NAACP Aurora is committed to supporting small businesses, individuals, and families

NAACP Aurora is committed to supporting small businesses, individuals, and families

Aurora branch president, Omar Montgomery

It is always a pleasure to talk to Mr. Omar Montgomery. He is honorable, humble and exudes empathy. He is very visible to any keen follower of events in the community. He listens and commits to his words. Even as we worked on this interview, I could not help thinking about the old cliché, “A good wine needs no bush”.  I know that there are people who have observed his passion and wonder at his drive.  So, we cornered him to get some insight about this gentleman community organizer. His conversation with Afrik Digest touched on quite a few important matters.

Briefly, About Omar Montgomery

Aurora NAACP branch president, Omar Montgomery

I am Omar Montgomery, a community organizer. I am the president of the NAACP Aurora Colorado Branch. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a dual master’s degree in Education Administration and Public Administration. I teach as an adjunct instructor for the University of Colorado Denver. I am a proud family man, a father to my sons, and companion to my dog, Marley. I enjoy fatherhood because I get to learn as I teach. I love and appreciate my family for their support in everything I do. Permit me to mention their names, Regina Edmondson, the love of my life; Carrie Walker, my amazing mother; Amen Rahh, my father and mentor.  I am spoiled with love by my family.

Remaining faithful to my family’s tradition of strengthening the community, I currently serve as a Director of Equity, Culture, and Community Engagement for Cherry Creek School District.  I am a member of Aurora’s Budget and Golf Commissions and sit as a stakeholder in Colorado’s Transforming Safety Initiative (which created new economic opportunities for Northwest Aurora).  I serve on the Aurora Police Department’s Citizens’ Advisory Board and Aurora Key Community Response Team (AKCRT) to improve law enforcement’s relationships with our underserved communities.  I also serve as a board chairperson at the Village Exchange Center, a one-stop-shop that supports integration, engagement and empowerment of Aurora’s immigrants and refugee communities. Currently in partnership with Visit Aurora, I am happy to announce that the Aurora NAACP recently opened the Aurora Economic Development Center which is a co-working space, and a small business incubator. I am also a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. Chi Phi Chapter, Denver, Colorado.

About NAACP Aurora Branch, and other organizations

I would like to focus on my involvement at NAACP.  Until the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP) over a century ago, deadly race riots, outbursts of anti-black violence – particularly lynching – had been appallingly common.  Although the Springfield riots of 1908 does not make the list of the historical ten deadliest riots in the United States, yet, it was the last straw that triggered the formation of the NAACP on February 12, 1909.  The killings by lynching and other means following the riots served as a catalyst to establishing an effective civil rights organization.  The strategic collaborative efforts of some white sympathizers and some African Americans on February 12, 1909, metamorphosed into what we know today as NAACP.

The Aurora Branch of the NAACP was founded 82 years later – on July 9, 1991, by Dr. Barbara Shannon Banister.  This validates the relevance of the course of the NAACP even in contemporary times.  The Aurora Branch of the NAACP has upheld the mission and vision of our national office in its entire 30 years of service in its pursuit to “remove all barriers of racial discrimination through democratic processes”.  Our functions include enabling life changing opportunities for members of our community in economic development, voting rights, education, criminal justice reform, housing, and public safety. We are also working on projects with other community organizations like the African Leadership Group to bridge the gap between African Americans and African immigrants.

Omar Montgomery and wife

Why I became the NAACP Aurora Branch president

I was elected president of the Aurora Branch of the NAACP in 2015. I had several conversations with stakeholders that included Marlo Alston, Centennial council member; Gail Pough, NAACP Youth Chair; Dr. Barbara Shannon Banister, founder of the branch; and Dr. Levester Lyons, former president of the branch, about the future of the Aurora Branch of the NAACP prior to my becoming president of the branch.  I presented my vision to the general body and selection committee and fortunately, I was elected president in November 2015.

NAACP Aurora Membership

Omar Montgomery with members of Aurora NAACP

Anyone can join the Aurora Branch of the NAACP regardless of race, gender, or political affiliation, so long as they understand our mission and can go along with it. We have a strong focus on social justice and addressing inequities in Black/BIPOC communities. This mission also includes supporting our immigrant and refugee communities by making sure they have equal access to resources and are not being discriminated against based on their nationality.

The annual due for the NAACP is $30.00, literally the amount you pay for four Starbucks drinks. We are always excited to welcome new members, so please feel free to join us anytime – I mean today. Find us at this website, www.auroracoloradonaacp.org. Our members attend community events where they meet and educate people on the objectives and functions of the NAACP and recruit them into the fold.  Many people have assumptions about the organization so we do everything we can to share the rich history of the NAACP and the Aurora Branch.

Functions of the new Economic Development Center in Aurora

Having an Economic Development Center had been a dream of the branch for a long time. The center is a one-stop-shop designed to efficiently serve the needs of small businesses and job seekers with the aim of promoting economic development.  The Aurora Branch of the NAACP’s Economic Development Center is already open for business and our services include workshops, recruitment assistance, business services, small business support and much more. It supports and enhances economic sustainability and wealth building within the Black, indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities. An important goal of the Economic Development Center is to prepare participants for future economic opportunities and to enhance wealth building within the black and other traditionally disenfranchised populations.

 Partners of the Economic Development Center

The Economic Development Center, Aurora, is a partnership between the NAACP and Visit Aurora. Our office space in Aurora was donated by Visit Aurora when they moved out of the space. Visit Aurora then took up the responsibility to pay the lease and Wi-Fi for the next six months. The branch already has community stakeholders who are committed to making this space a permanent location for the Economic Development Center.

Current initiatives of the NAACP Aurora Branch

As an Economic Development Center, we are committed to supporting small businesses, individuals and families who are struggling financially. We are working with some organizations who have pledged to collaborate with us.  At present, applications are open for the BIPOC Small Business Grant and the $50.00 Door Dash vouchers.

BIPOC Small Business Grants

Our center is working in partnership with the Village Exchange Center (VEC), and the Colorado Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. VEC established this program to support BIPOC-owned small businesses and start-ups. Given the overwhelming economic downturn and high rate of COVID cases among the BIPOC community, this program is focused on providing support to members’ businesses as they pivot to meet the challenges in the current landscape. VEC also wants to enhance economic recovery and provide pandemic relief across the Denver metro area. Eligible small business owners can visit villageexchangecenter.org to apply.

Aurora Branch of the NAACP $50.00 Doordash Vouchers

 The Economic Development Center is also partnering with DoorDash to feed families during this holiday season. So, I am using this opportunity to ask that if you know a family who may be experiencing a difficult time during the holiday season, please let them complete the form. We will be sending them a $50.00 DoorDash voucher (only one voucher per household). The family will receive an email with a code and instructions on how to use the voucher. We have a limited number of vouchers.  Please, complete the form at your earliest convenience. 

We have already begun sending vouchers via email since late November.  Anyone interested should complete the form as soon as possible. You can contact the Economic Development Center Aurora for how to begin.

Your thoughts on teaching critical race theory in Aurora schools

Omar Montgomery with some state officials

I applaud our teachers in the Denver Metro area who are doing all they can to make sure their classroom is a safe and inclusive environment.  Safety and inclusion have been the focus of schools since I was a child, and it has nothing to do with Critical Race Theory. I believe it’s only being used as a tactic to push a political agenda.  Schools in the Denver Metro region are not teaching Critical Race Theory. It is taught in graduate level courses to analyze the impact of racism within American institutions, which is not in the K-12 curriculum. Colorado has legislation HB 19-1192 to guide educators on how to have an inclusive curriculum so we can have well rounded students in a diverse society. 

My interest in bridging the gap between the African and African American communities

My father introduced me to many of his friends who were from the continent of Africa, and they always had positive things to say about the African American community. I attended State University of Long Beach where the African and African American students worked together to support each other through graduation. This experience in California made it a natural fit for me to connect with the African community in Colorado. I was the faculty advisor for the African Student Union and the Black Student Alliance at the University of Colorado of Denver where both organizations worked on social justice projects, community services activities, and fed the homeless on many occasions.

I have had the opportunity to work with Papa Dia and the African Leadership Group to enhance the relationship between Africans and African Americans through economic development programs, home ownership, and providing opportunities for both communities to learn about each other.  I have traveled to different parts of the African diaspora, and I had a life changing experience when I spent three weeks in Ghana. Ghana is a beautiful place.   I’m looking forward to traveling to different parts of Africa. The city of Aurora has many different ethnic groups from Africa, so I enjoy attending the different events and visiting Ethiopian coffee shops in Aurora like Endless Grind and Mojo Coffee. Bottom line is that I love African culture!

Your biggest challenges as a community leader

Omar Montgomery and men from the community

My leadership philosophy is being a servant leader and to share whatever I learn with the community. I believe that we must share our knowledge, experience, and setbacks with the community and our younger generation. I believe in uplifting our community and our youths need to see us work together so that they can follow our positive behavior. We had two school shootings last week where youths resorted to violence to solve problems. We need to show them how to give each other grace when there is a conflict and show them different tools to problem solve. I am not a perfect leader and yes, I have faced many challenges. The NAACP is a voluntary organization, which means I have a full-time job, and I have a family, too.  Sometimes, the NAACP is criticized for not being able to address every single issue that lands on our desk, but I believe we do what we can with the limited resources available. Yes, the criticism can be harsh, but we respond with love and never take it personal. We believe in the mission of the NAACP: fighting against racism and being a voice for the underserved, and that is what keeps us going.

Planned events or activities for the holiday season

The NAACP Aurora Branch is having an End of Year celebration on December 11, 2021, at the Economic Development Center, 2260 S. Xanadu Way Ste 200 Aurora, at 1 pm – 4 pm. Please feel free to join us. 

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