The African American Empowerment Network Overview

Background and Vision of the Empowerment Network


Original Saturday Morning Planning Meetings in Fall of 2006

It’s time to come together! That was the theme in December of 2006. Come together. Work together. Pray together. Stay together. Don’t Just Talk About It, Be About It!

Earlier that year, beginning in June 2006, after conversations with his wife and years of research on successful community revitalization models and movements, Willie Barney, Founder and President of the Empowerment Network, hosted one-on-one and small group meetings, summits and focus groups with residents and leaders to identify key issues and solutions.   Barney had worked for years to create a process to facilitate the development and implementation of community-based solutions by bringing together African-Americans from different sectors to unite and lead the way.

Inspired by a number of pastors and community leaders to move forward with the vision, Barney hosted the first official Empowerment Network leadership meeting in September 2006 when 70 leaders convened and agreed to work together.  The first State of African-Americans and North Omaha was held in December of 2006. The initial meetings started with three and grew to over 300.

The Network also hosted youth summits and small group meetings with teens, successful students, gang members, ex‐offenders, single mothers, parents, and grandparents. The primary purpose was to gain resident and stakeholder input on issues, solutions, and priorities. This strategy continues today. The Empowerment Network made a commitment to hold monthly meetings with the community to provide updates, answer questions, provide opportunities for engagement, and periodically assess priorities and make adjustments to strategies.

Since the original meetings and launch of Empower Omaha in April 2007, the Network and North Omaha community have made significant progress on a covenant (agreement) and strategic plan (action plan) to help address issues identified by the community. George Fraser, author of Success Runs in our Race and Click was the keynote speaker at the public launch of the Empowerment Network. At the core of the Network are key themes that Fraser emphasizes, including African‐Americans “Connecting the Dots” and “Rebuilding the Urban Village.”

The Empowerment Network and Covenant also incorporates the communications framework of the bestselling book, Covenant with Black America, produced by Tavis Smiley, with research and support from Angela GloverBlackwell and PolicyLink.

The Network model incorporates best practices and fresh insights identified by researching the findings from hundreds of years of African‐American movements, strategies, blueprints and agendas. We have worked hard to gather the thoughts, ideas and involvement of our community to localize, create and implement our own action plan. We have identified issues, but have focused our attention on solutions. With God directing our paths, we are making progress.

AALC Luncheon

Initially designed and launched by African‐Americans and North Omaha residents, the Empowerment Network Collaboration now includes people of all races across the city, county, region and nation. Over 500 organizations and thousands of individuals have participated.

The Network model is now recognized regionally and nationally. National groups are traveling to Omaha to learn more about how they can implement similar work in their own cities.

How the Network Operates »


To Unite & Transform Omaha into a great city, thriving and prosperous, in every zip code and neighborhood.

Work with other cities to replicate the Empowerment Network collaborative approach, customized to the specific needs, assets and landscape of each community.


Working together to TRANSFORM the ECONOMIC condition and QUALITY OF LIFE of African‐Americans, North Omaha residents, and citizens of the Greater Omaha area by implementing the Empowerment Covenant & 7 Step Empowerment Plan. The vision is complete with short‐term and long‐term goals, strategies, activities and measurable outcomes. We will close long‐standing gaps in employment, entrepreneurship, education, housing, and other quality of life factors that have been traditionally based on race and geographic segregation.


Omaha will be recognized as a fully engaged and empowered community where African‐Americans, North Omaha residents, and citizens in every zip code are thriving and prosperous—spiritually, mentally, physically, socially, and financially.

Inspired by Joshua Ch. 1:6‐9


Personal Responsibility, Leadership Accountability, and Comprehensive Collaboration. We work together in a positive, proactive, and partnership‐oriented way. At the heart of the Empowerment Movement, African‐Americans and North Omaha residents are coming together to lift each other up and collaborating with others, as equal partners, to measurably transform communities.


Faith, family, community, engagement, education, empowerment, shared‐decision making

Equal Opportunity and Non-Discrimination:

In order to provide equal employment and advancement opportunities to all individuals at the Empowerment Network, employment decisions will be based on merit, qualification, and abilities. In accordance with all federal and state employment laws and regulations, it is the Empowerment Network policy that all personnel, including employees, volunteers and independent contractors, should be able to enjoy a work environment free from all forms of unlawful discrimination. All phases of employment and volunteer work including,  but not limited to, recruitment, hiring, selection, assignment, promotion, demotion, training, transfer, compensation, benefits, employer-sponsored activities, disciplinary action, and termination will be administered in a manner consistent with equal employment opportunity and applicable laws and regulations.

It is the policy of the Empowerment Network to provide equal employment opportunity (EEO) to all applicants, employees, independent contractors and volunteers without regard to gender, genetic information, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, race, color, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, religion, political affiliation, economic status, creed, marital status including same sex marriage, military status, age (except where age has been specified for volunteer purposes), status as a protected veteran, mental or physical disability or any other equally protected classification identified by federal, state or local law.


BUILD Wealth and Ownership
Every adult has living wage+, sustainable employment/businesses.

PREPARE Our Children
Every child receives a high-quality education.
‐> Cradle to Career

INCREASE Home Ownership & Revitalize Neighborhoods
Every resident lives in thriving home and villages.

CREATE Stronger and Healthier Families
Every person has a strong family, with access to quality health care, healthy foods and support services needed to address poverty.


Empowerment Network: Support System & Model
for Comprehensive Community Development

Personal Responsibility and Collective Works

Leadership Accountability & Comprehensive Collaboration