| May 4, 2007
| Community Betterment Plan - What is it?
|Published Friday April 27, 2007
Empower Omaha! unveils new community betterment plan
BY ERIN GRACE
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
Black Omahans have the intellectual and financial resources to take the lead in solving problems such as poverty and the educational achievement gap.
That was the message today from a broad coalition of black Omahans known as the African-American Empowerment Network.
In a show of unity, more than two dozen network members stood together inside the community cafe at 24th and Lake Streets to unveil the first phase of a community betterment plan. More than 100 people were expected for a day of activities, including a speech by George C. Fraser, a national authority on black networking.
"Our goal is to transform the city of Omaha," said Willie Barney, who works in Omaha as a private consultant and convened the network of volunteers more than seven months ago.
Teresa Hunter, director of the nonprofit Family Housing Advisory Services, discusses upcoming Empower Omaha! events with consultant Willie Barney, right, and George C. Fraser, a national authority on black networking. Empower Omaha! was created by the African-American Empowerment Network.The resulting plan dovetails with the best-selling 2006 book "The Covenant with Black America," in which national experts outline both the problems confronting blacks today and strategies to address those problems.
The local plan - called Empower Omaha! - involves 13 areas of focus, offering strategies for commitment by individuals as well as at the community level.
Gladys Harrison, for example, is a longtime Qwest Communications employee and mother of three who is launching a community walk beginning Monday at 6 p.m. at 24th and Seward Streets. Harrison wants to improve her health and more.
"We can walk down 24th Street, the heart of north Omaha, help dispel the myths, get some garbage bags and then, most importantly, draw people together," she said.
Dick Davis, an insurance executive, is seeking matching funds for Omaha 20/20, a five-part economic development plan.
"We have the power within ourselves," Davis said.
African-American Empowerment Network
members are meeting today with national black networking expert George C. Fraser, author of "Success Runs in Our Race: The Complete Guide to Effective Networking in the Black Community."
The network plans to roll out a second phase of its plan in mid-May.Self-help is the cornerstone philosophy of the network, but the impact is expected to reach beyond the black community.
"If we make a measurable difference in north Omaha, it's going to bring up Omaha," said the Rev. Jeremiah McGhee, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.
Barney and others long had talked about the financial, educational and social gaps that exist between blacks and whites in Omaha and the need for solutions.
Those talks gained momentum and urgency in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina and the first round of debate on what to do about Omaha's still-segregated public school system.
Then, in 2006, the 240-page "Covenant" book hit shelves, offering a road map to communities seeking change.
The local plan focuses on 13 areas. The individual empowerment covenants include:
1. Live our faith
2. Strengthen our families
3. Prepare our children
4. Embrace our culture
5. Build our wealth
6. Protect our health
7. Raise our vote
8. Own our homes
9. Clean our neighborhoods
10. Love our neighbor! Stop the hate!
11. Stand for justice
12. Improve our communications
13. Cross the digital divide
Barney asked north Omaha bookstore owner Marshall Taylor to stock up on "The Covenant" and urged everyone to buy it.
"We have been called for this purpose and for this time," Barney said, describing a process of convening small groups, which became larger groups that eventually drew more than 400 people representing some 200 organizations.
The first formal network meeting was in September. Participants outlined areas in need of attention, including faith, education, voting and economics.
Network members met routinely, devoting Saturday mornings to hashing out strategies and approaches.
The network is not promoting a strictly black-only approach to solving black problems. Members either already are contributing to or are planning to pitch in on other projects under way.
"We don't want to reinvent things," said Dr. Rubens Pamies, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
But it is important, Pamies said, that the black community show that it, too, has a plan.
"All too often, what most of us have said is that we've always been relying on the outside to help with issues that we have," Pamies said. "The question always comes up: 'What have you done yourselves?'"
That answer, network members discovered over months of meetings, was: quite a lot.
Gladys Harrison, right, is launching a community walk on Monday. Getting a jump-start with Harrison at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Omaha on Thursday are, from left, Briannah Harrison, 16; Elijah Harrison, 15; and Karen Bradley.First, although the Omaha area has the nation's third-highest rate of poverty among blacks, not all black Omahans are in dire straits and some are well-positioned to make changes. Second, a host of service providers, community activists, neighborhood groups and others long have worked to chip away at problems affecting the black community.
The stumbling block until now, network members concluded, was that many operated on their own without coordination. Plus, conflicting ideologies, power struggles or a lack of sustainability hindered past efforts.
This group is different, the members say.
For one, it has drawn an array of black Omahans from all over the city. Among them are teachers, doctors, principals, social service agency workers, nonprofit directors, city officials, business owners, activists, church pastors, retirees and elected officials.
"I've not seen an effort like this, I've not heard of an effort like this in north Omaha with African-Americans," said Paul Bryant, a fifth-generation Omahan who directs Wesley House.
The movement bolsters his faith that Omaha can turn around its dismal standard of living for blacks and perhaps stop driving away those looking for better opportunities.
"This effort is a group of African-Americans saying, 'We want to stay, and we want to change these numbers,'" Bryant said.
The volunteer network involves 67 "regulars" who have attended most of the weekend meetings. They include blacks who live in suburban Omaha, though more than half came from the north Omaha neighborhoods where most of the city's black population resides.
Bookstore owner Taylor is onboard. He has seen community improvement efforts come and go without great success. The network could be different, he said, citing the group's talent pool, diversity and focus on solutions instead of blame.
"It's upbeat," Taylor said. "It requires the individual to look at the self as opposed to looking at what other people are doing against us or for us. It is just the thing I think we need to be doing right now."
I think blue prints like this could assist us with starting a similar movement in Baltimore. These folks are all about owning the land so they have a say in what becomes of their community. There's calls for a paradigm shift ....in POC's collective consciousness. I for one welcome this
....do you think this program could be applied here as well. I met one of the people involved in this on topix......(Made my day....I AM NOT ALONE!!!).....these folks are about their biz.
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|posted by C Love "The Rap Addict" @ 5/04/2007 04:08:00 PM