February 2022
The Beautiful, Needful Thing
February, shortest month of the year, and also Black History Month. It evolved out of Negro History Week in the 1960s and advanced to a federal observance beginning in 1976.

Yet, this Black History Month, a time when we should be celebrating and uplifting the achievements of Black folks across this nation and throughout history, we are seeing instead a most egregious subversion.

In our legislature and many others across the country, bills have been introduced (and some debated and passed), that would prevent schools from teaching topics related to race, from teaching a complete history of our country that acknowledges not only the brave beginnings of our nation, but the cruel ones as well.

These pieces of legislation seek to erase history, to paint over it with an idealism that is as false as it is incomplete. If they are allowed to pass, Black History Month will become a celebration in name only, as we would not be allowed teach the actual lessons pertaining to Black history. Disallowing education on race and racial equity prevents us from learning about past mistakes so we don't continue or repeat them. Restricting multicultural education stunts our growth and change. We will never be able to change the things that we don't learn or understand. We can’t let fear of the shame that comes from facing these hard truths, prevent us from educating ourselves about them. More importantly it is more harmful to relegate ourselves to ignorance. Willful ignorance is the greatest enemy to progress.

Consider the impact of this as a step backward, sending the message that difference is to be feared and silenced - that unity cannot be born out of recognizing and reckoning with our collective past. We are committed to growing our advocacy work to confront actions like these. We call on you to react against legislation at every level that seeks to create and deepen silence, and that conjures the ghosts of the past as gatekeepers before an equitable future.

We leave you with a poem by Robert Hayden, the first Black American to be appointed as a consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress:

Frederick Douglass

When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful 
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,   
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,   
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,   
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more   
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:   
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro   
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world   
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,   
this man, superb in love and logic, this man   
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues’ rhetoric,   
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone, 
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives   
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.
Welcome Kipp McKenzie
Join us in welcoming Kipp McKenzie to the Inclusive Communities team as a Program Partner!

He brings a diverse multitude of experiences which have culminated into a passion of addressing issues regarding human rights, diversity, equity and inclusion. He is originally from Kansas City, Kansas where he graduated high school from Sumner Academy of Arts & Sciences.

He holds a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In addition, he holds a Master of Arts degree in Liberal Studies with a concentration in American Studies from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a Master of Science degree in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from Creighton University.

We're excited to have Kipp on board!
We're super grateful to be among the organizations receiving a grant from Humanities Nebraska. This funding was provided by Humanities Nebraska (HN) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. It helps us with our operating costs so that we can keep doing the work of confronting prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination.
Shoutout to Couture Virtual Consultants 🎉
We'd like to highlight Couture Virtual Consultants for their amazing support to us on all things related to our coordination of the National Federation of Just Communities (NFJC). When we took on the role of operations coordinator for the NFJC we knew we'd need additional capacity as we navigated communicating with 15 other organizations like us across the country. Jessica and Alisia at Couture Virtual Consultants have ensured that we don't miss a beat!

Couture Virtual Consultants was co-Founded by Alisia Ortega and Jessica Bernal at the end of 2020. They were inspired to provide administrative support after experiencing firsthand the struggle of balancing professional and personal life.

Couture Virtual Consultants is a virtual services agency that provides administrative, executive assistant and paralegal support to law firms, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. They offer a wide range of services. Tasks their virtual assistants can manage include: phone calls, e-mail and calendar management, appointments, legal research, data entry, translations/interpretations, etc. All their virtual ​assistants are US-based, college-educated, and bilingual in English and Spanish.
Omaha Table Talk is up next

Omaha Table Talk is tomorrow!

Join us on February 22nd at 6pm for a conversation on Violence and Safety with Tia Manning, Jessyca Vandercoy, and Carla Walker.

Krysty's pick is the Omaha Table Talk on Reparations.
Check it out!
When the stars aligned
by Tena Hahn Rodriguez
Five years ago, I volunteered to be an advisor at Inclucity. I had heard about the program for years and always wanted to go, but I was a bartender and taking an entire weekend off was impossible. Finally, the stars aligned, and I was excited to volunteer. I was in a transition phase of my life; having just completely switched gears and gone back to school to study non-profit administration. I had recently gone through an extremely painful breakup with a lifetime friend and business partner, and I was searching for my purpose all over again. I had applied at a few non-profit jobs, even tried to intern, but being a non-traditional student, I wasn’t having any luck.

“Camp” was fast and furious, and there was a lot of dancing so I felt right at home. I don’t remember every aha moment that weekend, but I do remember sitting on the stairs in Hotel Theo, looking around, and thinking I want to do this with my life. I met a delegate that weekend that I immediately connected with, who still inspires me every day. My bunkmate still house sits for us. I laughed with volunteers and watched young people transform from shy and reserved to loud and proud. Then we got an ice storm and camp ended early. The notorious “half camp” was just the right amount of time, I couldn’t imagine one more day because I was completely exhausted.

Six months later, I started at Inclusive Communities as a program associate, working 30 hours a week and getting to run Inclucity. I got to shadow one camp, before things changed and then I was running the show as a Program Partner. What I learned, is that if you let young people show you the way amazing things happen. The organization shifted again, and I became the Senior Program Partner, and took on more responsibility around business programming. I learned Omaha Table Talk and assisted in some larger projects. I always felt supported and encouraged to push back and lead up.

Enter COVID, and again the shift brought a need for more processes around business programming. As the Business Development Manager, I had the privilege of helping build out the work others had started and invest in the sustainability of business programming. If someone would have told me in 2019 that I would be facilitating workshops in my living room, I would not have believed them, and here we are.

I worked to move LeadDIVERSITY online halfway through our first year, and then saw the demand for leadership development continue to grow in our second and third years. Our work is needed now more than ever. My transition into the Director of Strategic Partnerships is us starting to identify who is ready to do this work with us and in what ways. How can we lead businesses into becoming co-conspirators in equity? How can organizations leverage their collective power and make changes? How can we provide those opportunities for other organizations who want to make a commitment to improving their communities?

I don’t have all the answers, and I think asking the intentional questions is far more important. What I know is that when something sets your heart on fire you must go for it. I have made amazing friends in this team; I have learned immeasurable lessons. I have learned more about how to mentor and invest in young people and empower their voices.

I'm grateful that Inclusive Communities took a chance on me. I hope other folks can come to this work and this organization through volunteering or however their stars align.
Peep a baby T at her very first tabling event for Inclusive Communities and preserved in meme history for Omaha Gives 2018.