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
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
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
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
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.