3rd Annual Young Black & Influential: We are the Movement

The third annual Young Black and Influential awards were held on June 30 in the Living Room at the Mastercraft (1111 N 13th St). The awards were created to celebrate Black leaders in the Omaha metro. Honorees ranged in ages from under 20 up to 40s with areas of expertise including advocacy, innovation, and creativity.

The theme of this year’s awards was “We are the Movement.” 

Dominique Morgan

Dominique Morgan

MC and 2017 awardee, Dominique Morgan, opened with the YBI equity and inclusion statement, “YBI is proud to affirm and celebrate Black influencers. We as an organization and the individuals that collectively come together to elevate Blackness; do so by recognizing, respecting and valuing the intersections of those identities. We are an affirming space and accept no less from ourselves and the community in which we work.”

“I know when Ashlei [Spivey] started this, this was about creating an experience for us as Black folks, everywhere we go. So I challenge us not to have that call to equity and inclusion in these walls but we should carry that every day as we interact with each other. There are days we may not like each other but we should always love each other,” said Morgan.

A’Mariyon Green

A’Mariyon Green

A’Mariyon Green, a junior at Creighton Prep and 2018 YBI recipient presented a powerful poem entitled “Understand Your Pistol.”

Excerpt: “From a very young age, I have said that I would not allow myself to become more of a statistic than I already am. ‘Black boy remember who you are,’ I would say. Even when you are tested by people, understand that you are magical.”

His poem was followed by joyous applause.

YBI creator, Ashlei Spivey, then provided a little history about the events. “We have close to 45 people that have been celebrated over the last three years and it’s just nice to have like-minded thought partners in this work,” said Spivey. The mission of YBI according to Spivey is to affirm and elevate Black people while allowing space for people to define how they see themselves as a Black person. 

Amidst Spivey’s remarks, Dominique Morgan took a moment to recognize Dr. Danita Webb, a long-time educator and cancer survivor, by making a $1000 donation to the Lisa Spivey Legacy scholarship fund supporting students at Blackburn High School.

The scholarship was created in memoriam of Ashlei’s mother who passed away eight years ago. The moment brought Spivey to tears. “I want to thank your mother for giving me you and I want to thank you for giving this to us,” said Morgan. 

Beginning in the fall, students at Blackburn will engage in leadership development classes featuring YBI recipients. YBI also has a non-profit board training program to increase access and representation of Black people on boards across the city. Heartland Family Service president, John Jeanetta, has committed that his organization will provide training support to non-profits who are serious about diversifying their workspaces and boards.

Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson

Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson

For the keynote, Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, President/CEO of the Deaconess Foundation, gave a candid speech focusing on what he called “Giving Black.” Wilson made a point to clarify he said “Black” and not “back.” His work as a pastor and tenure at the major foundation in St. Louis lent insight into the world of philanthropy. Dr. Wilson referenced Andrew Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth, published in 1889, a document he claims shaped how the United States thinks about philanthropy.

Ultimately though, Wilson believes people, especially Black people, can move beyond a book from 130 years ago, “Giving Black is an effort to subvert the insufficient, outdated, segregationist rhetoric of ‘giving back.’”

Wilson gave three points he believes could make a change in Black communities across the country.

  1. Keep the Culture

  2. Keep the Faith

  3. Keep Connected

The audience roared with cheers and applause, his words were truly influential.

The 2019 Young Black and Influential recipients are:

2019 Awardee Andrew Aleman and YBI Founder Ashlei Spivey

2019 Awardee Andrew Aleman and YBI Founder Ashlei Spivey

Youth, Nadia Spurlock, Advocacy

Youth, Kelsay Brown, Innovation

Youth, Riaunna Preston, Creativity

20s, Camron Hairston, Advocacy

20s, Keenan & Cam, Creativity

20s, TyVonn Merritt, Innovation

30s, Folly Teko, Creativity

30s, Andrew Aleman, Advocacy

30s, Luper Akough, Innovation

30s, Lindsey Williams, Advocacy

40s, Alisa Parmer, Advocacy

40s, Judy Kiagiri, Creativity

40s, De Chapman, Innovation

Erica McGruder, Mentor of the Year

Each awardee gave thankful remarks and the YBI family got that much bigger. 

You can see images of this years recipients and learn more about Young Black and Influential at ybiomaha.com 

All Black vendors were used for the event including Vernetta Kay Decor, Tastefully Done Catering, and The After LLC program design.