area identified as priorities by the National League of Cities.
Mayor Jean Stothert agreed to continue the city’s participation with the initiative in partnership with the Empowerment Network and assigned Cameron Gales and Barb Farho as the cities representatives. Willie Barney, President and Facilitator of the Empowerment Network, is the community leader and facilitator. One of the requirements for the NLC initiative is the active involvement of elected officials as stakeholders. The Omaha project includes a number of elected officials including African-American leaders: City Councilmen Ben Gray and Franklin Thompson; Douglas County Commissioner Chris Rodgers; Douglas County Treasurer John Ewing; School Board Members Justin Wayne, Marque Snow and Yolanda Williams. The focus of the initiative is five-fold: strengthening African-American families; improving educational outcomes; improving access to quality health care; connecting AA young men and men to employment; and reducing involvement in violence.
The planning team worked with a group of community partners during the summer of 2013 to develop an initial action plan which was submitted to the National League of Cities to qualify for a year of additional technical assistance. As a part of the process, over 40 representatives from various entities worked on the plan, and 20 signed letters of intent and agreed to participate formally to:
1. Engage in planning with other Stakeholders
2. Participate within an agreed upon structure
3. Collect and Share Data
4. Align Strategies as part of a Comprehensive Plan
5. Actively Engage Youth in Decision-making
Now, over 50 organizations have agreed to participate with the plan as it continues to move forward and others are joining in each month. The group has also hosted two community meetings to gather additional ideas and recommendations for the strategies.
To learn more about the Omaha African-American Male Achievement Collaborative or to get involved with this initiative, please click here.
Quotes from the May 15, 2014 Press Conference…
“We want to thank the National League of Cities and PolicyLink for the opportunity to partner on this great initiative. The city of Omaha, Empowerment Network and over 40 partners have created this collaborative. … We have the partnerships that will lead us to success.”
– Mayor Jean Stothert – City of Omaha
“Omaha scored extremely high on what they were currently doing and what they proposed to do. …We will lift up Omaha as being on the forefront in this work. … We’re excited to see the partnerships between the city and community.”
– Leon Andrews – National League of Cities
“Our young men are resilient, brilliant and creative, they have incredible talent. …Our job is to make sure they have every opportunity possible to reach their full potential.”
– Willie Barney, President and Facilitator of the Empowerment Network
“Once we provide hope, all other things are possible. Thank you to all the stakeholders. Stay in our lanes. Stay focused. Continue to collaborate. We have the talent to solve these problems and we will get it done.”
– Councilman Ben Gray
“The answer is bi-partisan…one political party cannot carry the weight. … these are not North Omaha’s kids; these are Omaha’s kids. If we’re going to be successful, it’s going to take people from both parties. …I believe Omaha will be the model city for the rest of nation.”
– Councilman Franklin Thompson